Ancestry UK

Ayr Industrial School for Boys, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland

In 1876, the boys at the Ayr Ragged and Industrial School on Carrick Street moved to their own purpose-built premises on St Leonard's Road (occasionally referred to as being on Maybole Road). The new school was erected on land formerly belonging to a property known as Commonhead. The total cost of the land and construction was around £9,000. The official opening of the building was performed by the Right Honourable Sir James Ferguson on 4 August 1878. On 14 December, the establishment was formally certified for operation as an Industrial School accommodating up to 100 boys aged from 8 to 12 years at their date of admission.

The School site is shown on the 1895 map below.

Ayr Industrial School for Boys site, Ayr, c.1895.

Former Ayr Industrial School for Boys from the south, Ayr, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Former Ayr Industrial School for Boys from the south-west, Ayr, 2013. © Peter Higginbotham

Mr Scott, who had previously been superintendent at Carrick Street, moved with the boys to take charge of the new school. By 1878 he had been replaced by Mr Andrew Ross. The matron was now Mrs Eizina Wright, whose husband, Alexander, was school teacher. Mrs Ross had taken over as matron by 1882.

An inspection in 1882 recorded 102 inmates. Some of the boys learned tailoring, some netting, and a great deal of wood-chopping was done. There school had a very good garden where some of the boys worked. A farm belonging to the school was being let to a tenant; the inspector suggested that it could be made profitable if the managers would take it into their own hands, and would provide ideal employment for the boys. The 1886 inspection found 2 boys learning shoemaking and 17 tailoring. Three boys were printing labels and circulars. A good many salmon and tennis nets were made, and knitting was taught. There was a flute band of 24 boys.

In March 1894, Mr and Mrs John Bell took over as superintendent and matron. The other staff now comprised the schoolmaster, Mr. Samuel T. Holmes; janitor and joiner, shoemaker, tailor and bandmaster, cook and laundress. The at year's inspection noted that there was a very good range of workshops in two floors. There were 15 boys working with the shoemaker, making boots for the girls' school as well as the boys. and 8 boys working with the tailor. Some paper-bag making and wood-chopping were carried out. Six boys worked with the joiner and a lathe was also at work. There were two greenhouses in use in the garden.

The 1896 inspection recorded that physical drill, and exercises with Indian clubs and dumb-bells took place three times a week. There was no gymnasium, however. All the boys and superior officers went to the race-course once a week for football or cricket. Occasional walks were taken in winter, and about once a week in summer. There was a library of 100 books, Heroes of Britain was taken weekly, and occasional donations were received of illustrated papers such as the Sketch and Graphic. There was a magic lantern but the slides were limited in number and variety. Singing was taught by the superintendent and matron three evenings a week, and an occasional concert given in the town hall.

In 1903, the old cells at the school were converted into store-rooms. Drawing was now being taught in the classroom and manual instruction in woodwork had begun. A small printing workshop had been set up. A beginning had been made in applied gymnastics with rings and parallel bars in the yard, although a gymnasium was still lacking. The school had had a successful season at football and were holders of the Scottish Industrial School Cup. In addition to using the school's own small swimming bath, the boys practiced swimming off the coast. The inspector recommended that boys at the school should be licensed out earlier than had hitherto been the practice, perhaps nearer to 14 than 16. A home for working boys had now been set up by the school which would help in giving some of the boys a start.

On 24 April 1907, a property on King Street, Ayr, was formally licensed for use by the school as Auxiliary Home for up to eight boys.

The 1911 inspection recorded the school's staff as: superintendent and matron, Mr J. Bell and Mrs Bell; Head schoolmaster, Mr J. McLennan (left on 30 April, and was succeeded by Mr McKay); Assistant schoolmaster, Mr W.L. McKay was followed by Mr J.S. Harper on 8 May; Janitor and joiner, tailor, shoemaker. Visiting sewing-maid, domestic visiting laundress. Medical officer, Dr W.J. Lawrie; Dentist, Mr G.F. Frew. New heating apparatus had been installed and plans prepared for a gymnasium and new manual instruction room. A flag and flagstaff had been presented to the school by Sir William Arrol. The band had been supplied with uniforms. Systematic technical instruction in horticulture, fowl-keeping, tailoring, shoemaking and joinery had been given to 30 out of the 46 boys in the school who were 13 years of age or over.

Following a steady decline in the number of boys being placed at the school, it closed in 1928. The property has now been converted to residential use.


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  • None identfied at present — any information welcome.



  • None noted at present.