“Memories of the Rows

The Fading Breath of The Past”

By John McFarland of 29 Long Row Glengarnock..


Originally written in the late 70s.

This extract transcribed  to PC by Joseph McTaggart 25.8.01

For full copy – contact





Midway through the turbulent years of WW1, My Father, as I learned from him in later years was not accepted into the armed Forces, which was a volunteer force in Northern Ireland. (UVF) owing to having one eye slightly smaller than the other. Being Employed as a Coachman on Colonel McLintock’s Seskinote Estate, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. He was encouraged to leave that for a more prosporous way of life by my Mother. My Mother had been here before, working at Knox’s Millls. As a child of one year old, I was brought to Glengarnock. It was here that I was to spend the early and youthful years of my life.


Having now reached the twilight years of my life, the time I spend alone, the Biblical Text “ Be Still and Know that I am God” becomes a reality. Its in these moments of thought my memory takes me back to Glengarnock and my youthful days.


Glengarnock Station where my family arrived in Glengarnock has now changed from the old days of steam locomotion when it had a lovely old fashioned canopy over the platform with coal fore heated waiting rooms and toilet facilities. With electrification, only the platforms remain and they too have been raised and lengthened to suit modern requirements.


The whole of Glengarnock Village has changed now. In my youth, it had all the amenities, shops, banks pubs and lace works. That part was commonly referred to as “The station” where everyone did their shopping.  The station part was the better part. The village was graded. Daisy Bank and Kersland being the well off parts, the station part being okay and the Rows being of the lower part.


The Rows  were houses owned by Colvilles, close to the Furnace as my Father was a furnaceman, he was able to rent one of these houses. They were bound by the Loch at on end and backed by the furnaces and old steel rolling mill. One of the other sides was bound by the Old Caledonian Railway which ran from Kilbirnie High Station through the Glengarnock Caley Station near by the Hill, passing Caledonian Road and the Girder Shop by the Corn Park, the railway cottages and the rows on to beackenhills having passed beneath the Dean Road and from thence to Giffen, where the train spit into two parts one going to Lugton to connect with Kilmarnock – Glasgow line the other half to Ardrossan Montgomery Pier connecting with the Adrossan – Belfast Boat.  The other side of the Rows was bounded in the early twenties by the Great South Western Railway and in the thirties it became  the London Midland Scottish Railway. This line passed below the Caley bridge at the wee pond near the signal box along by the Railway Cottages along by the back of the Long Row, this was the main Ardrossan and Ayr line which had merged at Kilwinning then through to Dalry and Glengarnock Station to Glasgow.


Having now recorded the Rows location, which had two access ways, one by the wee pond running from the Station bridge along the side of the main line railway and between Millars Park of Longbar Farm, the other by Allans corner at gray’s School below the other Caley bridge past the Hill, the Girder Shop  down to Store Place at the main entrance to the old Steel works Store Place thus called because that where Joe Conner’s Grocer and Butcher Shop was situated. The fire and Joe was completely destroyed when I was three or four (1918/1919).


The Rows were divided into a large area with postal addresses of:-


The Long Row

The Monkey Row

The Middle Row

The Square

The Front Row

Railway Cottages

The Corn Park


The streets were very tough, made of slagstone and bound together with crushed slag and water. The maintenance was Colville’s responsibility, as the sucessors of Merry and Cunningham, Cunninghame’s being the original land owners. Street maintenance was very rare. Sanitation was of minimal standard, there were drains running  the full length of the Rows and many people emptied their dirty waste in to them when it should have been taken to the seivers positioned every few blocks.


These Seivers were dug square with slides slanting down to about one and half feet below street level over the main sewerage pipe.  It had a steel plate grid with inch diameter holes in it, allowing the slops to pass through.  The sewrage terminated at the junction between the Garnock and Pogree Burn (locally known as the Lambert Burn) beyond the end of Burnside St.  Here it passed to the Garnock and from their to the sea at Irvine.


The houses themselves were of Sandstone, thick walls, double stone with a cavity between for heat Insulation with a gradual low apex roof, slated and ridged with sandstone coping stones. They had a room and a kitchen, known as a “But n Ben” in Scottish. Entry was through a heavy constructed wooden metal latched door, with the kitchen being to the right or left. Each house had a front window facing the street.  And a back window. There were no back doors.  In summer we used to go out through the back window and stand on the embankment to watch the trains go by. One form of entertainment was to collect the train numbers as they passed. I remember in the 1920s a train carrying casualties from ICI Ardeer (Nobel Exposives) to the infirmaries in Glasgow. It had newspapers with a red cross covering the windows. The kitchen was slightly larger. There was one hole in the wall bed in the kitchen, two in the room, a large one and a slightly smaller one. As these were inset to the walls they were draught proof and fairly warm. The bedding comprised of spaced out bed boards of about Four feet long and one and a half inches thick resting on lengthwise angle irons one at the front the other aling the backwall of the bed. On that base were two straw filled mattresses about six inches thick, on top of that was the “tike” which was a large sack the full size of the bed area. This was sometimes filled with a woollen flack or some were feather filled if you were richer.


The Depression of the Thirties hit us really bad when the blast furnaces were closed. Some people managed to get new jobs in the rolling mill or else out with the stel works at Aughengree’s foundry beyond the Lambert (now called Longbar). As my Father was Irish, he had no relatives here and my Mother depended greatly on Mrs Maggie Gilmour for support.  Her Husband Jimmy was a steel Worker and she rana grocer shop from her home. She offered “tick” or credit.


The majority of shops were owned by the Kilbirnie Co-Op Society, locally owned and managed by share holders. Others were family traders such as


Jimmy Daly’s  licenced grocer,

Jeanie Bain’s Bakers.

In Burnside St Willie Wallace had an Iron mongers.

McLaughlan had a small fruit and veg shop. Sons, Tommy Willie and Josie went around the village in a horse and cart.

Alan Jamieson Glassware Stockist,

Davy Blaire, Barber (latterly Dan Doris).

Davy Douglas Tearoom and Chip Shop later became Voc Donati’s.

Donald the Bakers from Dalry.

Nan Murray’s Tobacconist.


On the opposite side of the road:-


The Railway Bar (now the Glen)

Johnny Higgins Grocers

The Clydesdale Bank

Carlo Monty’s Chip Shop.

Willy Glens Butchers

Co OP Butcher (Sammy Houston)

Co-Op Chemist (Malcolm McLaren) – second best family doctor.

Co-OP Drapers     - (Bessie Orr)




Co-Op Bread Van – Hughie Crawford

Co-Op Milkman – Annie Porter

Mobile Chip Van – Jimmy Millar

Ambulance Driver – Davy Aitken


Christian Bretheren Singers:-


The Harns girls, Janet and Maggie

Jeannie Scott

Bobby Cochrane

Rab Scott’s band with wee Benny and Geordie Harris




Wee Martha McLaughlan


Pipe Band


Billy and Son Jimmy Reid

Danny Logan

Arthur Parker

Bill Moncrief


Football trainer


Billy McGinigle


Sunday School Leaders Hebron Hall (Christian bretheren)


Willie Rabey

Agnes McCullough

Lizzie Robertson

Agnes Johnstone