Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Robert Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr
| Home | Contact | Events | Publications | Resources | Links | Membership | Interests | Activities | Notices |

Friday, 26 March 2010

25 Mar 2010 - "Old Ayrshire Road Names" - Joint Ayrshire FHS meeting

It was the turn of Alloway and Southern Ayrshire to host the annual joint meeting of the four Ayrshire family history societies and our venue was the reading room in the Carnegie Library. Much to our delight, we had a bumper turnout of 65 people – a large contingent from our own Society, representatives from East Ayrshire, Largs and Troon plus 13 visitors, 4 of whom joined our Society at the meeting.

The meeting opened with reports from the four Societies. Almost all indicated some increase in membership, though Largs is having difficulty in finding new volunteers to take on committee posts. It was good to have this opportunity of hearing about the activities of the various groups and we look forward to meeting each other again at some of the family history functions being organized over the next few months.

After a delay caused by the presentation machinery, we finally got under way and the patient speaker, Gerald Cummins was introduced. For many years Mr Cummins held the responsible post of Road Safety Officer for East Ayrshire and it was during this time that his interest in the old roads of Ayrshire had its roots. In retirement, he has pursued this interest expanding it to cover the history of roads in the south of Scotland from prehistoric times to the present day.

Earliest roads were foot tracks found in coastal areas and used by hunters tracking the animals they needed to kill for food and skins or perhaps tracks made as tribes migrated. Mr Cummins went on to surprise many of us by showing the outline of Roman roads in the South West and, in particular, the existence in around AD 81 of a Roman road stretching from the Nith and the Solway to Ayr.

Tref and “Bal” names, he told us, are indicative of roads and settlements made during the Dark Ages. In Medieval times come trade routes linking coastal ports with the “fermtouns” and small settlements inland. These were documented by the painstaking mapmaking of Timothy Pont, the first of many mapmakers. This was followed by the era of turnpikes with their toll system and the enforced labouring days for male adults with heavy fines for those failing to attend!

Though Mr Cummins was obliged to hurry over the more recent developments in our road system, he completed his presentation with a series of delightful photographs showing remnants of these old roads and bridges and opening our eyes to the history to be seen around us if we only know where to look for it. The presentation was a real eye-opener and I am sure that Mr Cummins’s website,, will be in for a good few hits now that we know of its existence.

After a vote of thanks given by Andrew Dinwoodie, there were refreshments for all, laid on by ASAFHS members. Our thanks go to Barbara Findlay for choosing such an interesting topic and to the members who produced such a lovely and (fortunately!) bountiful supper. To all who helped in any way, thanks and congratulations on a very successful meeting.

Sheila Dinwoodie

Older Postings