Cumnock Places

Miners’ Rows

From Ayrshire Miners’ Rows 1913 – Evidence submitted to the Royal Commission on Housing (Scotland) by Thomas McKerrell and James Brown for the Ayrshire Miners’ Union.

These rows are situated about 3 miles from Cumnock on the Cumnock and Muirkirk Road.

Row No. 1
This row is built of brick, and the walls are cemented. The roofs are slated. There are 18 houses in this row, and the population is 101. The houses have a kitchen 15 feet by 14 feet and two small rooms 9 feet by 6 feet each. There are no fires in the room, and the tenants complain they are very damp. The windows are very small, measuring 4 feet 10 inches in height and 2 feet 4 inches wide. The windows are made so that they cannot be opened. There are neither wash-houses nor coalhouses, and the coals are kept under the beds. For this population of 101 there are three closets with doors on them and three ashpits in front of the houses. A syvor runs down the front of the houses, and there was a considerable amount of filth at the grating at the end of the syvor. The refuse taken out of the syvor is dumped down on the ground immediately outside the door of the end house.

Row No. 2
This is a replica of Row No. 1. The population was 113. The open cesspool was in a filthy condition. There are 18 houses with three closets and ashpits built in front of the doors. One of the tenants said to us at this row “You should have come here in the Summer time; it costs us about 1s a week for flypapers.”

Row No. 3
This row is in exactly the same position as row No. 2, but there are only 16 houses in this row with a population of 73.

Row No. 4
This row is built of brick, with walls cemented, but the roof is nearly flat and is not slated, but covered with tarcloth. There are 24 houses of 2 apartments. The kitchen is 16 feet by 9 feet, and the room 9 feet by 8 feet. There are no fires in the rooms, and the windows are permanently fastened. The rent is 5s 6d per month. There are three closets and three ashpits for these 24 houses. About half the houses were empty, and the population of those inhabited numbered 56.

Row No. 5
This row is exactly the same as Row No. 4. The roofs are tarred instead of slated. There are 28 houses with five closets and five ashpits. The rent is the same as row No. 4. A large number of these houses are empty. The population was 80.

Row No. 6
This row is similar to Row No. 5. The houses are constructed in the same manner. There are 30 houses in this row, but on the 13th November, 1913, 21 were empty and only 9 inhabited. There were five closets for this row.

Row No. 7
This is a superior row built of stone, and inhabited by the schoolmaster, policeman, and foremen of various kinds. There are 13 houses, 11 are 2 apartment houses. The kitchen measures 12 feet by 12 feet and the room 10 ½ feet by 10 ½ feet. The other 2 houses are one of 4 apartments and one of 3 apartments. Even in this row no washing houses are provided unless the people build them themselves, and this has been done in several cases. In this row only, are the people provided with coalhouses. The rent of the 2 apartment houses is £4 4s per annum.

The population of this village will be approximately 600, and there is not a single washing-house for the whole population. With the exception of Row No. 7, there is not even a coal house. The windows are all permanently fastened. The pathways in front of the houses are all unpaved, and in the winter time are in condition of a quagmire. The village is supplied with gravitation water, and there are two wells in every row. The company employs a scavenger. The houses are said to be about 60 years old, and are owned by William Baird & Co., and inhabited by the mining workers of that firm.

From Ayrshire Miners’ Rows 1913 – Evidence submitted to the Royal Commission on Housing (Scotland) by Thomas McKerrell and James Brown for the Ayrshire Miners’ Union.
Garallan Rows contain 22 houses, 4 being 2 apartments and 18 single. It is leased from Boswell of Garallan by the Carraden Coal Co. The rent for double house is 2s 1d and 1s 11d for single. The single houses are back to back, and one of these has been halved, one half each being given to tenants, thus making a small room. The double houses measure – the kitchen 14 feet by 12 feet, the room 12 feet by 12 feet. The single houses measure 15 feet by 13 feet. All of these are in a shameful state of repair. We saw in one house a pail placed in bed to catch the water which was coming in from the roof on 4th December, 1913. All of them very damp. We saw another house the roof discoloured and the paper hanging in shreds from the walls. One woman said to us—“Ane has nae heart to clean them, for your work is never seen.” That is not difficult to believe. The floors are of brick tiles and badly broken. The rooms are wooden floored. The paths are unpaved and unspeakably dirty, and there are dirty cesspools in front of the doors. There are six dry-closets, ill-kept and dirty. We saw some of them with at least 3 inches of water lying in them, and some of the seats were covered in filth deposited by children we presume, for no self respecting adult could use them. There are no washing-houses and no coalhouses, the coals are kept below the bed. The water supply, so we were informed, was from field drains. This row is a mile from the town of Old Cumnock.

From Ayrshire Miners’ Rows 1913 – Evidence submitted to the Royal Commission on Housing (Scotland) by Thomas McKerrell and James Brown for the Ayrshire Miners’ Union.
These rows are situated on the main road between Cumnock and Muirkirk, 4 miles from Cumnock. There are 4 rows, 2 are built of stone and 2 of brick, and all are slated.

Row No. 1
The first row (nearest Muirkirk) consists of eight houses, but six of them are unoccupied, and one tenant has rented 2 houses and pays 6s 6d per month. There are 8 inmates. There are no closets, no washhouses, and no coalhouses. The only water supply is from a pipe running into a horse trough on the side of the road about 300 yards from the houses.

Row No. 2
The houses in No.2 row are built of stone, and are all single apartment houses, but in some cases a family has rented 2 houses. The house measures 15 feet by 12 feet. There are neither coalhouses nor washhouses. There are 2 closets without doors and ashpits without roofs. There are 10 houses, but 3 of them were empty at the date of this inspection (13th November. 1913). The population was 26. The only water supply is at a pump about 200 or 300 yards away. The rent is 2s a week. Pathways in front of houses are unpaved and very muddy.

Row No. 3
This row is built of brick. There are 10 single apartment houses. There are no washhouses or coalhouses. The people keep their coals below their beds. The apartment measures 17 feet by 14 feet. The rent is 2s 2d a week. There are 2 closets and ashpits. The closets have no doors and the ashpits have no roofs. The population was 33.

Row No. 4
This is also built of brick, and in the same position with regards to conveniences as Row No. 3. There are no washhouses, no coalhouses, and there is one closet without doors for the 12 houses in this row, and one ashpit without a roof. There were 2 empty houses, and the population of this row was 30. The water supply is from the pump which supplies the other rows. The whole adult population of these 4 rows are without any closet accommodation, as owing to the want of privacy (no doors) they cannot use the accommodation provided. The surroundings of the closets are littered with human excrement. The houses are owned by William Baird & Co., and are inhabited by the workers of the pits belonging to that firm in the neighbourhood.

Research by Bobby Grierson
The mining village of Skares, named after the old farm of Skares, lies about four miles south-west of Cumnock and 700 feet above sea level.

On the Ordnance Survey map of 1860 there was a block of about 4 cottages in existence on the north of Skares Road called Crichton Row. Directly to the south of this was Whitesmuir Farm and directly west was Skares Farm.

William Baird & Company built a row of stone-built cottages in the early 1870s to house the miners who worked in the pits at Dykes (1865-1894 and to the east), Hindsward (1880-1959 to the south) and Whitehill (1897-1965 to the north). The Old Row was built along the south side of the road just to the north of Skares farm, which ceased to exist. About twenty years later two other rows, the New Raw and the Tap Raw, running behind the first and parallel to it were added. Within 10 years of this some other cottages were erected privately to the east end of the village. The population steadily increased and by the early 50s reached about 540 inhabitants.

Skares railway station served the village, which was originally part of the Ayr and Cumnock Branch on the Glasgow and South Western Railway. The station opened on 1 July 1872, and closed on 10 September 1951 and was situated towards the north of the village. A regular bus service also operated between Skares and Cumnock.

Skares Station

Research by Kay McMeekin

Situated on a hill to the south-west of Cumnock, Glengyron was named after the nearby farm of Glengyron and was built by the Eglinton Iron Company c1872 to house its workforce of coal and iron miners and their families.

We are always interested in further information about the Glengyron Rows. If you have any photos, stories etc please email:

Scotland’s People, National Library of Scotland, John Strawhorn; The New History of Cumnock, 1966, Scottish Mining site, Memories of family members, Cumnock Chronicle, The Scotsman, Cumnock Connections family tree, Cumnock History Group.

Research by Kay McMeekin

The author has been interested in Glengyron Row since taking up family history research. She knew her husband’s family lived there for many years, but unexpectedly found her great grandparents lived there too. By all accounts it was a close-knit community and fondly remembered by those who lived there. Facilities were primitive by our standards; they didn’t get mains water until 1880. Large families lived in mostly two rooms, often with lodgers for extra income.

OS 6 inch second edition courtesy National Library of Scotland

It consisted of a single row of 44 north-facing, houses with one room and one kitchen with box beds. The inadequate outside dry-closets and washing-house were shared by the tenants.

In front of the houses was a green and beyond that the Ayr and Cumnock branch line of the G&SW Railway ran past at the banking. There might have been a halt near the bridge. The nearby stations were at Skares, Dumfries House and Cumnock New Station. The row was occupied from May 1872 – maybe slightly earlier, but after the census of April 1871. Many of the new tenants were miners recruited from England – the Midlands, Cornwall, Durham, and elsewhere. Presumably, they travelled by rail to move to the area.

Research by Kay McMeekin

from 1966 History of Old Cumnock, Strawhorn

The earliest reference to the Row that has been found was the marriage of Elijah Penrose to Louisa Carne on 17 May 1872. Both lived at Glengyron Row. They were originally from Cornwall, fathers both copper miners. They were married by Rev James Murray, Minister of the Old Parish Church. Witness were Eliza Rundell; Marion McGee; James Robertson.

In the 1875 valuation roll, the owner of the row was Eglinton Iron Company of Lugar. Among the 28 tenants we find the Prices and Yates (Yetts) were from the Dudley area; the Jacksons and McGavocks were from Ireland.

By the 1911 census two of the houses at No 8, inhabited by Andrew Baird and No 37, by Hugh Blackwood, were split differently giving them 3 rooms. The neighbouring houses still had 2 rooms and it isn’t clear how this was achieved (see the 1913 Ayrshire Miners’ Rows Report). Number one was the store at the west-end of the row; latterly No 5 was the reading room.

It was a small, close-knit community and many families lived there for years, their children marrying neighbours’ children. Widows continued to live on in their miners’ cottages.

David Jackson, born in Ireland, appears in the 1875 valuation and lived there until his death in 1909:

  • his daughter Harriet married neighbour Joseph Price
  • son Samuel married neighbour Elizabeth Yates who was a kinsman of the Prices
  • daughter Elizabeth married neighbour John Penrose
  • daughter Mary Ann married neighbour Andrew Baird
  • son James Jackson married Mary Hyslop from nearby Garallan – maybe he had a bike! In all, he had 11 known children.

Sadly, his son Joseph aged 4 had a horrible accident in 1876 when he fell in front of a wagon at Glengyron Lye, as reported in the Edinburgh Evening News. He died half an hour later.

As well as from Ireland and places in Scotland, families moved in from Cornwall and the Black Country in the English Midlands:

  • The Yates, Prices, Rolinsons, Hunts and Jones were all related and came from the Black Country.
  • The Penroses, Burleys, Mitchells and Smetherhems were originally copper and tin miners from Cornwall. Some of them stopped off in Durham or Cumberland on their way north.

In the twentieth century, miners from further afield joined the community. In the 1911 census, a Lithuanian family, Gustitas (or Gostar), was at No 11, and a German family under the name of Thomson at No 31.Victor Carballo from Spain was present in 1925 and 1930.

The two-year-old Willie Gustitas died after falling into an open fire in 1909 while his mother Catherine went to the store. She was found guilty under the Children Act of failing to take reasonable precaution for the safety of her child, and was fined 20 shillings (£1) or 7 days’ imprisonment.

Around 1939–40, people were moving out of Glengyron Row to live in the new houses in the town. In the 1940 valuation roll, many of the Glengyron Row houses were empty or uninhabitable. The annual rent was £6 and 8 shillings – £6.40p.

Cumnock Chronicle

From Ayrshire Miners’ Rows 1913 – Evidence submitted to the Royal Commission on Housing (Scotland) by Thomas McKerrell and James Brown for the Ayrshire Miners’ Union.

Glengyron Rows are about a mile from Old Cumnock, and are owned by William Baird and Co., Ltd. There are 44 two apartment houses. One of these 2 families have 3 apartments at the expense of other 2 families, who have now only single apartments. The kitchen measures 15 feet by 12 feet, the rooms 10 feet by 9 feet. The rent is £4 16s a year, exclusive of rates. The paths are unpaved, but not very dirty when we saw them on 4th December. 1913. There is one dry-closet for every 3 tenants, coalhouses for each tenant, and a washing house for every 6 tenants. These are all under one roof which, in our opinion, is a bad arrangement. Some of the closets we saw were ill-kept, one with a door off and very filthy. The houses are in a bad state or repair. In one house we saw rain getting in and being caught in a basin. Another we saw with half the window of the room boarded up. We were informed that it had been in this state for a year, in spite of repeated enquires of the tenants as to when it would be glazed. The floors are of brick tiles, and broken. There is a supply of gravitation water taken from the supply of the burgh of Old Cumnock.

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