Author: Agnes Wilson

Editors Note: Many of the books mentioned in this article can be borrowed from the Darvel Library

Although many towns and villages will look towards someone of celebrity status to put their little corner of the world on the map, there are many others who have left more than their name as a legacy to their local community. You may have to dig a little deeper to find them but they are the ones who have helped to shape the community and added invaluable information and character to its history. After education and work prospects improved, local poets, artists, story tellers, environmentalists etc. all blossomed and have left a richer understanding and insight for their community.

I can’t help admiring Janet Little, ‘The Scotch Milkmaid’. Born in Ecclefechan in 1759, the same year as Robert Burns and eventually found employment as a dairy maid with Mrs Francis Dunlop and then with Mrs Dunlop’s daughter when they leased Loudoun Castle. How unusual it was then for a woman of her station to write poetry, but she did and a book of poems was published, with Burns being one of her subscribers.

John Hamilton of Allanton Farm, Darvel with his books of short stories and verses, one of which is ‘More Country Capers’, and surely a must for newcomers into town, is John Woodburn’s ‘A History of Darvel’. Mary Boyd Thomson, a Newmilns housewife wrote of local people and friends in her book of ‘Songs and Poems’.

Many local authors include anecdotes which would be otherwise lost in time, and is an insight into their life and times. Living conditions, emotions and humour are all recorded within their pages.

Walking was a popular pastime and this gave eager travel writers the opportunity to record their walks. Archibald R. Adamson wrote ‘Rambles Round Kilmarnock’, and there is a chapter dedicated to Darvel. It also has an excellent account of battles at Loudoun Hill. Sadly, although many similar walks were recorded, they were never made public.

We have many outstanding local artists but we are also very grateful for the work of those who recorded the visual history of places now long gone. The following painting was by a local artist, M. Todd, it’s the only detail we have of it but it was probably painted around the early 1900s. Loudounkirk village of course is no longer there.

Eleanor Allen Robertson, daughter of the Rev. Hamilton Moore, minister of Loudoun Church, Newmilns, was one of the ‘Glasgow Girls’, and she and her husband specialised in Oriental scenes. They lived for some time with their daughter, Ailsa, an equally talented artist, in the Loudoun manse in Newmilns, before travelling to Shanghai. Ailsa’s ashes are buried beside her mother and grandfather in Loudoun kirkyard.

The late Jim Mair, local historian and author of numerous books on local history, was one of the founders of The Friends of Loudoun Kirk.

Darvel would like to be recognised as a music town and there is plenty of musical talent but who could forget Saturday Night at Gowanbank?

Of course neither can we forget Sammy Cox and perhaps some day, another local footballer will put their name in Darvel’s Hall of Fame.

This is just an idea of some of the local people who helped to shape Darvel and the Irvine Valley and it would be hoped that the present generations will continue to add to its history. The books are nearly all out of print so what copies we have should be treasured. Many have been digitised so are freely available to read online.