Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Robert Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr
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Tuesday, 10 June 2008

05 Jun 2008 - Dalgarven Mill visit

A group of 13 members of the Society visited Dalgarven Mill, near Kilwinning, on the evening of Thursday 5th June. Having paid a previous visit approximately six years ago, we were most impressed at the progress of improvements to the Mill and its contents.

Our tour was conducted by the owner, Robert Ferguson, who inherited the Mill in 1983 from his father who, with his uncle, were the last working millers there. Being an architect, Mr. Ferguson has proved to be the ideal person to undertake restoration. He and his wife have devoted the last 25 years of their lives to it, having sold their home to fund the initial repairs.

They decided that the best way to save the Mill would be to turn it into a museum and thus it eventually became The Museum of Ayrshire Country Life and Costume. In order to safeguard its future, the buildings, surrounding land and the collections were made over to the Dalgarven Mill Trust in 1994.

To help with the restoration work, a grant was awarded by the Manpower Services Commission in the 1980s, whereby unemployed skilled and unskilled people were given work on environmental or construction projects. Once this work had begun, items for exhibition were sought, such as machinery, furniture and tools, initially from former customers of the Mill who were asked to check their lofts and barns for anything suitable. The costume collection started 45 years ago from clothes used in drama production and the selection of Victorian items we saw were simply stunning. It is currently impossible to display all the items so a new selection of costumes is put together for exhibition each year. The most recent improvement to the Mill has been the restoration of the water wheel, which was running during our visit. The associated machinery for grain processing has also been rebuilt.

Our visit was a fascinating insight into history and the lives of those associated with the Mill. If you missed the visit, or are coming to the area in the future, we recommend anyone who is interested in the history and industry of the Ayrshire countryside, as well as in the beautiful costumes, to put it in their plans. For further information, see the Dalgarven Mill website.

Sheila Murray

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