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Help and advice for Saltcoats, Ayrshire

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Saltcoats, Ayrshire

"The name of the town is derived from the trade carried on there in olden times, the now flourishing watering place being originally a collection of clay-built cots, inhabited by poor persons who manufactured salt in small pans and kettles. At that time the place had neither kirk nor market."

"Saltcoats is fast becoming a fashionable watering place, being possessed of excellent railway facilities. A Justice of Peace Court is held here on the first Monday of the month, and a fair for cattle, lambs and pigs, is held on the last Thursday of May."

"Ayrshire Nights Entertainment: A Descriptive Guide to the History, Traditions, Antiquities of the County of Ayr" by John MacIntosh of Galston, Ayrshire, published in 1894, by John Menzies & Co. of Kilmarnock, Dunlop and Drennan.

Church History

The town of Saltcoats had several churches, including:

  • The former Ardrossan Parish Church built in 1744 and in use until 1908. It is now the North Ayrshire Museum.
  • The Erskine Church, built in 1866.
  • St Cuthbert's South Beach Church, built in 1907.
  • The Roman Catholic Church, Hamilton Street, built in 1856.

Church Records

The parish church (Church of Scotland) records are held in the General Register Office for Scotland in Edinburgh, and copies on microfilm may be consulted in LDS Family History Centres around the world.

There were other non-conformist churches at different times. Such records are usually held in the National Archives of Scotland (formerly the Scottish Record Office) in Edinburgh.

Description and Travel

"The town of Saltcoats is a place of considerable antiquity, and must in olden times have been of some note, as it was erected into a Burgh of Barony by James V in 1528. It soon lost its burghal character, however, and sank almost into extinction. In 1545 the Earl of Glencairn, when residing at the manor place of Kerelaw, granted leases for 999 years 'to nine fishermen in Saltcoates', by which each of them was to have some falls of ground, still called the nine yards, in that town, and also pasture for a cow, and a follower, on the moor betwixt Rough Castle and the Sea-loch, on condition that they, every Spring, in their two boats carried the Earl's furniture from the Creek of Saltcoats to Finlayston, and brought it back again in the fall, when the family returned to their residence at Kerelaw; and, moreover, that each of them gave him yearly half a barrel of herrings."

"The little burgh possessed only a fitful prosperity, and about the year 1660, it had dwindled away to only four houses. Twenty-five years later, however, Sir Robert Cunninghame, the proprietor of the whole parish of Stevenston, built several large salt-pans at Saltcoats, constructed a harbour, and opened various coal-pits in the vicinity, and the 'Fishermen's Creek' so flourished and increased, as not only to send forth its fleet of boats and wherries to the herring fishery, but after the year 1700 it became a harbour for coasters and square-rigged vessels, and commanded a considerable export trade to Ireland. In its palmier clays it had three ship-building yards, which were well employed during the latter half of last century. In 1837, these had, however, been reduced to one, and the shipping trade of Saltcoats thereafter gradually declined on the development of its rival neighbour, Ardrossan."

"The commerce of the port has ceased for many years, having been entirely absorbed by Ardrossan, and Saltcoats harbour has again become merely the 'Fishermen's Creek'. In connection with the Salt Pans a magnesia works arose, which was the earliest establishment of its kind in Scotland. The town had also at one time a rope-work and a brewery."

"Ayrshire Nights Entertainment: A Descriptive Guide to the History, Traditions, Antiquities of the County of Ayr" by John MacIntosh of Galston, Ayrshire, published in 1894, by John Menzies & Co. of Kilmarnock, Dunlop and Drennan.

An 1837 description of Saltcoats and Stevenston, including a listing of the key personalities of the town, is given in this extract from Pigot's Directory for Ayrshire. The transcript was provided by Keith Muirhead from Queensland.

Betsy Miller (1792 - 1864) is the best known of the former sea captains of Saltcoats. She was the daughter of a sea captain, known for her strong spirit and skills, she became the master of the brig Clitus and worked in the coal trade between Ayrshire and Ireland. She was the only female sea captain registered in the United Kingdom in the 19th century.