From time to time, I find that my clients in USA, Canada or Australia had ancestors who lived in miners’ rows in Ayrshire or Midlothian. Understandably, they often plan to come back to Scotland to see where their ancestors lived. But I often have to tell them that they’ll find little or no evidence of their ancestors. In many cases with the demise of mining, these habitations have been wiped off the face of the earth.
Rows like Adamsrow, Squaretown and Redrow in Newton parish, Midlothian were first established in the 18th century when coal was first mined commercially in the area. Squaretown disappeared during the 19th century with Adamsrow and Redrow surviving until WW2. The quality of the housing, originally built by the mining companies, became subject to greater scrutiny during the Victorian era. A fascinating glimpse of the harsh reality of life in one of these dwellings is given in the 1875 Notes on Miners’ Houses. This was originally published in the Glasgow Herald and has been reproduced on the fascinating Scottish Mining Website. Many specific locations are featured including Adamsrow. It is noted there that there are no closets or ashpits provided for any of the houses although there was a plan to build closets. No trace remains of Adamsrow which was located close to what is now Shawfair railway station.
I think that where possible, it is essential to try to keep the memory of these forgotten communities alive. I am therefore delighted to see the efforts being made to record oral history of some of the rows and villages in East Ayrshire, many of which have now been lost. The University of Strathclyde is closely involved here.
One such community stands out due to the fame of one of its former residents. In 1913, Bill Shankly was born in the Ayrshire mining settlement of Glenbuck. As well as being an international footballer he went on to become a legendary Liverpool FC manager. He built the club up, brought English League and UEFA Cup success, and commanded huge respect from the fans. A memorial stone to him has been erected at the site of Glenbuck village.