Whilst taking in a drink in a local hostelry the other nite, a drunken, pony-tailed man slurred at me “whairdjicumfae?”. For the uninitiated, this is drunken Scot-speak for “Hello there, please excuse my stale alcohol breath, I was just wondering whereabouts you possibly could hail from?”.
My reply, through gritted teeth, was “up the road, Maryhill”, clearly not being one for blithely giving out personal facts to random drunken strangers in bars (those days are long gone). It took a while to extricate myself from the unfortunate
interrogation, given that the barman, who had all the personality of a stoat’s ingrown toenail, took approximately 3 millenia to pour 2 drinks, but it did set me to thinking when exactly did I think of myself coming from Maryhill and not the wilds of Ayrshire?
For those of you who don’t know, I’ve not always lived in Glasgow. In fact, I was born and raised in Ayrshire, which is a county on the South West coast of Scotland, famous for bacon, potatoes and cows. I hail from a small town called Kilwinning in this noble shire, which, it turns out, is famous in it’s own right for a few things (other than being the hometown of me, of course). The story of the myriad other places I have lived is one for another day.
Firstly, Kilwinning has a big old abbey, which in a town of 15,000 people is quite unexpected. It was set up by some Benedictine monks or other a long, long time ago. Ashamed to say, the full extent of my knowledge of the abbey is from my
childhood brushes with the law in it’s grounds. My grandad’s flat was situated right next to the abbey, which was (and most likely still is) surrounded by an enormous, ancient stone wall, about 12 feet high.
Me, my brother and the other kids from the area would climb over the wall and generally carouse in the grounds which were fenced off, no doubt for our own safety. On the opposite side of the abbey ground’s was the police station, so most of our forays ended with frantically running across to the point where we could climb the wall and running back up the stairs to grandad’s house before they caught us. I remember on one occasion I had my brother’s jumper on (it was blue) and I got stuck in the fence and we only narrowly avoided capture. It may or may not have been the same occasion where Andrew got stuck on the spike on the top of the wall by his trousers.
Secondly, and somewhat shamefully I think, Kilwinning is the site of the original Masonic Lodge. The Orange Lodge, as it’s known, is up near the doctors surgery that we went to. I never paid all that much attention to it when I was living there. Being a Catholic, there was never much call to, but I have since discovered that Kilwinning has the somewhat dubious honour of
having Lodge number 0. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, see here.
Kilwinning also has, and hold on to your hats here, a castle! Eglinton Castle is set in a big park (imaginatively titled Eglinton Park) which bizarrely also had a food factory in it (I think it’s closed now). It was built about a zillion years ago and all that remains is the ruins of part of it now. There is a tower still standing which is closed to the public, but I do recall being taken up to the top of it as a youngster, possibly allowed by my uncle who is a council employee of some sorts. It was a very exciting day to be allowed up there, but a bit scary as it was so high.
Eglinton Castle was inhabited by the De Morville and the Montgomery families and this is evident in many place names around town. In the 1800s, the Montgomery family took the ill fated decision to re-enact a medeival tournament – it was a bit gash, by all accounts and cost them a lot of money and eventually led to the castle being abandoned and falling into the state of repair it
is in today – i.e. there’s nowt but a few ruined bits of it left.
In the park itself tho there are still some outbuildings to stumble
across. I remember finding the old ice house for the castle one day with my parents as a child, which was quite a thrill.
Eglinton Park was a favourite haunt of me during my horsey days, as I would sometimes trek from Stevenston to the park for a canter around, and attended a couple of shows there, memorably winning 4th place in the Mountain and Moorland class at a show, despite Misty, my pony, completely showing me up with her randy, on-heat antics. It was also family tradition to go to the park on Easter Sunday to roll our painted boiled eggs down the hill in front of the tower. Did anyone else do or still do that?
Other interesting Kilwinning facts include that Pringle knitwear was first manufactured there and also that Kilwinning had a proud history of wool-making – I had no idea of these crafty facts until I was checking a few facts for this post. Maybe there is something in the water that makes so many people knit down there (or maybe it’s sheer lack of anything else to do).
I remember the Wool Sack being the in place to visit of a weekend. My mum was quite the knitter and indeed still is, so we were frequent visitors there. Every jumper we ever wore as kids was knitted by my mum. I recall a grey knitted jumper for school which I took a dislike to for some reason that was left on the back of the sofa next to the hamster’s cage – whether on purpose
or not, I can’t remember – which the hamster then chewed an enormous, irreprable hole in. I was positively gleeful, but I think I got a skelp on the legs for that.
There are loads of other things I could continue with – the (in)famous football team, the Buffs, the inexplicable intrigue with archery, McGavin park, our very own Byres Road, but I think that is quite enough to give you a brief idea of how decidedly non-Glaswegian I am. And surprisingly, given how keen I was to get out of there the second I was deemed old enough, I am still proud to be from there.