Venues in Ayrshire ~ 1800 - 2014

McKechnie Institute, Girvan

McKechnie Institute

A bequest by a local businessman. Thomas McKechnie. resulted in the creation of the McKechnie Institute

Builf in the Scottish Baronial style. with some Renaissance detailing. the facility that opened in 1889.  Designed by the firm of John McKissack, in partnership with William Gardner Rowan, it is likely that the design can be attributed to the laatter partner.  (MsKissack was primarily known for the design and construction a variety of churches and Glasgow tebnements.  He also designed Girvan Parish Church in 1882 and St, Andrew's Church in Girvan 1983.)

McKissock's mother, Janet McGhie, was born in Girvan.  McKissack's son, James, who joined the architectural practice in 1889 became a noted Cinema designer.

The ground floor originally contained a Library, Reading Room and Ladies Room. On the first floor was a billiards room and beyond that the Librarian’s House. A contemporary report states 'Every evening the places are all but crowded with labouring men, fishermen, tradesmen and others…'

After the transfer of the linrary to a new building in 1975, the McKechnie Institute was unused for a number of years and the collections were dispersed.  However, after restoration by a Manpower Services Scheme in the 1980's the building found new life as popular community venue, showing exhibitions of items from the former McKechnie and the South Ayrshire collections, extended by a variety of local themed and incoming exhibitions.

The McKechnie is the venue for many local group meetings, Councillor surgeries, art classes and similar activities.  Paintings from the former Girvan Burgh Collection are usually on display.McKechnie Institute


James McKissack of McKissack and Rowan, 1887-8. Scottish Baronial library, reading rooms etc. Stugged red sandstone, with polished dressings. 2-storey, L-plan with tall 3-storey octagonal tower in re-entrant angle. Deeply recessed round-arched door in right bay with 2 similarly headed windows with apron panels to left. Boldly corbelled balustrade above with ball finials. 2 transomed windows with broken pedimented heads in 1st floor, set in a pair of crowstepped gables with decorative quoins. 3 sides of angle tower have mullion and transom windows at ground, pedimented windows at 1st floor on each face. Tower rises to octagon above 1st floor, each window with neo-Jacobean scrolled head. Balustrade with ball finials. Crowstepped gable end of main hall with large simplified Venetian window in 1st floor fronting Ailsa Street West. Lower crowstepped gabled wing beyond with 3 windows rising through eaves to form wall-head dormers, the outer piended, the inner crowstepped. Slate roof.

B Listed May 1980 reference (#32129


McKissack & Rowan
Designation: Architectural practice
Started: 1872
Ended: Early 1890
Bio Notes: John McKissack was born c.1844, the son of James McKissack, mechanical engineer and Janet McGhie from Girvan. He was educated at St Enoch's School but no further details are known of his training.

In 1872 McKissack formed a partnership with William Gardner Rowan, who did most of the design work. Rowan had been born in Dunbartonshire near Duntocher c.1846, the son of John Rowan, a steam hammersmith at 534 Gallowgate. Although not mentioned in his nomination paper, Alexander McGibbon, his obituarist, recorded that he was initially apprenticed to a civil engineer, presumably 1860 to 1861, 'a course of instruction he afterwards advocated as a helpful training in accuracy of drawing and scientific building instruction…when text books were few and meagrely illustrated and schools of architecture practically non-existent'. In 1862 he was articled to George Penrose Kennedy for five years, a period which somewhat surprisingly made no allowance for his year or so as a civil engineering apprentice. He remained with him for a further two years as an assistant before returning to civil engineering as assistant first to the railway engineer James Fairie Blair in Westminster and then to Carruthers & Ketley in Glasgow.

Two years after the formation of the McKissack & Rowan partnership, on 9 July 1874 at 158 Hospital Street, Gorbals, McKissack married Helen Ronald, daughter of Alexander Ronald, master baker and Marion Black. Rowan was a witness at the wedding. They had five children: two sons James (born 1875) and Alex (born c.1877) were born in Glasgow, and a further son John (born c.1880) and two daughters Helen (born c.1883) and Mary (born c.1886) were born in Govan.

Rowan's earliest major works, the Free Church at Pollokshields and St John Wesleyan Church on Sauchiehall Street, were both neo-Greek of the Sellars' school, a choice determined by 'outside influence' in the case of the former, but thereafter his churches were either Gothic or Romanesque. The earliest followed English Early Decorated models, those at Galashiels and Girvan having tall Honeyman-like spires, but from 1885, beginning with his small church at Scone, he paralleled the work of J J Stevenson in reviving late Scots Gothic, sometimes with Norman detail, because, as McGibbon commented, presumably quoting Rowan himself, there was a considerable affinity between Scots 15th century Gothic and 12th century Norman, a theme that Burnet was also to exploit a few years later. Unique among Rowan's churches was the Wynd Free Church in which he made an altogether exceptional foray into American Romanesque of the H H Richardson School.

In 1889 McKissack took his son James into the McKissack & Rowan practice as an apprentice. Rowan had little taste for the 'shoddy' tenement side of McKissack's practice and early in 1890 the partnership was amicably dissolved, the partners continuing practice separately thereafter.

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