Darvel is a small town in East Ayrshire
East Ayrshire
East Ayrshire is one of 32 council areas of Scotland. It borders on to North Ayrshire, East Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire, South Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway...

, Scotland, located at the eastern end of the Irvine Valley
Irvine Valley
Irvine Valley may refer to:*Irvine Valley College, California, USA*Loudoun, Scotland...

 and is sometimes referred to as "The Lang Toon" due to its quaint appearance on Ordnance Survey
Ordnance Survey
Ordnance Survey , an executive agency and non-ministerial government department of the Government of the United Kingdom, is the national mapping agency for Great Britain, producing maps of Great Britain , and one of the world's largest producers of maps.The name reflects its creation together with...


The town's Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 motto, , means "Not for ourselves, but for others".


Darvel is situated on the A71 road
A71 road
The A71 is a major road in Scotland linking Edinburgh with Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. It adjoins the Livingston Bypass A899.It runs south west from Edinburgh for approximately 70 miles, through Saughton, Wilkieston and south of Livingston, Whitburn and Wishaw, then by way of the Garrion Bridge,...

 that runs from Irvine on the west coast to Edinburgh on the east. The town is nine miles east of Kilmarnock
Kilmarnock is a large burgh in East Ayrshire, Scotland, with a population of 44,734. It is the second largest town in Ayrshire. The River Irvine runs through its eastern section, and the Kilmarnock Water passes through it, giving rise to the name 'Bank Street'...

 and is the most easterly of the Valley Towns, the others being Galston
Galston, East Ayrshire
Galston is a town in East Ayrshire, Scotland which has a population of 5000 . It is situated in wooded countryside 4 miles up-river from Kilmarnock and is one a group of the small towns located in the Irvine Valley between the towns of Hurlford and Newmilns. Galston is located in the Loudoun area...

 and Newmilns
Newmilns and Greenholm is a small burgh in East Ayrshire, Scotland. It has a population of 3,057 people and lies on the A71, around seven miles east of Kilmarnock and twenty-five miles southwest of Glasgow...


The town was also once linked with Stonehouse
Stonehouse, South Lanarkshire
Stonehouse is a rural village in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. It is located on Avon Water in an area of natural beauty and historical interest, near to the Clyde Valley. It is also situated on the A71 trunk road between Edinburgh and Kilmarnock, close to the towns of Hamilton, Larkhall and...

 (via Strathaven
Strathaven is a historic market town in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. The town was granted a Royal Charter in 1450, making the Town of Strathaven a burgh of barony. The town's principal industry was primarily weaving in the 19th and early 20th centuries, however this declined when faced by...

) by the Caledonian Railway
Caledonian Railway
The Caledonian Railway was a major Scottish railway company. It was formed in the early 19th century and it was absorbed almost a century later into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, in the 1923 railway grouping, by means of the Railways Act 1921...

. However, the line was closed by the LMS before the Second World War. The former Glasgow and South Western Railway
Glasgow and South Western Railway
The Glasgow and South Western Railway , one of the pre-grouping railway companies, served a triangular area of south-west Scotland, between Glasgow, Stranraer and Carlisle...

 branch line to Kilmarnock survived for much longer and was closed in 1964 as part of the Beeching Axe
Beeching Axe
The Beeching Axe or the Beeching Cuts are informal names for the British Government's attempt in the 1960s to reduce the cost of running British Railways, the nationalised railway system in the United Kingdom. The name is that of the main author of The Reshaping of British Railways, Dr Richard...

. Much of the route of both the old railway lines is still in existence, although the rails have long since gone and many road bridges have been removed. There was a large viaduct to the east of the town, in the lea of Loudoun Hill, which carried the railway line over the valley. This was however, demolished in 1986, and only the piers remain.

The River Irvine
River Irvine
The River Irvine is a river flowing through southwest Scotland, with its watershed on the Lanarkshire border of Ayrshire at an altitude of above sea-level, near Drumclog, and SW by W of Strathaven...

 flows through the town and once powered local mills.


Although the modern town of Darvel is said to have been established in the late 18th century, Roman
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

 settlements have been found at the base of Loudoun Hill on Allanton Plain and visible at one point from the Winny Wizzen. The name Darvel was recorded in old charters as variations of 'Dernvale' or 'Darnevaill' and may derive from an old English word 'derne' which means 'hidden.'

Sir William Wallace
William Wallace
Sir William Wallace was a Scottish knight and landowner who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence....

, the Scottish freedom fighter, has also been associated with the area. 15th century minstrel
A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. Frequently they were retained by royalty...

 Blind Harry
Blind Harry
Blind Harry , also known as Harry, Hary or Henry the Minstrel, is renowned as the author of The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace, also known as The Wallace...

 wrote in his poem The Wallace
The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace
The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace, also known as The Wallace, is a long "romantic biographical" poem by the fifteenth century Scottish makar of the name Blind Harry probably at some time in the decade before 1488...

that Wallace and his men defeated an English force at the hill in 1296 during the Wars of Scottish Independence
Wars of Scottish Independence
The Wars of Scottish Independence were a series of military campaigns fought between the independent Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England in the late 13th and early 14th centuries....

. Blind Harry also tells of how the English general, Fenwick, who supposedly killed Wallace's father, was killed during the battle. Maps of the area now name a mound to the east of Loudoun Hill as 'Wallace's Grave'. A battle between Robert the Bruce and the English
Battle of Loudoun Hill
The Battle of Loudoun Hill was fought in May 1307 between a Scots force led by Robert Bruce and the English commanded by Aymer de Valence. It took place beneath Loudoun Hill, in Ayrshire, and ended in a victory for Bruce...

 was also fought there on 10 May 1307.

The land on which Darvel was built was owned by Earls of Loudoun
Earl of Loudoun
Earl of Loudoun , named after Loudoun in Ayrshire, is a title in the Peerage of Scotland. It was created in 1633 for John Campbell, 1st Earl of Loudoun, along with the subsidiary title Lord Tarrinzean and Mauchline....

 and it was John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun
John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun
Major-General John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun was a British nobleman and army officer.-Early career:Campbell inherited the peerage on the death of his father in 1731, becoming Lord Loudoun. The earl raised a regiment of infantry that took part in the Jacobite Rising of 1745 on the side of the...

 who began the modern town in 1754 as an income for the estate. By 1780, the population had increased to over 400.

In 1876, the art of lace-making was introduced to the town and many mills were built to keep up with the demand. Market dried up in the 20th century and many factories were forced to close.
Also of note in the town is Scotland's only 24-hour telephone museum, run by retired engineer Max Flemmich. There are two local football teams. Darvel F.C., a junior (semi-professional) team, based at Recreation Park, play in the Ayrshire Junior League and Darvel Victoria, the local amateur team, who play their games at the Gavin Hamilton Sports Centre.

Main attractions

There is a Town Hall, a Sports Centre (Gavin Hamilton Sports Centre), and two play-parks (Kirkland Park and Morton Park).
Darvel FC's old stadium now belongs to Darvel Juniors. There are also football pitches at the Morton Park and at the Sports Centre, which plays host to Darvel's amateur football team, Darvel Victoria's, home games. There has been a new sports cage built, like the ones in neighbouring Newmilns and Galston etc., it is eligible for small-sided games of football and basket ball, and is located between the Gavin Hamilton Sports Centre, and a skate park has been built which is very popular locally.
A Gala Day is held every two years, which attracts many visitors, as do the various festivals and open days held in the town. There is the Darvel Parish Church and the Lady of the Valley Chapel. There is a Bowling Club too, which holds events for the younger and older.
There are a few pubs in Darvel - 'The Horseshoe', 'The Black Bull' and 'The Railway'. Until 2006 there was also The Turf Hotel, but it has now closed.


War Memorial: The Darvel War Memorial is situated in Hastings Square in the centre of the town. It is a light grey granite obelisk with a square base. The East side is plain apart from 1914-18 incised on the base. The west side is similar but with 1939-45 incised on the base. The north side has a carved cross at the highest point with a bronze relief laurel wreath immediately below.
Towards the base of the obelisk are the words:

To the memory of
Those who gave themselves
A living sacrifice
Then there are 5 columns of names in relief on a bronze plaque.
On the south side names are etched into the stone in two columns.

Alexander Fleming: Alexander Fleming
Alexander Fleming
Sir Alexander Fleming was a Scottish biologist and pharmacologist. He wrote many articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy...

, discoverer of penicillin
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

 was born at Lochfield farm near Darvel on 6 August 1881. A memorial commemorates this at Lochfield Farm. It was erected in 1957 and regilded in 2009 by its current owners Philip and Heather Scott. The restored memorial was unveiled by Fleming's biographer Kevin Brown (historian)
Kevin Brown (historian)
Kevin Brown has been Trust Archivist and Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum Curator at St Mary's NHS Trust, subsequently Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, since 1989, having set up the archives service for St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London, England, in 1989 and having established the...

 in the presence of Provost Stephanie Young. Another memorial with a bust by E.R. Bevan and a garden is situated in Hastings Square.
SAS Memorial: There is a memorial to honour the men and officers of the 1st Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment who, under the command of Lt. Col. R. B. Mayne, were stationed in Darvel during the early part of 1944. The memorial – located towards the bottom of Burn Road, takes the form of a stone cairn with a black granite plaque bearing the inscription:

Dedicated to
the men and officers of The 1st Special Air Service Regiment
Stationed at Darvel 1944
Commanding officer
Lt. Col. R. B. Mayne DSO (3 bars)
Légion d'honneur Croix De Guerre
The memorial was unveiled by Provost Jimmy Boyd on November 2, 2001. Some of the members of the SAS were at the Town Green to see the unveiling ceremony.

The Dagon Stone

The RCHAMS website lists this unhewn olivine
The mineral olivine is a magnesium iron silicate with the formula 2SiO4. It is a common mineral in the Earth's subsurface but weathers quickly on the surface....

A monolith is a geological feature such as a mountain, consisting of a single massive stone or rock, or a single piece of rock placed as, or within, a monument...

 as a 'possible' standing stone. It is rather curious and its general size and shape suggest a prehistoric standing stone. It has twelve small connected depressions spread over three of its sides. These have been said to link the stone to astronomical observations and to the noon-day sun height at mid-summer. This would link the stone to life-giving powers, fertility and prosperity.

In 1821 a local blacksmith attached a round sandstone ball to the top of it with an iron bar. Who or why is unknown. It is 1.6m tall and its original position is also unknown. It used to stand in what is now the main street, at the end of Ranoldcoup Road as shown by an old photograph, and was moved to the town square (NS 563 374) when the road was widened.
Documentation shows that prior to the 19th century messings-about, newlywed couples and their wedding parties marched around it for good luck, accompanied by a fiddler. Wedding processions also used to walk three times sunwise round the Dagon stone on the way to the bride's house.

EDIT: I recall that as a child (late 50's early 60's) the Dagon stone stood in Burn Road, near where the SAS Memorial has now been erected, before being moved to Hastings Square.[DSA]

The annual parade or "Prawd", originally held on old New Year's Day, headed by the village band used to walk sunwise round the Dagon stone as a mark of superstitious respect.

Dagon was originally an Assyro-Babylonian fertility god who evolved into a major northwest Semitic god, reportedly of grain and fish and/or fishing...

 is also the name of a Philistine god, who was half-man half-fish. But with a Scottish accent it no doubt derives from something much closer to home (assuming it is not just the romantic invention of a Victorian antiquary); 'dogon' is a Scots term for a worthless person, a villain and this could by association have been one of the sanctuary stones associated with the church. It is reminiscent of the Clackmannan
Clackmannan District 1975-96From 1975, Clackmannan was the name of a small town and local government district in the Central region of Scotland, corresponding to the traditional county of Clackmannanshire, which was Scotland's smallest...

 stone or Stone of Mannau in Clackmannanshire
Clackmannanshire, often abbreviated to Clacks is a local government council area in Scotland, and a lieutenancy area, bordering Perth and Kinross, Stirling and Fife.As Scotland's smallest historic county, it is often nicknamed 'The Wee County'....


Darvel Lace

In 1876 lace making was introduced to the Irvine Valley by Alexander Morton, and mills began to spring up in Darvel and nearby Newmilns. The valley's products were exported throughout the world, with India providing a particularly large market for lace, muslin and madras. Darvel became known as the "Lace Town" and Darvel Lace was known throughout the world.

Factories in the town also diversified into other textiles, until the late 1970s, when the industry struggled to compete with textiles manufactured in India, China and other Far East countries. The decline was swift. By the end of the 20th century, almost all the factories had closed. Many stood empty for some years, but almost all have now been demolished to make way for housing estates.

Lace is still made in the Irvine Valley, and locally made lace curtains used to hang in almost every window in the town. However, the last lace factory in Darvel has now closed, the looms were moved to nearby Newmilns, which is home to the last remaining lace factory in the area.


A speedway training track was built by local farmers (the Craig Brothers) on a coal bing (colliery spoil heap) near to the town in the early 1980s. A team representing Darvel raced in the Scottish Junior League with fixtures staged at Blantyre, Edinburgh and Berwick.
Darvel has a football team at Junior level, and an amateur team also, Darvel Victoria.

Notable people

  • Christine Borland
    Christine Borland
    Christine Borland is a British artist and one of the Young British Artists . Borland attended the University of Ulster, and the Glasgow School of Art....

    , artist
  • John Morton Boyd
    John Morton Boyd
    Dr John Morton Boyd CBE was a Scottish zoologist, writer and conservationist. He was a pioneer of nature conservation in Scotland....

    , zoolologist
  • Sammy Cox
    Sammy Cox
    Samuel "Sammy" Richmond Cox is a former Scottish international footballer.Cox initially played amateur football with Queen's Park, Third Lanark and Dundee during World War II, before turning professional in 1946 when he joined Rangers.Cox, a versatile defender, made his league debut for Rangers in...

    , Footballer Rangers F.C.
    Rangers F.C.
    Rangers Football Club are an association football club based in Glasgow, Scotland, who play in the Scottish Premier League. The club are nicknamed the Gers, Teddy Bears and the Light Blues, and the fans are known to each other as bluenoses...

  • Gordon Cree
    Gordon Cree
    Gordon Cree is a Scottish arranger, orchestrator, conductor and composer.- Life :Gordon Cree was classically trained in piano and singing at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, before studying orchestral scoring and arranging with Brian Fahey.- Works :As well as a notable...

    , composer and conductor
  • Willie Durward, Pioneer speedway rider
  • Sir Alexander Fleming
    Alexander Fleming
    Sir Alexander Fleming was a Scottish biologist and pharmacologist. He wrote many articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy...

    , discoverer of penicillin
    Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

     was born at Lochfield
  • Allan Gilliland
    Allan Gilliland
    Allan Gilliland is a contemporary Canadian composer.Gilliland moved to Canada in 1972 and settled in Edmonton, Alberta. He received a diploma in Jazz Studies from Humber College, and degrees in performance and composition from the University of Alberta...

    , composer
  • Jamie Allan Kerr, woodworker
  • Alexander Morton, pioneer of the lace industry in Scotland
  • Sir James Morton, knighted for his contribution to the UK dyestuffs industry
  • Craig Samson
    Craig Samson
    Craig Samson is a Scottish International footballer, who currently plays as a goalkeeper for Scottish Premier League side St Mirren.-Early Career:...

    , Footballer, St Mirren F.C.
  • Alex Smith
    Alex Smith (footballer born 1876)
    Alexander Smith was a Scottish footballer who played as a winger for Rangers and the Scotland national team....

    , Footballer Rangers FC
    Rangers F.C.
    Rangers Football Club are an association football club based in Glasgow, Scotland, who play in the Scottish Premier League. The club are nicknamed the Gers, Teddy Bears and the Light Blues, and the fans are known to each other as bluenoses...

     and Scotland
  • Nicol Smith
    Nicol Smith
    Nicol Smith was a Scottish footballer who played for Rangers.Born in Darvel, Ayrshire, Smith played as a fullback for local sides Vale of Irvine, Royal Albert and Darvel, earning junior international selection, before joining Rangers in 1893...

    , Footballer Rangers FC
    Rangers F.C.
    Rangers Football Club are an association football club based in Glasgow, Scotland, who play in the Scottish Premier League. The club are nicknamed the Gers, Teddy Bears and the Light Blues, and the fans are known to each other as bluenoses...

     and Scotland
  • Tom Wylie
    Tom Wylie
    Tom Wylie from Darvel was a professional footballer who played for Dumfries club Queen of the South F.C. and Blackburn Rovers.Tom Wylie made nine appearances and scored three goals for Queens. He moved from Queen of the South to Blackburn Rovers in 1921. Wylie was the third of the three players to...

    , professional footballer with Queen of the South F.C.
    Queen of the South F.C.
    Queen of the South Football Club is a Scottish professional football club founded in 1919 and located in Dumfries. The club currently plays in the Scottish First Division, the second tier of Scottish football. They are officially nicknamed The Doonhamers, but usually referred to as Queens or QoS...

     and Blackburn Rovers

External links

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