Abandoned Communities ..... Ayrshire

Mrs Isabella Aitken outside her home in Tarholm


Mrs Isabella Aitken and her four sons


John Aitken handing some bananas to Mrs Maggie Hay


A row at Woodside, shortly before demolition. The nearer end of the row was used by Jimmy Johnstone as a garage for his trucks.

I spent two days in Ayrshire in April 2008. During that time I had the pleasure of meeting Mr John Aitken, who lives in Springs, just up the road from Woodside. John Aitken, known as Jock when he played professional football that included one appearance for Scotland, also introduced me to his friend David Auld, and together they shared their memories of Woodside with me and got out some of their photographs.


John Aitken, now aged 87, does in fact have memories of Tarholm too. As a child he used to stay there in the summer with his grandmother, Mrs Isabella Aitken. Later he established a nursery in Springs, together with a fruit and vegetables delivery business. Woodside was included in his rounds.


A favourite part of the social life of people in Woodside was open air dancing. A space behind the rows of houses known as the Big Close was used for this purpose, but sometimes people would go to the Enterkine railway viaduct and dance there. The viaduct was wide enough for two sets of rails, but by that time one set had been taken up, leaving ample space for dancing. John Wilcox would accompany the dancing on his melodeon.


Other people recalled by John and David included:


·    Bertie Wilcox, son of John Wilcox, who went to work in Tarbolton with a scythe on his back every day for twenty years. He kept his money stored in a gramophone under his bed.

·    Jimmy Johnstone, who kept a couple of trucks used in the road construction business.

·    Alec Jack, who lived in Ayr but ran a general store and newsagency in Woodside. He would come by train to Trabboch and then walk back to Woodside. To save himself carrying the papers all that way he would throw them off the train as it passed just north of Woodside.

·    Sam Hay, “a great Burns man”.


Since my trip to Ayrshire James Wilcox, great-grandson of John Wilcox, has told me more about the Wilcox family. James recalls visiting his great-grandparents and his great uncle Bertie in Woodside until they moved to Tarbolton in 1950. Bertie, not generally known for his generosity, would regularly give James two shillings and sixpence. Water was drawn from one of the three pumps in the road outside the houses. A metal hip bath would be filled and used in turn by all members of the family. The outside privy was a frightening place for a young child, but at least it was kept clean and there was a supply of neatly torn squares of newspaper hanging behind the door.


For more information on the villages decribed in this section and many other abandoned villages in Ayrshire read Dane Love’s excellent book Ayrshire’s Lost Villages, published by Carn Publishing in 2016.