Ayrshire Image

1.  Carnegie Libary
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2. Carnegie
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3.   Window
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4.   The Librarian and staff of the Carnegie Library in July 1904. Left to right: Miss Gordon; Miss McIIwraith (Senior Assistant); David Duff; Miss Morton and Miss Briggs

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The Carnegie Library, Ayr.

1.   The Carnegie Library Ayr, during repairs to the upper floor.

Date: ca 2000
Photographer: Unknown (Collection of South Ayrshire Libraries)


2.   Carnegie Library, Main |Street, Newton on Ayr following completion of designs by Campbell Douglas and Morrison of Glasgow. 

Date: ca 1898
Photographer: Unknown (Collection of South Ayrshire Libraries)


3.   Stained glass window by Stephen Adam & Co on the main staircase at the Carnegie Library, Ayr 

Date: ca 1898
Photographer: Unknown (Collection of South Ayrshire Libraries)


4.   The Librarian and staff of the Carnegie Library in July 1904. Left to right: Miss Gordon; Miss McIIwraith (Senior Assistant); David Duff; Miss Morton and Miss Briggs.

Date: 1904
Photographer: Unknown (Collection of South Ayrshire Libraries)





Libraries and Art Galleries in Ayr

Although the Ayr Library Society was founded in 1762, Ayr‘s first Public Library was not established until 1870, when it inherited the book stock of other local libraries.   Latterly, this library was located in the Town Buildings and Assembly Rooms, hold a variety of popular publications and periodicals.  Like its predecessors, this Public Library was privately organised, and financed by subscription: the Public Libraries Act had empowered local authorities to provide a free library service from public funds, provided the ratepayers voted in favour.  There was no support for such action in Ayr.

To keep down the subscription fees, money was raised from public lectures and in 1890, the library committee invited the Scottish-American steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to be one of their speakers. Mr Carnegie declined due to prior commitments, but further correspondence led to an offer from him of £10,000 for a new building if the town would adopt the Public Libraries Act.

Posters and handbills urging acceptance of the offer were printed, and this time a majority voted for the Act and the plans were made for a new library building.  An architectural Competition attracted designs by the local firm of Messes Morris and Hunter and other significant practices in the West of Scotland.  The winning design for Carnegie Library came from the firm of Campbell Douglas and Morrison of Glasgow.

Built in 1893, the original two-storey building fronting on to Main Street is of red sandstone in late Victorian Renaissance style.   The left of the building was originally home to the Carnegie Librarian.  This was closed in 1925 and the exterior was brought into harmony with the rest of the building.

Until the 1970s’ the Carnegie Library was used as an Art Gallery for the Burgh, enjoying substantial support and engagement with Ayr Sketch Club.  There were annual exhibitions by members of Ayr Sketch Club in addition to a variety of open exhibitions alternating with displays from the permanent collection.  The A A Alexander museum collection, previously shown at Belleisle House, was housed in the Carnegie Library for a number of years prior to removal to Rozelle.  The collections at the Carnegie attracted numerous loans and gifts, notably works by the Colourists Peploe and Fergusson.

The downstairs lending area was extended rearwards to Garden Street in 1932, and a further extension at the rear accommodating a spacious lecture room/reference library was designed by the distinguished Ayr firm of James Kennedy Hunter (Hunter himself had died in 1929). This was opened on 22 January 1934 by Flight Lieutenant David McIntyre, who spoke about his pioneer flight over Everest the previous year. (McIntyre would later take a leading role in establishing Prestwick Airport.)

Built in 1893, the original two-storey building fronting on to Main Street is of red sandstone in late Victorian Renaissance style. If you look closely you can see the front of the building has changed.  The left of the building was originally home to the Carnegie Librarian.  This was closed in 1925 and the exterior was brought into harmony with the rest of the building.

Until the 1970s’ the Local and Family History Library at Carnegie was used as an Art Gallery. The downstairs lending area was extended rearwards to Garden Street in 1932, and a further extension at the rear accommodating a spacious lecture room/reference library was designed by the distinguished Ayr firm of James Kennedy Hunter (Hunter himself had died in 1929). This was opened on 22 January 1934 by Flight Lieutenant David McIntyre, who spoke about his pioneer flight over Everest the previous year. (McIntyre would later take a leading role in establishing Prestwick Airport.)

[This text draws on material published by South Ayrshire Libraries and individual recollections.]