West Kilbride Civic Society
West Kilbride Civic Society



Alan Hodgkinson, Vice chairman of the Society and a well-known Gemmologist gave a most interesting talk about the Cheapside Hoard, discovered in 1912.     In the  1600’s, Cheapside was the centre of the Jewellery trade with dozens of small hole in the wall shops dealing in jewellery.  No one knows why the amount of jewellery was hidden under the floor, it may have been as a result of the Fire of London or the Civil War but in 1920 it was decided to develop the Cheapside area and that is when the hoard was found.   At that time, George Fabian Lawrence, a pawn broken known as Stoney Jack, offered the navvies involved in the demolition, money for anything they found.    230 objects were found including emeralds from Columbia, rubies from Burma and gold from  many places.  

Lewis Vernon Harcourt, 1st Viscount Harcourt provided the funds for the London Museum to purchase most of the Cheapside Hoard, which is now  housed in the Museum of London.

Alan showed many photos of amethysts, sapphires, emeralds, rubies, agates, turquoise bracelets etc. from this amazing find and told stories of the different types of jewellery , cameos, intaglios which are the opposite of cameos.  The Stafford Crest found in the hoard, gave the most cogent clue as to the date of the hoard as Charles 1 gave permission for this crest in 1642

A most interesting talk by Alan who is a President of the Scottish Gemmological Association,  Honorary Life member of several Association around the world and has recently published a book called “Gem Testing Techniques”  He travels the world giving lectures on Gemmology

 On 15th March  2016 Dr. Raynor Shaw gave an interesting illustrated talk to 34 members of the Civic Society on “Great Wall of China”  It is 2,150 miles long from east to west with spur walls 1,780 miles in length.

China was closed till 1974 but in 1978 there were 230,000 tourists and in 2010 there were 560,000 tourists to China with 20,000 visitors  per day to the Great Wall.   Dr Raynor an talked about its construction  and showed many photos of the wall.  It was both interesting and well presented.

Scottish Air Ambulance Service

On Tuesday 16th February 28 folk braved  a wild and wet night to come to hear Andrew Farrington give a most interesting talk on his experiences as a pilot in the Scottish Air Ambulance Service.    It  started unofficially in 1933 when a Doctor on Islay concerned for the life of a patient contacted the Renfrew Flying Club to see if they could come to fly the  patient to  Glasgow for treatment.  The flying club contacted a local airline who respoded promptly to collect the patient.  This inspired the folk on Islay to see if this could become a regular service.    By the 60's Loganair were using Islanders to run the service which was funded by the Government.    Most of the islands in the beginning did not have proper runways and landed on fields where they had to move the sheep to let the plane land.     He told of going in to land on Jura and saw that people were picnicking  where he was due to land.   The only person who can call out the Air Ambulance is the Doctor or Nurse attending the patient.    He told the story of being called by someone to pick up an MP who had broken his leg.    On being told they could not come unless it was a doctor who made the call they were rather annoyed about that.   The nurses who flew on the Aiir Ambulance were all based at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow and after they had flown 10 flights they were presented with a silver wings award.   He told of a hairy  landing on the cockleshell beach on Barra when the tide had come in quicker than expected.  When asked about the number of flights Air Ambulance flew Andrew said it was approximately 1000 flights a year.

He kept us entertained with his stories.   It was a most enjoyable evening.



On Tuesday 20th Oct 2015 Frank Murray who was Managing Director at ICI in the 1990’s gave a most interesting talk on Alfred Nobel.    

Alfred Nobel 1833 – 1896 was an intellectual giant, a scientist, inventor, entrepreneur and a philanthropist who spoke 7 languages and had 500 patents to his name.   He spent a lot of time in Scotland and had a house here.

The Nobel family in Sweden decided to experiment in the industrial manufacture of Nitro-glycerine which was dangerous and cause a lot of accidents.     He set up a company at Ardeer where they combined it with Kieselghur which made it safer and called it dynamite.  He came to Scotland because Glasgow was the 2nd city of the empire, the law of Limited Liability was already established  and venture capital was available.   24 Glasgow business men paid £1000 each to start the Nobel Explosives Company in 1871.   He chose Ardeer for its remote location and the sand dunes which offered protection.  It grew rapidly and by 1879 it was worth 2.5 billion pounds.   The headquarters was at Noel House in Glasgow.     They exported to the empire and the first ship was called Alfred Nobel.  When he died in 1896 he left £4million in his will.   Lord Mcgowan became managing director of NEC and in 19211 it was 50% of UK Industry.

 Lord McGowan and Maud founded ICI and it made a massive fortune from Cordite after World War !McGowan was chairman from 1930 -57.   In 1997 Ardeer employed 2000 people.

As Alfred Nobel no one to leave his money to, in his will, he established the Nobel Peace Prize which was followed in 1901 by prizes for Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Literature.

A fascinating talk about an amazing man.


Tracing the Clyde - Tuesday  31st March 2015

Douglas Keith took us on an  interesting  journey down the Clyde with slides and stories from his many travels.  We started at Glassgow Green and People's Palace and visited many sights in Glasgow then on to Bowling and Erskine Bridge, Dumbarton Castle, Cloch Lighthouse, Largs and down to Turnberry.   We came back up via Millport, Mt Stuart and Rothesay, Kyles of Bute, Toward Point, Dunoon and finally Hill House in Helensburgh.   He had a fund of amusing anecdotes to make the journey most enjoyable.


250 years of Science and Scientists in the Huntarian Museum

There was a good turn out on Tuesday 27th  Jan 2015 to hear Dr James Faithfull  gave an interesting talk on the  Huntarian Museum at Glasgow University of which he is the curator.     William Hunter was a student at Glasgow in 1700’s who went on to set up the anatomical school in Gt Windmill St in London.     Over the years he gathered an extensive collection of manuscripts, coins, minerals specimens and other items which he bequeathed to Glasgow University which at that time was based in High St. Glasgow.   It is the oldest public museum in Scotland.   In 1840 the University moved to the west end of Glasgow.    The museum also contains Roman stones from the Antonine wall, 17th century microscope, a model steam engine developed by James Watt and a marble statue of James Watt.    Collections from other scientists have been added to the museum – The Rene MacIntosh collection, Whistler collection, a Meteorite collection.   He went on to talk about Lord Kelvin, Frederick Soddy, Hindle .   In all there are 1.1 million items in the collections and many items are in storage.  He mentioned that there is a 24.5 million pound plan to deveop a storage area in Kelvin Hall


On Tuesday 24th Feb,.015, Audrey Kolon entertained the Society with tales of her time as a Senior Air Hostess on Concorde.   The plane held 100 passengers, 6 cabin crew, 2 pilots and an engineer.   There were 2 cabins- the front one 40  and was reserved for Royalty and megastars while the back held 60 and was for Business passengers, lesser celebrities and at the very back, competition winners!  It could fly at Mach2, twice the speed of sound and went from London to New York in 3 and a quarter hours. slides of the interior  showed how narrow it was.    Audrey met many famous people David Frost,   The Macartney family, Duke and Duchess of Wessex. and many others. We saw slides of a visit to Lapland with Santa and real reindeer meeting the passengers and crew.  On display were some of the freebies given to passengers and the menus showing the wonderful meals which were served.   The cabin crew were kept very busy getting the meal and drinks served in the short time it took to fly to New York.   It was a most entertaining and interesting talk 


Alan Hodgkinson gave a fascinating talk and slide show on “Gemstones of Scotland  on ~Tuesday 28th October.2014

The photo  shows his 5.7 kilogram crystal of smokey quartz (cairngorm) found in 1948 in the scree of Ben McDhui near the Shelter Stone.

 Almost all cairngorm gemstones seen in the jewellery trade come from Brazilian sources and have done since Victorian times when Queen Victoria gave a big impetus to all things Scottish, not least jewellery and gemstones associated with Scotland, but there was never sufficient natural material available to support the burgeoning trade.

Today, jewellery shops are flooded by blue topaz, but 99.99% of thismaterial was originally colourless topaz (much of it from Nigeria). This colourless material is then irradiated, followed by heat treatment which enhances it to a blue colour. However, there is natural blue topaz, and some beautiful  specimen have been and are found on occasion in the Cairngorms in the remote region of Loch Avon and the vicinity of Beinne A' Bhuird.  In this same region are to be found rare specimens of yellow and green beryls. Blue beryls are also found there and these are better known by their trade name of aquamarine. The beryl family is most famed for its emerald variety, but all these varieties, including the red beryls, owe their colour to trace elements which feature as impurities absorbed into the crystal structure.

He also showed pictures of smokey quartz from Arran, agates found in Ayrshire and Fife, a three centimeter sapphire crystal, found on the Isle of Lewis which was faceted in Scotland to yield a 9.6 carat gemstone, the most valuable gem specimen from this country, now in the Museum of Scotland, Chamber Street, Edinburgh . Other gems included  yellow beryl, green beryl, blue beryl (aquamarine),  found in Banffshire, Elie "rubies" which are actually garnets and not to forget the beautiful freshwater pearls found in some of Scotland's rivers but now sadly a declining jewel. 

Much of the Scottish material is superbly shown and detailed in the new book (2014) "Crystal Mountains - Minerals of the Cairngorms" by Roy Starkey. The front cover shows a superb 62 gram crystal of blue topaz found on Cairn Gorm in 1975.

This talk replaced the advertised one on the work of the Glasgow Preservations Trust  as the speaker was unable to come due to the weather.


Isabel Garrett gave an interesting talk on the Hunterston Brooch on Tuesday 25th March 2014. 


Isabel is a fellow of the Scottish Society of Antiquarians and has researched the archives at Hunterston House.


She said that the Hunterston Brooch is the finest fibula ever found in Scotland. It was discovered in 1826 by two labourers and it is believed that it was lost in a skirmish before or after the Battle of Largs in 1263.  

It was sold in 1891 to the National Museum off Antiquities in Edinburgh.


It is a highly important Celtic brooch of "pseudo-penannular" type thought to be about 7th or 8th Century.   In 1974 Robert Stevenson researched the masterpiece.


It has 38 compartments and was cast in solid silver from a clay mould. It contains Garnet and Amber stones.and  decorated with interlaced animal bodies in gold filigree. The brooch may have been made at a royal site, such as Dunadd in Argyll, though is more likely to have been made in Ireland, especially as its pseudo-penannular form is typical of Irish brooches


The back of the brooch has a scratched inscription in runes in the old Norse language probably 10th C. which says Mael britha owns this brooch.

Logan Air talk by Scott Greer on Tuesday 25th February 2014

There were 36 present to hear Scott Greer give a most interesting and enjoyable talk on Logan Air.

Scott Greer was Managing director of Logan Air for 37 years. And who wrote the book “Logan Air a Scottish survivor” for its 50th anniversary in 2012. It was founded in Feb 1962 by Willie Logan, a business man and entrepreneur who lived in Muir of Ord and had contracts all over the Highlands which meant chartering aircraft to get around quickly.     He started with 16 aircraft and the pilots were ex RAF or Navy pilots. They delivered the Glasgow Herald from Glasgow to Stornaway and in 1967 set up the Ambulance service which lasted till 1996.   There was only the pilot and a nurse who was a volunteer doing it in her own time. 22 babies were born on board including one set of twins. The company were responsible for registering the births and stated that the twins were born 40 miles apart.


Willie Logan was killed in an air crash in 1966 and shortly after his construction company went bust.

Royal Bank of Scotland with 700 branches throughout the country took it over and introduce scheduled services to Campbeltown and Barra where the planes land on the beach.   In adverts they said that they were such a caring company the runway was washed twice a day!!

The real success story was Orkney where they had services to all the islands.    In Shetland they had the shortest flight in the world from Westray to Papa Westray which a]was in the Guinness book of Records and people would travel from round the world just to go on it.

They parted company with RBS in 1981 and British Midland Airways took over.   By now they had 146 jets.   When Br airways pulled out it looked as though it would go under but there was a management buyout. They had 1 Dehavalein Twin Otter and 5 Islanders . They became a Briosh airways franchise as this enabled them to book passengers luggage through onto connecting flights .

BA pulled out of Scottish services and FlyBe took over.   They now have 500 staff and 29 aircraft with an extended network

There was a good turnout on Tuesday 27th January to hear Mark Mitchell of the RSPB give an enjoyable and interesting illustrated talk on Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve.


It is a wetland habitat and he said that 2013 was a record breaking year with125 species of birds being seen there. He talked about the changes to the site with dredging to make new ponds nearer to the visitor centre with 300 snipe being seen at one of the new ponds.   He showed pictures of the different types of birds seen there and commented on the knowledgeable audience with a lot of bird watchers present.


He also talked about the changes in the RSPB from being purely concerned with birds to becoming more of a Nature Conservancy Body. He said that not everyone was in agreement with this change.   He also talked about the importance of getting children interested in nature and they hold a lot of events at the visitor centre including Pond Dipping to attract young people.

MAPPING by Robin Nicolson of Nicolson’s Maps on Tuesday the 26th March

This amusing and interesting talk was enjoyed by a capacity audience of the West Kilbride Civic Society. Robin started with the first maps produced in the 17th century by Bleau and Pont. After the end of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745 the Duke of Cumberland sent Watson and Roy to survey Scotland for military purposes. This was the starting point of the Principal Triangulation of Great Britain 1783-1853, leading to the establishment of  the Ordnance Survey.

In 1935 The Davidson Committee was formed to review the future of the Ordnance Survey. Re-triangulation of Great Britain was started and which involved the erection of concrete triangulation points on  high sites. The data did not vary greatly from the original. The National Grid Reference was launched. It ceased to be under the Military department and became a non ministerial department.

In 1995 the O.S.digitised the last of about 250,000 maps.


Nicolsons Maps was established in 1979 by Malcolm Nicolson, father of Robin, who was a surveyor for The Ordnance Survey.

The first map he reproduced was a hand traced monochrome map of Largs to raise funds for the Largs Scouts price 50p. This was so popular

that it was reproduced. This was the start of producing street maps for towns and villages in Scotland in colour. Nicolsons Maps are a licensed partner of the Ordnance Survey, which allows them to use their information. Each map has a small deliberate error so that a copy can be identified. Now the maps are produced digitally rather than traced.

The Ordnance Survey has a modern GPS system. It has a base which is in touch with satellites. The Ordnance Survey master map may have as many as 5000 changes per day.

Nicolsons as an Ordnance Survey licensed partner get three monthly updates. It still however involves some field work.

They are currently producing Tourist Maps based on the Os1/250,000 series useful for a general journey but not for the hill walkers.




Mark Gibson who purchased Craigengillan house in 1999 gave an interesting talk and slide show about the house and gardens. The estate was owned by the McAdam family since the late 1500’s and the house was built in 1760.   The last McAdam died in 1900. 

The house was derelict when he purchased it and he continues to work full time to finance the work.  His aims were 1- the house, 2 - the gardens and 3 - for it to act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the upper Doone Valley.


The interior design of the house includes work by the French design house of Jansen in the Billiard room, Hall, Drawing Room and Bibliotheque. 


For the last 2 years during work in the garden rocks were uncovered which were not local and they discovered a large pond with several cascades coming from it.   A Japanese Garden designed by James Pulham and Sons, the top designers in 1838-1915, was found during restoration work. Both Jansen and Pulham’s work are present in Buckingham Palace.  

He has used a lot of local people in the work and the community has become very involved.   Two ruined cottages have been restored one with a thatched roof. An equestrian centre is established with 8 full time jobs. A large amount of tree planting has been done recently.  The estate is also home to 1100 black faced sheep. 

The Civic Society plan to arrange an outing to visit the house and gardens in the spring.





2013 -2014

September 2013  “A.G.M and Social.


October2013 “The Theatre Royal from Hope Street to Hollywood.” Graeme Smith gave an illustrated talk about its fascinating history from its opening in 1867 and its transition from Music Hall to Opera House


November 2013  “Beithcraft”   Speaker Allan Richardson tells the story of the development of the manufacture of this renowned brand of furniture made in Beith.


January 2014  “Birds of West Kilbride and Loch Winnoch” Illustrated talk by Mark Mitchell of the RSPB. 


February 2014  “Loganair – Scotland’s airline” Scott Greer spoke on the setting up and logistics of covering the diverse Highland and Islands routes.


March 2014   “The Hunterston Brooch”

Isabel Garrett gave an interesting insight into the history, the materials and gems used in its making.


2012- 2013

October 2012 AGM followed by a talk by Michèle Oldham on Timberbooks


November 2012  “A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE”    A programme of films of local events given by the Scottish Film Archives from the National Library of Scotland.





An illustrated talk given by the owner Mark Gibson.


March 2013  “MAPPING”   A talk by Robin Nicolson of Nicolson’s maps in Largs.  




October 2011 AGM & pistures of West Kilbride by George Donohoe


November 2011  "THE DARK AGES IN SCOTLAND"  Talk by Tom Barclay


January 2012  "TEH KIWINNING DIG"  Talk by Tom Rees of Rathmel Archaeology 




Marcn 2012  " DALGARVEN MILL"  Talk by Robert Ferguson


2010 -2011


October 2010   AGM followed by a talk by Norman Mcgilvray entitled "Be your own weather forecaster"


November 2010 "SANDA ISLAND BIRD OBSEVATORY "  Talk by David Palmar


January 2011 "HISTORY  & CONTENTS OF DUMFRIES HOUSE" Talk by Curator Charlotte Rostek


February 2011  " MAUCHLINE WARE" Talk by Stanley Sarsfield Museum Officer for East Ayrshire


Marcn 2011  " VICTORIAN CHURCHES" Talk by Professor John Hume, OBE


2009 - 2010


October 2009 AGM  and talk on the Work of the Initiative by Ksy Hall


November 2009  " LARGS PIER"  Talk by Ian McCrorie


January 2010   "THE DEVELOPMENT OF NATIONAL PARKS" Talk by Cameron Sharpe




Marcn 2010  "ADMIRAL LORD COCHRANE"  Talk by Mr H Doyle


2008 - 2009  


October 2008   AGM and talk on "WEST KILBIDE MUSEUM"


November 2008  "THE ROCKS AROUND US" talk by John McInnes


January 2009  "BEES & THEIR PRESENT PROBLEMS" Talk by Ian Lennox


February 2009  "RECYCLING & COMPOSTING ON A LARGE SCALE" Talk by Stuart Fraser




2007 - 2008






January 2008  "SLEEPING AROUND SCOTLAND" Talk by Laura Alexander







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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