West Kilbride Civic Society
West Kilbride Civic Society

2015 -  Callendar House and The Kelpies & Botanic Gardens, Glasgow and Huntarian Museum


2014 -  Sma' Shot Cottages and The Great Tapestry of Sotland  & David Livingston Museum, Blantyre


2013 - Craigengillen  and Lomomd Shores & Hill House, Helensburgh.


2012 – New Robert Burns Birthplace Museum; Dalgarven Mill & Hunterston Castle.


2011 – Marine Biological Station Millport ; Dumfries House & Law Castle.


2010 – Burns Cottage Alloway & Glasgow Mosque and People’s Palace.


2009 – Kelvingrove Museum/Art gallery & Blair Estate.


2008 - Garnethill Synagogue; Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Glasgow & Rowallan Castle.


Some photographs taken on outings are shown below



24TH June 2015


Members of West Kilbride Civic Society visited Kibble Palace in Glasgow Botanic Gardens. This very attractive glasshouse was built by John Kibble an eccentric Victorian engineer and entrepreneur to show off plants and sculptures.

We were given a guided tour by Mr Archie McCulloch , assistant manager. He was an excellent communicator who enthralled us with tales of the origin and uses of many plants from all over the world. He also told us about the difficulties of preserving this unique collection whilst the complete refurbishment was carried out a number of years ago. We ran short of time and left, delighted with the visit and vowing to return.  

After lunch we visited the Huntarian Museum where we saw an exhibition of relics from the Antonine Wall which stretches across Scotland for 39 miles from Old Kilpatrick on the Clyde to Bo’ness on the Forth.  With 16 forts along its length, it marked the northern boundary of the mighty Roman Empire.  Among the artefacts on display are 3 pairs of sandals, for a man, a woman and a child all in very good condition,  clay pipes and ducts to conduct water, hand forged nails 12inches long, marbles and playing boards, Ballistics for catapulting 5inch diameter circular rocks , tent pegs, spades and axes.   There also saw sandstone distance markers with a description of the Legion who erected that section and tributes to individuals not least emperor, Antoninus Pius who commanded the wall to be built in 142AD.    We also saw modern inventions including a demonstration camera featuring  a single pixel, which can see through fog using lasers which is the result of research work done at Glasgow University.     There is much to see at the Huntarian including a gemstone collection and fossil specimens which would merit s return visit.

My thanks to Pat Anslow and Alan Hodgkinson for conducting the two visits.


Visit to Callendar House and “The Kelpies”, Falkirk

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Forty-four members and friends of the Society set off from West Kilbride on 27 May 2015 by coach making good time on the motorways to Falkirk where we called in firstly at Callendar House for refreshments and a look around this House which has an interesting history, including siege and partial demolition by Cromwell’s forces.  It is set in a nationally important historic designed landscape which also contains remains of the Roman Antonine Wall indicated now by substantial grassy mounds. 

The House dates from the 14th Century.  It has had a succession of owners with important parts in Scottish history and connections with Royalty and business ventures, starting with the Livingstone Family, and ending with the Forbes family from 1783 until 1963 when it and the immediate grounds were sold to Falkirk Town Council as part of a compulsory purchase order in order to build an estate of high rise flats, through which we had to drive to enter the grounds.  The House was ‘A’  listed and in the early 1990’s it became the HQ of the Local Authority museums service, fully opening to the public as a museum and visitor attraction in May 1998 after ten years of work to complete the conversion from a decaying building.  Now managed by Falkirk Community Trust, it also houses the Falkirk Archives in the Victorian Library.  Permanent exhibitions include the history of the House, the Antonine Wall, and how the Falkirk area was transformed in the industrial era. Changing contemporary art exhibitions are also held and different aspects of cultural heritage are explored in other exhibition spaces.

The House has undergone many alterations in its history, but several fine original features and rooms still remain including 11 staircases, and a costumed guide explains the working of the restored 1825 kitchen with its utensils and original ovens including a rotating roasting spit mechanism operated innovatively by a system channelling hot air from the fire. The Tearoom is now located in the part of the House built in around 1670, reconstructed after the damage by Cromwell, in the grand Morning Room created to impress guests who were visiting the House, and today’s visitors also enjoy the decoration, atmosphere and spectacular views from this room as well as delicious food.

Threatened rain finally appeared when we arrived at the “The Helix”, which is the regenerated green area in Falkirk adjoining the Forth and Clyde Canal where “The Kelpies” horse heads were constructed.  They are the largest equine sculptures in the world and Scotland’s biggest public art works. Weighing 300 tons each they were built on site in 90 consecutive days at a cost of £5 million, and they are 30 metres (about 90 ft) tall.  Each sits in a little moat of its own, and tower over the canal and lock basin.

Designed by Scottish artist Andy Scott from an original idea of George Ballinger – Head of Engineering at British Waterways - his main inspirations were the Clydesdale horses used for heavy work in Scotland during the 19th and 20th centuries, and the heavy industries that once flourished in Central Scotland. They comprise an internal structural steel skeleton clad with individual profile-cut stainless steel plates.  The steel was made in Yorkshire but its use represents Falkirk as a previous centre of the Scottish iron industry.  The horses’ heads are modelled on two Clydesdales who worked for Glasgow City Council - the head-down sculpture on “Duke” and the head-up on “Baron”.

The kelpie is a supernatural shape-shifting creature that features in Scots myths and legends and the original plan for the sculptures was influenced by this as sometimes a kelpie took the form of a water horse. But the sculptures seem to share something of these qualities when viewed in certain lights and weather conditions, changing their mood and appearance; this is what the designer also wanted to echo.

After a rather wet but level walk of about 5 minutes from the car park, including viewing words of a poem by Jim Carruth etched into flagstones celebrating the working horses, we were taken inside the head-down sculpture to view the tubular steel open lattice work construction - which did not shelter us from the drips - and our knowledgeable guide explained details about the project.  An original horseshoe had even been set into the concrete base which could be touched for “good luck”.  Several members did this but any wishes made didn’t stop the rain!

Despite over 650,000 visitors in the first six months since they were opened in April 2014, full visitor facilities have yet to be finished but when this is done and on a fine day with the canal-side walks, this will be an attractive and interesting place to visit being part of a major regeneration of once derelict land to urban green space for recreation and wildlife preservation.

Avoiding the rush hour motorway traffic, we left at about 3.30 pm returning to West Kilbride by around 5pm. Thanks are due to Pat Anslow for organisation on the day and ensuring no-one got left behind anywhere, fell in the canal or dissolved in the rain!

  Wednesday 18th June 2014 to Blantyre, David Livingston Museum


The sun shone for the 26 members of the Society who enjoyed a visit to David Livingstons Museum.   Some toured the gardens first whilst others chose to learn about  Livinston's journeys throughout Africa.     We started in the 1 roomed house in Shuttle Row where he lived with his parents and brothers and sister -  Seven in 1 room with 2 hole in the wall beds!!  He worked in the mill as a piercer from a young age and read everything he could except novels eventually going to university to study medicine    After an enjoyable lunch,some walked down to see the River Clyde which powered the mills where he worked before going to Africa as a medical missionary.   An excellent visit   See photos below

The Civic Society members enjoyed an interesting visit to the Sma' shot cottages on Wed 14th May.   After we saw The Great Tapestry of Scotland at the Anchor Mills.   It was really amazing and a testimony to all those who worked on it.  


Below are some photos curtesy of Anne Cairnduff




After a very wet journey down to Dalmellington the rain stopped in time for a tour of the garden and the 7 ponds which were discovered  buried after  years of neglect.  They were designed by James Pulman and they are linked by a series of falls.       Fi McClelland gave an interesting talk about the work involved in clearing the garden and the various finds they made.     We then had an interesting tour of the house and ended our visit with tea and scones which were most appreciated.     

Civic Society Outing to Hill House, Helensburgh

On Wed 19th June, 28 members of the Society went by bus to Lomond Shores, Balloch and then on to Hill House which is Charles Rennie Macintosh’s finest domestic creation.   William Blackie, the publisher, commissioned Rennie Macintosh to design and build the house in 1902. Mackintosh designed nearly everything inside the Hill House too, from the decorative schemes and the furniture to the fittings and contents. His wife, Margaret Macdonald, designed and made many of the textiles as well as a beautiful fireplace panel.
It is a visually arresting mix of Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, Scottish Baronial and Japanese architecture and design.
Much of the house has been restored so it looks almost exactly as it did in 1904 when its first residents, Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie and his family, moved in. The beautiful, formal gardens have also been restored in line with the early designs, using plants that would have been available at the time.

Photograph shows some of the members at the entrance to Hill House.

More photos are shown below


OYSTER CATCHER or St Bride's bird is our Logo

WEST KILBIRDE CIVIC SOCIETY holds talks at 7.30p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month from September - November and January - March in West Kilbride Community Centre, Corse Street, West Kilbride, N Ayrshire KA23 9AX  




Office Bearers

Chairman - George Donohoe

Vice Chair - Alan Hodgkinson

Secretary - Audrey Kolon

Treasurer - Chris Fisher

Mem Sec - Chris Fisher


Events Sec - Alan Hodgkinson

Website -  George Donohoe

Committee members

Pat Anslow

Wendy McNab




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