Crookedholm became the home of my Strachan great grandparents Joseph Strachan and Jeanie Haddow in around 1870, and is where my grandfather Henry Strachan was born, grew up, married and started a family. The main coal mine at Crookedholm was the Portland Colliery No. 4 Shaft known locally as the Wellington Pit.
Portland Colliery appears on a list of mines active in 1869 and was owned by Allan Gilmour & Co, which was to became Portland Colliery Co. Allan Gilmour also owned mines at Hurlford and Kilmarnock and, via Boyd Gilmour & Co, had interests in the Goatfoot, Burnbank and Ladyton mines at Galston. There is a Gilmour/Strachan connection, as in 1846 Janet Ross Gilmour married Robert Strachan, son of Peter Strachan and Mary Monroe.
Wellington Pit is where my great grandfather Joseph would have worked as a coal hewer when he moved to Crookedholm. It’s where my grandfather Henry would have started working as a miner at about the age of 14, as did his brothers Robert, John and Colin. Joseph’s younger brother Henry Strachan also lived and worked in Crookedholm and his sons Robert, William and Henry began work as coal miners there.
Crookedholm from a map surveyed in 1856. Cowans Row, where many a Strachan was to reside, is already there, next door to the coal pit: it’s the straight row of cottages on the main road where it says Woodside.
A school was built just outside Crookedholm in 1875, and is where Henry, his siblings and his cousins would have been educated. An Act of 1872 set up Scotland’s national system of schools run by local school boards and made education compulsory up to the age of 13, which rose to 14 in 1883.
Crookedholm School built in 1875 and unused when Google filmed it, but it won’t be demolished as it is a listed building. If it hasn’t already, hopefully it will find a new owner soon. When it was built it had a integral house where the school master or mistress would have lived.
No specific address is given in the census for where Joseph Strachan was living in Crookedholm until 1891, when the family are at Lamonts Land. In the 1895 Valuation Roll he’s listed as tenant of House 6, Crookedholm, owner Elizabeth Dunlop, and his death certificate in 1895 says he was at Dunlops Land. In 1901 his widow Jeanie is living on Schoolhouse Road, Crookedholm, which sounds as if it was the road leading to the school.
In 1901 Joseph’s married son John Strachan was living in a house at Cowans Row. Joseph’s brother Henry Strachan and Henry’s son William Strachan were also both living in houses on Cowans Row. My grandparents Henry Strachan and Helen McCrae were at Old Factory House, but by 1905 they too had moved to Cowans Row. The tenant of the houses on Cowans Row was Portland Colliery Co, who sublet them to miners.
A tramway was built in 1903 running from Kilmarnock Cross to Hurlford Cross, passing along the main road at Crookedholm. The photograph below appears to have been taken not long after the tramway was installed, and it shows Cowans Row on the left, with Wellington Pit immediately behind. Given the number of children and its date, it’s probable there are quite a few Strachans in this photo.
All the buildings shown in this photo have now gone. The coal mine has gone too and is now just fields. Cowans Row and the old two storey buildings have all been demolished, replaced with single storey housing for elderly people, but it’s still called Cowans Row.