Recently I was given this little bit of local history by Susan Hunter of Fleming Road, Houston.
Born in Edinburgh on 29th January 1851, (slightly before any reader’s time) John Charles Cunninghame was the son of Alexander Cunninghame (Landowner and Iron and Coal Master
John Charles had attended Tinity College at Cambridge but did not gain any academic qualifications. The article suggests, “however his attendance was probably of a social nature as was the norm at that time”
On the death of his father in 1866 John Charles became the 17th and, as it transpired, the last Laird of Craigends.
As he was only 15 years of age at the time of his fathers death the company owned by his father was held in trust for him and was run by his father’s partner, James Merry until John Charles became of age to take on the responsibilities of the company. He eventually held the posts of Chairman and Managing Director of Merry & Cunningham Ltd, a company which employing at the peak of production 5,000 men in Glengarnock, Ardeer and Carnbroe as well as various coal pits in Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Ayrshire. He also held the position of Chairman of Glengarnock Iron & Steel Co. as well as having directorships with the Glasgow and South Western Railways and the Standard life Insurance Company.
John Charles was a keen huntsman and rode with the Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire hounds.
He bred Clydesdale horses at Craigends estate, had two dairy herds in Wigtonshire as well as breeding sheep at Upper Foyers in Inverness.
John Charles died in London on 30th January 1917 and is buried locally at Kilbarchan on the road between Brookfield and Bridge of Weir. At the time of his death his estate was valued at approximately one million pounds!
The Cunninghame family of Craigends were descendents of the Cunninghame’s of Kilmaurs in Ayrshire and had owned Craigends estate from as far back as 1479 consequently the name Cunninghame is used now in the new Craigends estate.
A carved stone with the Cunninghame coat of arms and motto from the old Craigends House can be found just off Magnus Road in Cunningham Gardens.
This month I have jump from February 1944 to 17th November 1949.
This was the date of the Consecration of Union between the Houston West and Houston and Killellan Congregations
A copy of the order of service for the Consecration of the Union was given to me and I have included it in this article.
The Union was consecrated by The Moderator of Presbytery of Paisley who was The Rev Thomas MacNab
The Houston West Church building is now our present day large Kirk Hall.
Do you remember this service and can you add to the memories?
Marilyn. 01505 613083
In The Houston and Killellan Parish Record of February 1944
there was a letter from the Rev Andrew Herron who was the minister at that time. I thought about the content and saw how his writing, although at that time was reflecting on war, could be pertinent to our situation today as we try to progress our intention to build an extension to extend our Kirk facilities to encourage more participation of the community in social engagement.
He mentioned three things that he saw were essential to progress.
“It’s not enough to say you know where you want to go, you must also be able to see in front of you”
“In the last resort the only thing that fits you to help forward the cause of progress is a vision of the Kingdom of God”
“There are those who oppose every change as a matter of principle”
“You can of course, refuse to change. But you cannot prevent life from moving on and leaving you stranded”
“Yes, we need courage if there is to be such a thing as progress”
“And the last and most important thing is faith
There will be times when the most valiant and far-seeing will find his heart failing him, it is then that faith is needed, faith in wisdom that knows, faith in a love that cares, faith in a leader who through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
The Rev Andrew Heron finished by saying:
“The only thing that will ensure real progress in the post-war world will be the sacrificial efforts of those who have vision, courage and faith”
I leave these words with you to ponder on. I know they made me realise that we are where we are today due to sacrifices of people who came before us. This from our Parish Record of February 1944.
Food for thought
On looking through the Houston and Killellan Parish Record for November 1943 (our present day Kirk Record) the following was written;
Holy Communion –
The weather conditions that marred the Harvest Service were equalled though not surpassed a fortnight later on the occasion of Communion. Numbers were accordingly down. The thoughts of many of us must have been with the lads (from Craigends) who in March sat with us at the Table and are now in Italy, and with many other members who are wearying to be back with us again.
This certainly made me think of present day circumstances of our British troops in foreign parts and how history keeps repeating itself as we can see even from our own Kirk magazine.
How sad it is that we cannot improve the global unrest that has been going on for centuries.
Old Houston Photograph
I am still getting replies to my request for information on the old Houston photograph published in the November Kirk Record. An update will be published in the future but please telephone me if you have any interesting facts about the photograph.
Marilyn (01505 613083)
I have been given some copies of the Houston and Killellan Parish Records dating back to October 1943, this was the Kirk Record of the day.
At that time the church was a much smaller organisation with the Rev. Andrew Herron, B.D. as the minister with an organist, a church officer and 7 Kirk Session members.
In the October 1943 edition one of the articles in this Record related to “a number of Services of national significance”.
It was mentioned that “There was a Day of Prayer appointed by the King for the 3rd September, the opening day of the fifth year of the war. There was an especially good attendance at the joint Service in our Church that evening – we all do still believe in the value of prayer, but we could make every day one of prayer.”
It is thought provoking to think that we still are in a world of turmoil today and that prayer is as relevant today as it was then
The article then went on to say that Sunday, 26th September had been appointed Civil Defence Sunday and Thanksgiving for the Battle of Britain and that there had been “an attempt to arrange a parade of regulars in the vicinity which had failed and the local Home Guard, unfortunately, did not see their way to come but we had a goodly attendance of defence personnel and of the congregation generally showing support for our troops”.
I wonder why the Home Guard did not turn out that Sunday?
In the May issue of the Kirk Record we printed two photographs of our own Houston Guild. The first photograph shown was taken in 1987 to celebrate the centennial of the Nation Women’s Guild.
The second photograph, which we have printed again in this issue, was to celebrate our own Guild centennial in Houston.
I have been informed that our Guild Centennial took place in 1992 and at that time The Guild purchased a pulpit bible, which was inscribed from the Guild to the Kirk by Mr Bill Griffen and is the pulpit bible in use today.
Sitting on the right of the Rev. Georgie Baxendale in the photograph is Lexa Boyle, who was our missionary partner at that time.
A big thank you to everyone who has contributed information since Reflections started. I know it has initiated discussions and reminders of past events in the history of Houston Kirk and her congregation.
If you have anymore interesting local historical facts or photographs please contact me.
Marilyn 01505 613083
In Our Monthly Record of August 1967 I discovered the following little gem!
THE COW IS A COW – OR IS IT?
It is from an essay by a child of ten and is quoted in Sir Ernest’s Gowers’ “The Complete Plain Words”
“The cow is a mammal. It has six sides – right, left, an upper and below. At the back it has a tail on which hangs a brush. With this it sends the flies away so that they do not fall into the milk. The head is for the purpose of growing horns and so that the mouth can be somewhere. The horns are to butt and the mouth is to moo with. Under the cow hangs the milk. It is arranged for milking. When people milk, the milk comes and there is never an end to the supply . . . The cow has a fine sense of smell; one can smell it far away. This is the reason for the fresh air in the country.”
Can any Farmer confirm the above?
On researching Sir Ernest Gowers he lived from 1880 until 1966 and during his working life was a civil servant.
He wrote Plain Words, a guide to the use of English in 1948 which was designed to encourage officials in the civil service away from pretentious and flamboyant writing. He also wrote The ABC of Plain Words in 1951 and in 1954 a compilation of the two was published. This was, The Complete Plain Words.
After reading the story in our previous Kirk Record about James Patrick, the poet who lived in Houston, I was given a book by Mr Bill Robb of Houston. He had discovered the book in his mother’s house. Mrs Robb had lived in Whirlie Road, Crosslee and had been a member of our Kirk.
The book is inscribed to “William.Stewart his, book. houstoun. 1838”
The book relates the story of a poet, born in Houston called Allan Stewart. Allan was born on 30th January 1812. What is interesting is it also mentions a Mr Patrick who had been a senior pupil at the same school when Allan Stewart commenced his education. It was not until James Patrick died and his poems where published posthumously that Allan Stewart read the poems and realised that they had been old “school-fellows”.
The book concludes with poems and songs written by Allan Stewart an extract of one song is given below;
“THY BANKS BONNIE GRYFE
Air – O’er the hills an’ far awa.
Thy banks, bonny Gryfe, when gloamin’ fa’s,
I love to muse an’ roam amang;
Craigen’s woods an’ echoing ha’s -
Gi’e back to me their langsyne sang.
Thy banks, bonny Gryfe, recal the days,
The days that early passion blest;
I see the bush an’ the bracken braes,
Where first my Jeanie’s lips I prest.”
Are we uncovering a seam of Houston poets? Does anyone else know of any other Houston Poets?
I have been looking through our archive of Kirk Records. The oldest one I can find is dated January 1967, then it was called ‘Our Monthly Record’.
One article that caught my eye is as follows:
One of the things the New Year will bring is the decision of the Secretary of State concerning the County Council`s scheme for development at Houston. I understand that we are not likely to hear about this until the spring, and I have also been told, by someone who should be well informed, that even if the Council`s plan is approved, it will be years before it is put into operation.
Today's population of Houston which includes Crosslee is 6,601 can anyone supply the population of Houston for January 1967?
Does anybody have, or know of the whereabouts of, any issue of Our Monthly Record older than January 1967?
We have had a number of responses to the question about the oldest Kirk Record we can source. We have now received a Kirk Record for October 1950 which is number 78. This is a big leap back from 1965! Does anyone know where the previous 77 copies can be found?
There have been unconfirmed reports that the population of Houston and Crosslee prior to expansion of the village was 700. Any advance on this total?
As I was browsing through the November 1967 edition of “Our Monthly Record” I came upon an article about James Patrick of Houston. James Patrick came to Houston with his parents as a child and was a chief founder of a Houston and Killellan Library in 1824. This is an interesting coincidence as we are now in the process of opening our own Houston and Killellan Kirk Library.
Patrick was also a budding poet and a book of his verse was published posthumously.
The article concludes with a Mr James McNeill of Holmpark, Crosslee, showing to the author of the 1967 article, a book of verse by James Patrick which had been printed in 1836.
One of the verses seems to be set around this time of year and to lighten these winter days the following is the verse.
“But simmer soon will smile again
An’ cleed our hills and valleys braw,
And soon the blackbird’s e’ening note
Be heard down Craigend’s wa’.
O Craigend’s woods are bonnie woods
And Gryfe’s a sweetly winding stream;
There aft at gloamin’ ha’e I rov’d
Wi’ Jean in love’s enraptur’d dream”
I spoke to Mr Alan McNeill who lives in Brierie Hills Estate and who is the son of Mr James McNeill but he has no recollection of the book of verse.
Does anyone know where the book of verse is now?
Has anyone any knowledge of James Patrick and the library he helped to establish in 1824?