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For other uses, see Kilbirnie (disambiguation).
Scottish Gaelic: Cill Bhraonaigh
Kilbirnie is located in North Ayrshire
 Kilbirnie shown within North Ayrshire
Population 7,642 
OS grid reference NS315545
Council area North Ayrshire
Lieutenancy area Ayrshire and Arran
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district KA25
Dialling code 01505
Police Scottish
Fire Scottish
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament North Ayrshire and Arran
Scottish Parliament Cunninghame North
List of places

Coordinates: 55°45′18″N 4°41′10″W / 55.755°N 4.686°W / 55.755; -4.686

Kilbirnie (Gaelic Cill Bhraonaigh) is a small town of 7642 [1] inhabitants situated in the Garnock Valley area of North Ayrshire, on the west coast of Scotland. It is around 20 miles (30 km) south-west of Glasgow and approximately 10 miles (16 km) from Paisley and Irvine respectively. Historically, the town built up around the flax and weaving industries before iron and steelmaking took over in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The suburb of Kilbirnie in the New Zealand capital of Wellington is named after the town.


Kilbirnie Place where the Scots mustered under Alexander III before the Battle of Largs.[2]

Archaeological digs conducted in the 19th century have shown that the area was inhabited during the Bronze Age. A crannog with a connecting causeway was discovered in Kilbirnie Loch. The town derived its name from the parish church, the "Auld Kirk". In 1740 there were only three houses; the population grew to 959 people by 1801. Half a century later, and the town had grown substantially. In 1851 Kilbirnie contained 5,484 people, due to the Industrial Revolution, hastened by the locality of the Ayr and Glasgow railways. During this time the town was a hub of industrial activity with 2 flax-spinning mills, linen-thread mills, wincey factories, 5 fishing-net factories, 2 rope-works, engineering works, mines and ironworks. The steelworks opened in 1841 and quickly became the main industry in the area causing an inpouring of people and during the early to mid 20th Century the town grew to its height of around 10,000 people. However, the industry entered a decline and was eventually closed. The Decoy Bride a film starring David Tennant and Kelly Macdonald was partially filmed in Kilbirnie.

Social problems and deprivation[edit]

The town was hit particularly hard by the closure of traditional industries in the late 1970s and early 1980s. As a consequence it has suffered a large degree of social exclusion The town has the 9th lowest life expectancy among pensioners in the United Kingdom according to a report published in the Daily Mail newspaper in 2012.[3] In addition Kilbirnie has highest bankruptcy rate in Scotland. Kilbirnie has a rate of 71 insolvencies per 10,000 people, just ahead of Clydebank and Gorebridge. Statistics show that Kilbirnie has almost three times the national average bankruptcy rate.[4] According to the 2011 census Kilbirnie had an unemployment rate of 8.9% compared to 4.8% in Scotland[1]

In a survey conducted by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) in 2012 it was found that areas of Kilbirnie have extremely high levels of deprivation with some areas rising as high as 31% (comparable with Easterhouse and parts of Ferguslie Park ) compared to the Scottish average of 13%.[5] In 2009, the population of North Ayrshire living in the most deprived data zones was 34,076 – up from 24,233 in 2006, an increase from less than 1 in 5 of the population (18.4% ) to 1 in 4 (25.1%). In 2009, North Ayrshire was ranked 5th highest in Scotland in terms of percentage of the population living in these most deprived areas.[6] The December 2012 publication showed that there are persistent issues in relation to employment and income deprivation(with North Ayrshire being 4th highest, and equal 3rd in Scotland respectively in these domains). North Ayrshire has 46 datazones in the 15% most deprived in Scotland, an increase of 3 since the last SIMD was published in 2009.

In 2012 four of the datazones in Kilbirnie were in the 15% most deprived in Scotland. Every datazone in the town was adjudged to be above the Scottish average of 13% in terms of income deprivation and in terms of employment deprivation only one datazone was below the average level.[5] North Ayrshire also has the highest level of unemployment in Scotland and the local council has estimated that in order to reach the average level of unemployment in Scotland 19,000 jobs would need to be created.[7] As a snapshot the unemployment claimant count at February 2013 reflecting the January 2013 position showed that 6.8% of the resident working age population were unemployed. This is the highest level in Scotland, above that of West Dunbartonshire (6.5%), East Ayrshire (5.8%), Dundee (5.6%) and Glasgow (5.5%).[8] On the wider measure of unemployment used by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) North Ayrshire’s unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 64 years is 13.6% compared to 8.1% for Scotland[9] North Ayrshire’s Claimant Count rate in June 2013 was 6.3% compared to 3.8% for Scotland (June 2013). In total there are 5,404 claimants across North Ayrshire. The Claimant count in Garnock Valley was 5.7% of population.

Youth unemployment is also a major issue as North Ayrshire has seen the second-fastest rise in jobless young people in the UK, beaten only by Corby in Northamptonshire.[10] North Ayrshire has the highest levels of youth unemployment in Scotland. The proportion of young people claiming unemployment benefit (10.8%) is significantly above the Scottish average (6%). This is a persistent problem, looking back to 1992 shows that North Ayrshire has consistently had a higher proportion of claimants than the Scottish average. There are some areas within North Ayrshire where it is more severe. For example within Ardrossan Central and Saltcoats Central the proportion of young people claiming out‐of‐work benefits is close to 1 in 4. There are 10 local areas within North Ayrshire where the proportion of young people claiming benefit is more than double the Scottish average of 7.1%. In addition, 6 of these areas are among the top 50 local areas in Scotland with the highest proportion of youth claimant rates.[8]


Glengarnock Steelworks[edit]

Glengarnock Steel Works opened its blast furnaces around 1841 which caused a massive influx of people from all over the country, as well as all over the world. Initially these works were owned by Merry & Cunninghame before being taken over by David Colville & Sons and eventually nationalised as part of British Steel and finally closed in 1985. The steelworks in Glengarnock provided employment for most men of the community. The entire collection of staff magazines of the steelworks at Glengarnock have been preserved and are held at the Mitchell Library. This provides content such as spotlights on employees and departments, and contains photographs over 100 years old.

Moorpark House.

W & J Knox Threadmills[edit]

These mills are famous for their nets, used by the British Army and BT Tower. They are on of very few companies in the United Kingdom who have expertise in this area. W & J Knox Threadmills was owned by the Knox family who were prominent, not only in Ayrshire but in the South of England too, becoming important members of society. Some of the mansion houses they built still remain, the Knox Institute was donated by a member of the Knox family and housed Kilbirnie's first public library and one of the cemeteries in the town contains an underground vault where the family are interred, next to the main Knox monument. Who's Who editions of the period list many members of the family.

Modern day[edit]

Since the closure of the steel works in the 1980s, the area has been an unemployment blackspot with distinct social problems. The town has very few local employers, and people generally commute out of the town for work.

Social history[edit]

Swinging Sixties and regeneration[edit]

Amongst many other old buildings in the Town, stands the Walker Hall, a memorial hall dedicated to Dr Walker, one of the first physicians in the town. In the 1950s and '60s it was a famous concert venue, coming second only to the Barrowlands. Famous bands to have played the hall include Gerry & The Pacemakers and Bill Haley & His Comets. These days however, it houses the town's Citizens Advice Bureau. Other sources of entertainment in the 1950s and 60s included two cinemas, both of which have long since closed. One of these cinemas is now the Radio City [3]. An Association was formed in 1998 to identify ways of providing much needed local facilities. During the 1997 election campaign, Brian Wilson, met with a group of local teenagers who stressed the need for facilities, plans were developed to provide a Healthy Living Centre which would include fitness facilities, internet access, a healthy eating cafe and child care. Bids for funding were made to private organisations and the National Lottery.

Saint Brennan's Day Fair and Robert Burns[edit]

The fair was considered the largest horse market in the west of Scotland. Robert Burns refers to the town in his poem "The Inventory" about a plough-horse that he purchased at the fair:

"My furr-ahin 's a wordy beast, As e'er in tug or tow was traced. The fourth's a Highland Donald hastle, A damn'd red-wud Kilburnie blastie!"

Local football team Kilbirnie Ladeside F.C. derive their sobriquet "the blasties" from the poem, a suitable appellation and an epithet which remains to this day due to the town's past of steel and iron production, as a reference to the blast furnaces.

Notable residents[edit]

Places of worship[edit]

The Auld Kirk

Auld Kirk[edit]

The "Auld Kirk" is one of the oldest churches in Scotland still in use both pre-and post-Reformation. Robert Burns allegedly came to the blacksmiths near the Kirk. It is from this Church that Kilbirnie takes its name.

Roman Catholic Church St Brigids[edit]

Father Thomas P Lee, a young Irish priest, was sent in 1859 to be the resident priest in Kilbirnie. It is unclear how he raised the money to build the church. He chose St. Brigid (devotion to the poor) to be the patron saint of the parish. Opened in 1862.

Gospel Hall[edit]

Tracing its rots back to 1889, a full history of the assembly can be found in the middle if the article here:-


Primary education[edit]

  • Moorpark Primary School, accessed from Milton Road or School Road by students, was opened in 1978 to replace Ladyland School built in 1869 and Bridgend School built in 1893. The school is located east of its namesake Moorpark House and is adjacent to local secondary school Garnock Academy
  • Glengarnock Primary School is sited on Grahamstone Avenue in Glengarnock, came into use in 1992 to replace the original 1863 sandstone building.
  • Saint Bridget's Primary School, located on Hagthorne Avenue, educates local Roman Catholic children. This location opened in October 1963 replacing the 1894 building. Secondary level Catholic pupils attend the Secondary school, St Matthew's Academy in Saltcoats.

Secondary education[edit]

  • Garnock Academy is a secondary school that was formed in 1971 by the amalgamation of Beith Academy, Dalry High School, Kilbirnie Central School and Speir's school. Opening in September 1972, it is situated on School Road adjacent to Moorpark Primary. It is a non-denominational co-educational school serving Barmill, Beith, Dalry, Gateside, Glengarnock, Kilbirnie, Longbar and the surrounding area. It has around 1,100 pupils.




Bus Services[edit]

  • X34 to Glasgow Buchanan Street Bus Station
  • X35 to Glasgow Buchanan Street Bus Station
  • X36 to Glasgow Buchanan Street Bus Station
  • X37 to Glasgow Buchanan Street Bus Station


Air crashes[edit]

The hills between Kilbirnie and Largs were often black spots for aircraft passing over and many crashed due to low fog. The crash sites are available to visit, with wreckage still visible and some of these now form part of Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park.


Glengarnock Castle, looking towards Kilbirnie Loch and the northern suburbs of Kilbirnie.

Lying 2 miles (3 km) north of Kilbirnie on a promontory overlooking the wooded ravine of the River Garnock is Glengarnock Castle, a ruined 15th century keep. Ladyland Castle, mostly demolished, lay nearby and Ladyland House still survives as designed by David Hamilton.

Kilbirnie Loch[edit]

Kilbirnie Loch is 1 12 miles (2.4 km) long and nearly 12 mile (800 m) broad. Part of the area around the Loch is sliding possibly due to the old mining shafts under the area. A social centre built on the shores of the loch began to sink and had to be demolished.


  1. ^ a b GROS. "Scotland's Census 2011". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Knight, James (1936), Glasgow and Strathclyde. London ; Thomas Nelson & Sons. pp. 83 - 84.
  3. ^ "Does this tiny hamlet hold the secret to a long life? UK life expectancy is highest in Somerset village....just don't move to Bootle - Daily Mail Online". Mail Online. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  4. ^ "Kilbirnie has highest Scots bankruptcy rate". Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ "Prime Minister told of North Ayrshire's high levels of deprivation". STV News. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  8. ^ a b [2][dead link]
  9. ^ "North Ayrshire Council : Key facts and figures". Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  10. ^ "Youth unemployment doubles in North Ayrshire". dailyrecord. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "School league tables: Breakdown of every Scottish school's performance". STV News. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 


  • Strawhorn, J. & Boyd, W. (1951) The third statistical account of Scotland: Ayrshire. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd.
  • Wylie, William (1851). Ayrshire Streams. London : Arthur Hall, Virtue, & Co.
  • "Un Hombre bueno, La Vida De Jaime Clifford" (AC Thomson)

External links[edit]