The Barr Castle
The Town of Galston
Galston is the oldest of the three Irvine Valley towns and the Gaelic interpretation of its name is the place of the strainger .gail meaning stranger and tun a hamlet or enclosure. Earlier forms have included Gallistoun. The introduction of the feudal system in the 12th and 13th Centuries caused Galston to become an important religious centre. The Church was an important early landowner in the area and there were a series of lesser landowners rather than one magor owner.
Historically links have included William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. Commemorated in the Galston coat of arms. One quarter shows a heart held in a mailed fist which represents Sir Williams Keiths exploits during the wars of independence. At Berwick he prevented the English reoccupying Berwick and also broughtt Bruces Heart back to Scotland after the Crusade against the moors. The reformation in 1560 saw the churches power decline. John Lockhart of Barr supported John Knox and had allowed a Protestant preacher the martyr George Wishart into his home, Barr Castle. Religious and royal matters continued to unsettle the area until the 1700s.
Mention of mining is first made in 1640. However Galston like the other Valley Towns developed through textiles- In 1791, 55 weavers 11 stocking weavers were employed in the town. The weavers moved from linen into muslin and silks. The early years of the 19th century saw a rapid expansion of the population as the textile trades grew. From 1789 until 1833 the people of Galston like those in her sister towns, were keen reformists. Anti- government feeling was led by the weavers- one demonstration in 1819 was attended by nearly 5000 people and Galston weavers identified with the Chartist movement.
Galston weaving was ruined by the American Civil War and afterwards looked for alternative employment and turned to coal production. Demand from the new industrial process provided an ideal market and deep-mining started in the 1850s. Continuing their tradition Galston miners were active in the creation of the Ayrshire minors union which was established in 1886. Galston was created a police burgh in 1864 although the basis has long been laid down. By the end of the 19th Century Galston had 15 pits being worked.
The last pit, the Maxwood closed in 1933 and the preceding decades had been a slow painful death. The Portland and Loudoun estates were broken in the early 1920s and many farmers bought their farms which allowed the agricultural tradition to continue. Woman found work in the mills of neighbouring valley town