New book details old Carstairs

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THE publication of a new book on the history of the Carstairs area just COULDN’T have been better timed.

That is because `Old Carstairs, Carstairs Junction and Pettinan’, the latest gem from local history photo-album publishers Stenlake, falls on an important centenary for this corner of Clydesdale, albeit a grim one.

The work by John Fyfe Anderson is. as with all Stenlake books, festooned with evocative old photographs, illustrating normal life as it was then led in the villages with images of everything from the Carstairs Gala Day of 1921 to Edwardian streets of houses, long since demolished in slum-clearances.

However, there are also several pages of pictures recording perhaps the greatest natural disaster to befall Carstairs Junction, the Great Flood of 1915, the 100th anniversary of which comes round on August 2 this year.

Even with the then-raging World War One dominating the headlines at the time, the war news made way in the press locally and nationally when a freak rainstorm caused a mini-tsunami, leaving parts of the village under 12 feet of water.

Miraculously, no-one died in the flood but the dramatic photos in the book of the event bear chilling testimony to the havoc it caused.

One picture shows Strawfrank Road with what must have been at the time a rare motor van submerged up to its roof and the well-tended gardens that street was once renowned for totally underwater.

The flooding delivered a bodyblow to the local economy; one photo shows the then dominant Co-operative Society store flooded, its stock ruined.

This was, perhaps, the scene of the most dramatic scenes of that awful day.

The cloudburst that sent what was described as a “tidal wave” through the village was so sudden that many shoppers in the Co-op were trapped in the building, desperately trying to keep their childrens’ heads above the torrent.

Eventually, these children were rescued by locals using tables and anything else that floated as temporary rescue rafts to get them to higher ground.

Nearby, the station which gave the Junction its name is shown to be littered with wreckage and travel on the main line that runs through it was badly affected.

Repairs were carried out very quickly, given the Junction’s importance to the wartime rail traffic.

The rest of the village `dried out’ and the book shows how life eventually returned to normal.

The book is full of local landmarks and events `as they were’, the mighty and as=-yeat unconverted Carstairs House pictured long before it took on its guise of a nursing home.

There are several shots of the centre of Carstairs with reputedly the only village green in Scotland - and the events that took place there, including the 1921 gala day celebrations.

There is also a bygone picture of an enormous congregation leaving the village Parish Church on one Sunday many decades ago; today, there is room in it for both the `Village’ and `Junction’ to worship together there.

There is a picture of the frankly colossal bonfire the villagers built to celebrate King George VI’s coronation in 1937 and several pages are, of course, dedicated to the railway station, then the area’s major employer by far, it’s importance reflected in the fact that the old, then-tiny village of Strawfrank changed its name to Carstairs Junction in the 1840’s.

Perhaps the days of rail glory have passed for the area but the villages of Carstairs, Carstairs Junction and wee Pettinain are still strong, vibrant communities.

This book is a timely reminder of their roots.

Old Carstairs, Carstairs and Pettinain by John Fyfe Anderson is published by Stenlake Publishing Ltd, 54-58 Mill Square, Catrine, Ayrshire KA5 6RD, tel. 01290 551122, www.stenlake.co,uk. The book retails for £10 and is available in local bookhops, newsagents and via the publishers.