World War 2

About Pennylands Camp Project

The Dumfries House Estate near Cumnock and Auchinleck, Ayrshire, housed a military facility which served a variety of purposes during and immediately after World War II.

An Allied & British Troop Training Camp, POW Camp, Polish Forces Repatriation Camp and a Housing Camp – From 1939 to 1959 Pennylands Camp was all of these.

Due to recent plans for the erection of new buildings on the 12-acre site, archaeologists were called in to examine and record the physical layout, various uses of the camp and its numerous buildings.

Leading the project were Cumnock History Group who worked with Addyman Archaeology and Dr Sue Morrison from the Oral History Research & Training Consultancy in early 2016 and developed a three-strand Heritage Lottery funded project that would generate archival research, a public archaeology excavation and record oral history testimonies from people who had lived or worked at Pennylands during its twenty-year history. The project was awarded £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund in late 2016.

The project has gone on to achieve some wonderful results – a host of factual information, artefacts, photographs, and recorded personal stories and memories. On this site you can hear, see and examine the incredible stories of the people who lived and experienced it.

At our launch event at Dumfries House on 27th January 2017 we recruited several local volunteers to conduct research and to undergo training in interviewing people with memories of time spent at Pennylands – we called our volunteers the History Champions!

Eight of the History Champions undertook 16 hours training each on oral history interviewing techniques and operation of the professional Zoom H4n Pro Handy Digital Recorders. This was delivered by Dr Sue Morrison, oral history consultant.

We ran 2 full day sessions in desk research training for 8 volunteers in April 2017 then the History Chapions spent several months researching the history of the camp.

We held two widely advertised and successful reminiscence events. The first was held in Auchinleck at the Boswell Centre on 27th April and the second at Barrhill Community Centre in Cumnock on 4th May. Over the two days, over 40 people who were interested in the project turned up with friends and family and through this 18 people with clear recollections of life in Pennylands agreed to be interviewed by the History Champions.

We introduced the Pennylands Project through a portable exhibition showing finds from the earlier excavation and shared what research had already been undertaken and people exchanged stories, memories and mementos of their time at the camp.

Over May and August 2017 we interviewed 6 women and 12 men, ages ranged from 59 – 93, these became our History Heroes. They were all passionate about being interviewed and were keen to share their memories and stories of Pennylands to a younger generation. These memories and first hand experiences encompassed the full time-line of the camp, from 1939 until 1959.

The interview process was structured in such a way that gave the History Heroes the opportunity to tell their story in their own words. Each interview was preceded by an introductory letter stating the aims of the project, a recording agreement and a consent form. A few days before the interview this was followed by a telephone conversation by way of introducing the History Hero to the person interviewing them. After this a series of questions were individually formulated to suit individual experiences. The length of interviews ranged from 5 to 35 minutes.

Their recollections were a mixture of informative, funny, sad and very poignant stories including suicides, army life, civilian life, childhood, weddings, births, shootings, friendships, hardships, poisonings, explosions and getting chased by the gamekeeper!

Interviews can be listened to HERE

Pennylands is situated on the famous Dumfries House Estate, about 1/3 of a mile directly north of Dumfries House itself. Dumfries House Estate is 2 miles west on the A70 from Cumnock in East Ayrshire. The Camp itself is situated in the old Parish of Auchinleck, with the town of Auchinleck being a mile to the north east.

Bobby Grierson – Project Manager and Kay McMeekin Project Co-ordinator
Cumnock History Group

Dr Sue Morrison
Oral History Research & Training Consultant

Liz Jones
Addyman Archaeology

Janet Casey
The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust

Pennylands: Camp 22 has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to research the history of Pennylands Camp on the Dumfries House Estate in Cumnock, East Ayrshire.

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