A meeting with old friends on Arran about 20 years ago led to the return, last week, of an historic artefact to Cove & Kilcreggan. When Maureen Purdie, resident of Cove, met up with a family friend who had taken residence in Corrie on the Isle of Arran she was shown an old ceremonial spade engraved with details of an event that took place in Cove & Kilcreggan on 22nd November 1881. The spade had been rescued by Mr Lyle Craig from old buildings that he had acquired on some land he purchased. Most of the items in the buildings were of no consequence but the engraved spade was too good to just throw away. He showed the spade to Maureen as an object of casual curiosity but, not knowing how best to proceed, the spade remained in his possession for more than 20 years awaiting a suitable outcome. In December 2005 Maureen bought a book on the history of Cove and Kilcreggan and talked to its author, Richard Reeve, about her distant memory of the engraved spade. At this point its importance to the history of Cove & Kilcreggan became immediately apparent.
The spade is pictured at the centre of a photograph entitled "Cutting the first sod of Cove & Kilcreggan waterworks, 22nd November 1881". At that time the area was part of a huge tourist industry with literally thousands of visitors and excursionists drawn to the area from industrial cities to enjoy fresh air, sea bathing and scenic beauty. Water supplies in Cove & Kilcreggan at that time relied on wells sunk by private householders and a few small streams which were totally inadequate for the needs of the large summer population. The Commissioners of the Burgh of Cove & Kilcreggan had to act to safeguard public health and safeguard the continuing prosperity of the summer trade. Their solution was to create a proper water scheme with piped water coming from Lochan-Ghlas-Laoigh several miles to the north on high ground which is now within the security perimeter of Coulport Armament Depot.
Cove and Kilcreggan Waterworks
More than thirteen miles of pipework were laid and filters installed bringing clean, fresh water to the burgh's residents. Apart from supplying the numerous villas and castles, drinking fountains were placed at popular points near the piers and along the Shore Road for walkers and excursionists to benefit from "Adam's ale". This was a time when the local land owner and feu superior, the 8th Duke of Argyll, along with many well-to-do residents, insisted on the Burgh being "dry" (tee-total). The total cost of the scheme was £8,700. The Duke donated £500 and the remainder was raised by a levee of one shilling on the local rates, a considerable increase. The engraved spade was presented to Provost Clark by the contractor carrying out the works, Mr Peter Quin, but sometime thereafter it was taken away from the Burgh and presumed lost. When Mr Reeve researched the history of Cove & Kilcreggan he gave some prominence to the water scheme which, because of its local importance, was comprehensively reported in the 1881 editions of the Helensburgh & Gareloch Times. The old photograph "Cutting the first sod" showing provost Clark holding the spade at the centre of the ceremony was also incorporated into the book from the archives of the Local History Society, then in the care of Ivy Sutherland of Cove. Maureen Purdie became the link which brought the engraved spade back to Cove & Kilcreggan. She contacted her old friend who was happy to donate the spade to the Directors of Cove Burgh Hall.
The Directors are very appreciative of Mr Craig's kind act, Maureen for the part she played and Michael Dryden for the oak wall plate.
16th February 2007