Village Snodgrass is located on the last bend of the river Garnock in
Ayrshire, Scotland before it joins the river Irvine at the town of
Irvine and immediately enters the Irish Sea.
Archaeologists indicate that the town site was inhabited as early as the
Mesolithic times and certainly in the Neolithic times. The origin of the
people who lived there in Mesolithic times is unclear, but some scholars
believe that the people were aboriginal Britons, possibly of Inuit
(Eskimo) origin who sparsely populated the vast connected lands of the
northern hemisphere before and during the last ice age but disappeared
under the advance of the Celtic races following Neolithic times. No trace
of races other than these appear in early Britain and no earlier
Neanderthals ever lived there. (Mesolithic and Neolithic refer to the
developmental and cultural sophistication of the races, and not the races
(later known as the smooth grassy place, Snod Gress and other versions
in Scots Gaelic, ( Snod Grass in later Anglicized versions) was at upper
tidal reach of the river but protected from the sea by a large sandy berm
several miles long that lay between it and the sea as the river paralleled
the shore for its last mile and a half. That berm is now part of the town
of Stevenston that extended into the area and includes the Nobel
Chemicals factory across the Garnock river from the Snodgrass village,
connected by a foot bridge as in photos. We have several maps of the
village location showing configuration of the river at various times. It
was an ideal spot for beaching early ships, fishing for salmon in the
Garnock, and farming the fertile low lying ground and digging up the
underlying coal. Eventually, the port of Irvine was built two miles south
at the river mouth with the sea and the port was active in the middle
ages, but it never came to long prominence because the channel into the
shelter of Irvine bay habitually sanded up. In modern times it has been
replaced by other ports north of it on the west coast of Ayrshire between
Irvine and Glasgow on the Firth of the Clyde river (30-40 miles
north). This area is known as the Scots Lowlands.
Clarke, Chieftain of the St. Andrew Society of Colorado is from nearby
Kilmarnock and she told me, The Lowlands are hardly thought of much by
people who think of Scotland as being all Highlands. Actually, most of the
people of great fame and regard were Lowlanders, such as poet Robert
Burns, author Sir Walter Scott, and (later King) Robert DeBruce and
patriot William Wallace who led the Scots revolt against the English.
ALL THESE MEN WERE FROM AYRSHIRE. Wallace grew up at Riccarton, only a few
miles from Snodgrass.
time of Christ there were NO Scots in Scotland, NO Romans in Scotland,
and certainly no Angles, Saxons, or Jutes that came eight-ten centuries
later. There was, however, a race of people known as the Picts who
wandered the Highlands north of the river Clyde and sometimes took
possession of places in the Lowlands until they were driven out and/or
absorbed by the invading Brythons, a Celtic race from Brittany in
who set up the Kingdom of Strathclyde in what is now Ayrshire. This
included the site of Snodgrass and the entire 30 plus mile length of the
Garnock river. The capital of Strathclyde was Dumbarton, a beautiful hill
overlooking the river Clyde and now part of the Glasgow metroplex.
prime contribution is a detailed description of the ethnic structure of
Britain as related to the Celts, and specifically the Brythonic Celts who
details on how the Celts were divided into two groups that left Europe for
what is now Ireland and Britain, the Brythonic Celts who populated Cornwall,
Wales, and the Scots Lowlands, and the Gaedelic Celts who populated
Ireland and much later, the Scots Highlands (4-5th century).
This was before the Vikings (Danes) landed in Normandy and established
themselves there and later (1066AD), took over England, but had very limited
influence in early Scotland.
If you are
wondering why the Snodgrass were never a Scots Clan or a sept (division)
of any clan, it is because we are Brythonic Celts, not Gaedelic Celts and
therefore did not follow Gaedelic customs, including wearing kilt and
working land owned only by our chief and the whole clan (as in Ireland). You
can learn all you want to about this as there are numerous books on the
subject. There are those who claim the Snodgrass are actually Saxons driven
north by the Norman invaders of England. Very unlikely. Strathclyde was
never conquered by the Saxons who took Northumbria (the NE corner of
England) part of which was east of the Clyde as it turns southward through
Ayrshire, now known as Midlothian, Scotland. Besides, Snodgrass were
probably in Scotland before the Saxons left continental Europe for
location of the village Snodgrass in the last bend of the river Garnock
before it enters the Irish sea, and the fact that its extremely attractive
location for farming a rich bottom land and taking salmon from the river,
coupled with the fact it was known to be populated from Neolithic times, it
is entirely possible that the Snodgrass family (always referred to as living
in ancient lands as early as the 15th century) could have come
up the river from the sea a mile and a half away and settled or taken the
place during the great Brythonic migrations to Britain centuries before
the Romans came. When Roman Julius Caesar came to Britain from France in
the first century BC he clearly believed the (in Latin, Gauls orGaels,
in Gaelic) he met were the same race he had fought In French Brittany.
of fame as the Bishop of Ireland was born and raised in the Dumbarton area
of Strathclyde and was a Brythonic Celt and not a Gaedelic Celt such as the
native Irish. . A definitive account of how he was kidnapped by pagan
Gaedelic Irish Celts still living in Ireland is contained in A Cultural
History ofThe Scots Irish by Charles A. Hanna, Genealogical
Publishing Co., Inc.1902, reprinted 1995 (Vol. 1, pgs. 162-168). Therein is
also a definitive description of the ethnic composition of Strathclyde.
Although Saxons, Normans, and other Nordic races came to Strathclyde after
it had been incorporated into Scotland by Kind David I, it was originally
settled by people of Kymeric descent, an ancient race of Britons (Brythonic),
not Saxon as some would have us believe. These were the race that gave
Britain its name. They were Celts who came to Britain from Brittany in
France a thousand years before the Normans. They settled in what is now
Wales, Cornwall, (land of King Arthur, the most famous Brit), western
England, and formed the Kingdom of Strathclyde in what are now the
Scottish lowlands (predominantly in Ayrshire) whence came the Snodgrass.
inhabitants of Strathclyde were the first Christians in Scotland some
having been converted from the pagan Druid religion by a native of
Strathclyde, Ninian, the first Christian missionary to Scotland known by
name. Hanna (op. cit page 163) says Ninian was a native of Christian
Britain, probably of the northern kingdom of the Welsh (Cumbria or
Strathclyde). He was trained at Rome as a missionary but found SOME
Christians already in Strathclyde when he returned there in 373 AD. This
statement confirms two things. First, the people of Strathclyde were
originally Welsh (William Wallaces family were originally named Wallays,
which became the synonym for Welsh in the north, or Strathclyde) Second,
they were Christians five centuries before the Saxons came there and never
converted to the Roman Christian Church like the Saxons but rather the
Scots-Irish church (see the writings of the famous Monk, The Venerable Bede).
Also, the word snod (smooth) is Gaelic and NOT Saxon. Check it out in your
Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language.
are not Highland Scots so famed in Hollywood films, we were Celts in
Scotland before anyone had ever heard of the Celtic highland Scots.
As you will
see below, the Snodgrass connection with Ardrossan is close. Like America,
the Lowlands of Scotland became a heterogeneous collection of peoples over
the years between 4th and 11th centuries. Many people
of mixed heritage live in the area now, however the strong Brythonic Celtic
heritage is still dominant in Ayrshire. The two great heroes of Scotland,
William Wallace and Robert DeBruce , were both from Ayrshire and not far
from Snodgrass village. They were both certainly Brythonic Celts, Bruce
still bearing part of his name from Brittany in France whence came the
If you are
not familiar with the Celts, you should know that before 500 BC they were a
large and powerful race of warriors and artisans who lived in an area all
the way from Turkey to French Brittany. They sacked Rome about 500 BC and
probably set the precedent for innumerable sackings that plagued Rome
right up until the middle of the last (20th) century when three
armies fought for that city state. The Celts left a large amount of artwork
in carvings and jewelry that have come down to us virtually unchanged.
Europe is replete with these artifacts, not the least of which are in a
museum across the street behind the Zurich, Switzerland rail station.
who invaded what is now Britain never controlled Strathclyde (1st-5th
centuries AD) though they built several forts in Ayrshire, some ruins of
which still can be seen. You can read letters written by the Romans to
friends back home complaining about how the local population tolerated but
did not obey them. They simply ignored the Romans for the most part except
for selling them food and wool. Sometimes the locals ambushed and killed
Roman patrols and would-be tax collectors ( St. Patricks father, Calpurnius,
was a Romanized Celt and was a tax collector for the Romans. He survived to
die in bed).
General Agricola gave up the idea in 80AD of conquering Strathclyde and
Scotland and never really got as far as Ireland, the Roman withdrawal from
Britain slowly began in earnest. By 412AD the Roman army had no serious
presence there. About then St. Patrick left his parents and went back to
Ireland. He had been held a slave in his youth there for years before he
escaped and returned to Strathclyde. He went back to Ireland as the Roman
Catholic Bishop of that country commissioned by the Pope himself. He started
converting the Gaedelic Celts in Ireland, some of whom moved to the land the
Romans called Caledonia (Scottish highlands) and became the Scots. They
formed the Celtic Christian church as opposed to the Roman Catholic Church
and followed St. Brendan.
Rome itself fell to the Barbarians. The barbarian king refused the crown
of Rome and the old Western Roman Empire fell apart. Its only influence in
Britain lay in the Roman Catholic Church manifested at Canterbury.
Ireland, that had spawned Patricks Celtic brand of Catholicism, eventually
became a venue of the Roman Catholic Church. Eventually, Canterbury
overpowered the Celtic Christian Church in Scotland and became dominant,
only to eventually become the seat of the Protestant Reformation in Britain.
Henry VIII of England did NOT invent the Protestant Reformation as Rome
would have us believe. Although his personal avarice was legendary, he DID
put the screws to monastic domination of the farmland of Britain in his
dissolution of the monasteries. Huge tracts of farmland were returned by the
Roman Catholic Church to the farmers and their new Lords, the Nobility. The
practice of selling Indulgences that later inflamed Martin Luther in
Germany also was banned in Britain. If you get your history from Hollywood,
see an old Errol Flynn film, Robin Hood where he prods the ample-waisted
Friar Tuck with his dagger and says, So thats were the wealth of the
English Yeoman is stored!
Brythonic Celts who had been Druids and followed that pagan religion were
converted to the Celtic Christian church in the era covered by the
Venerable Bede, a monk who wrote what has to be the first definitive
history of what is now Scotland. Bede was done in by the invading Vikings
from Norway and Denmark (who sacked and burned all Christian churches they
could find, killed the priests and most of the parishioners. (9th
Century), but the Celtic Christian church lived on while the Druids
disappeared, until recently anyway.
does this have to do with Snodgrass? There are early references to Snodgrass
in Paisley (now a chartered part of Glasgow) and elsewhere in 1368. Adam
Snorgyrs (a patronome of Snodgrass) was bailie (sheriff) of Ayr in 1372.
The family probably had moved far out from the original village site. The
Snodgrass property came into possession of John Spark who sold that and
other property to William Cunninghamme, 17 Sept., 1496, the sale confirmed
by King James IV. It was in the possession of the Cunninghamehead estate for
228 years until it was regained by a Snodgrass when John Snodgrass purchased
the entire estate of Cunninghammehead at a distress sale from its last
Chieftain in 1724. John Snodgrass of Paisley and other spaces he owned,
bought out the estate and took over the ruins of Cunninghammhead Castle,
located a few miles east of the Snodgrass village.
Patterson , History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton, published
1863-66). John Snodgrass regained the ancient lands of Snodgrass,
Bartonholm, and other places that were a part of the Cunninghammehead estate
(1724), tore down the castle keep, the last remaining part of it, and built
a magnificent manor house (1748), the stable of which well-builded of
brick yet stands.
clan system was abolished following the great defeat of the Scots rebellion
of 1745 at Culloden and was reduced to ruin by the English crown until the
reign of George IV. ( British Queen Vistoria loved the Scots culture and was
favorable to a "restoration of its customs). As Brythonic Celts, the
Snodgrass were not part of the clan system. (We had no clan until 1984 when
we were granted arms by the Chief Herald of Ireland as a result of our
participation of the Plantation Scheme of the first "British King" James I
(James VI of Scotland ).I have not been able to discover the political
orientation of John Snodgrass in 1745, but it may be significant that three
years after the clans were brutally suppressed, he built a new manor house
renowned for its beauty and prospect on the site of the old Cunninghamme
castle keep that he had torn down. Many lowland Scots supported the British
crown and John may have been one of them. But that is speculation.
Scots were influenced by English culture and were considered civilized
whereas the Highland Scots retained their Irish Gaedelic culture of clan
feuds, cattle stealing, and murder which was referred to as slaughter by
the Scottish crown that admittedly could not control or punish it. The
slaughter of the Chief of clan Montgomery (of Norman origin) by the
Cunninghammes set off the feud that lasted between them for centuries and
left Eglington Castle in ruins, seat of one sept of the Montgomeries , and
the Cunninghammes slowly impoverished.
You can see
the ruins of Eglington castle from the lands of Snodgrass. The castle
grounds are now a large public park. The Montgomery moved to Ardrossan
castle on the seacoast a few miles N.W. which they said was more defensible.
The Cunninghammes stayed in their castle at Cunninghammehead until the chief
went broke and the castle and all its lands were sold to John Snodgrass,
of this: prominent members of both the Montgomery and Cunninghamme Clans
became undertakers under the Irish Plantation plan of British King James
I, circa 1609. It required the undertakers to take to N. Ireland some of the
farmers of Ayrshire approved by the crown, that wanted to go, and settle
them on lands the British king had eascheated (that means left or abandoned
but actually taken) from Erol Tyrone and other Irish nobility who fled
after their disasterous war with the British in the late 1500s. By 1600s the
Cunninhammes were back in British crown favor. There were Snodgrass in
County Tyrone in the late 1700s who were landholders under the Montgomery
and Cunninghamme "undertakers" in Northern Ireland. The lands they occupied
and swore to defend for the British crown became Northern Ireland and were
the Ulster part of Great Britain. THIS MEANS that some Snodgrass probably
went to Ireland with either one or both of those undertakers. Find a
Cunninghamme or Montgomery in Ulster and you may find a Snodgrass
the most prominent recent member of the Montgomery clan group that moved to
Ireland was Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, Field Marshall of the British Army
and called Montgomery of El Alamein in World War II.
later one of John Snodgrass progeny married a daughter of the Buchannan
Clan and inherited that estate, renaming himself Snodgrass-Buchannan. This
is hardly the act of a Saxon who would not be allowed by the Scots. NOTE-
There are still Cunninghamme and Buchannan Clans other than those involved
here. They are both large groups and retained their own septs. The entire
north end of Ayrshire was called Cunninghamme and the land also held many
other groups and clans including the Snodgrass family and the Montgomery
Clan (originally the Montgomerie from Normandy) situated at Eglington Castle
overlooking Snodgrass. Many of the Snodgrass did not relocate to Ireland,
but most of those who did eventually went to America as Scots-Irish, a race
that has provided more American Presidents than any other.
in the centuries the Snodgrass lived on, farmed, and mined their village
site at its fine position at the last bend of the Garnock river before it
joined the Irish sea, they could not continue to support ever increasing
numbers of children, so the Snodgrass must have become migrants at an early
time. By the time the village and farm were sold in the 1400s a Snodgrass
had already served as Sheriff of Ayr and Snodgrass had run their own brewery
in Glasgow. Feudalism introduced by the Normans had died out and had never
been replaced by clan society in the Lowlands. But increasing family sizes
probably prompted many Snodgrass to leave when the land could no longer
support all of them.
Snodgrass apparently may not have been the only inhabitants of the village
from the mid-1400s until 1724 when John Snodgrass bought the entire estate
of the last Chief of Clan Cunninghamme at Cunninghammehead Castle.
Snodgrass, Bartonholm, and other holdings were included.
A son of
John Snodgrass, Neil Snodgrass, was a fast friend of the Montgomery
Chief, Lord Fullerton, with whom he introduced a meaningful crop rotation
scheme that became the first in Scotland. It is detailed elsewhere in
Wikipedia as the history of Cunninghamehead Castle bought by John Snodgrass
in 1724 and the manor house he built there in 1748.
the Cunninghammehead estate, including the lands of Snodgrass, Bartonholm,
and others, were sold by the Snodgrass to provide estates for the many
children and kin of the family. Possession of the Snodgrass village and farm
passed to the Earl of Eglington where it was held until parts of Snodgrass
were sold to the Irvine Golf Club. Later parts of it were transferred to the
Nobels ICI Chemical Company that holds those parts now at the north end of
the site. The Golf Club is still in operation. During that period in the
1800s when Eglington owned the land he drained the Garnock river water that
had covered parts of the property for over thirty years. This was mainly to
regain access to the several open pit coal mines on the Snodgrass land.
families of Snodgrass emigrated more-or-less together to America about 1712
after more than a century in Ireland (landing at Philadelphia, the lower
Delaware river area, and Pennsylvania) and began our history in America.
years some American Snodgrass displayed the arms of William James Snodgrass
as those of the Snodgrass family. That was highly incorrect (as the Lord
Lyon, Chief Herald of Scotland told me in 1981) and the Snodgrass Family
Clan Society arms we now use were awarded upon application in 1984 to the
Chief Herald of Ireland by the members of the Snodgrass Family Clan Society
led by the late Laurence Elder Snodgrass (1918-1978) of Albuquerque, New
Mexico and others of Snodgrass heritage. (This was in recognition of the
contributions to Ireland made by the various family members (circa
several years Dr. Phillip Snodgrass of Iuka MS and I researched the
literature in both the USA and Scotland in an attempt to find the site of
the Snodgrass village that was mentioned therein. It was no longer shown on
any current map. A description of the celebration of the Festival of
Marymass, held annually (and still active) in the environs of the town of
Irvine and in the Parish of Irvine which was mentioned in very early texts
connected with Snodgrass, was found by Dr. Phillip and, by a stroke of luck,
I described the known facts to a lady who works for the Ardrossan
Genealogical Society located in that town about eight miles north of Irvine
on the west coast of Ayrshire fronting the Irish Sea. She produced a British
Artillery Map of 1775 that shows the village Snodgrass located on the
Garnock River only two miles or less N. of the town of Irvine. These old
maps are available as part of the website of Ayrshire Roots.
could very easily have been long ago erased by the extension of the other
towns in the area, but it was saved by the low lying nature of the ground
along the river which made it unsuitable for heavy construction, and the
coincidence that the Nobel Chemicals Co., (maker of Dynamite) had bought
some of the land (before 1925) and built some earthen revetments on the N.
end of the Snodgrass property on the Garnock river bank containing storage
buildings for explosives. That land is still retained by the Company. Most
of the balance of the old Snodgrass farm is now the Irvine golf course
bordering a very old Bogside Racecourse (now unused) mentioned in the books
describing the Marymass Festival. The south end of the racecourse abuts the
Irvine river estuary where it and the Garnock enter the sea at the port of
All of this
is bordered on the East by the railway line to Glasgow, a wildlife refuge,
Eglington Castle Park, and a very large area of new houses. A remarkable
Roadmap of Irvine Parish Area, Ayrshire, Scotland
Glasgow to Irvine
Snodgrass Village Area and old course of the Garnock river 1841
Open pit coal mines were worked for centuries by
Farm extended to south along river to old
Bogside Racecourse and to east
beyond present rail line. Early accounts of
Marymass Festival detail a larger cross-country racecourse extending across
Snodgrass, Bartonholm, Eglington Castle grounds, and Bogside just across the
Irvine river from the town of Irvine at mouth of Garnock. Today the river
course has broken through the river bends and runs a straighter line while
old parts of river became lakes. Southern end of the site is now the Irvine
Golf Course. Parts of the sites were under water for thirty years until
drained by Lord Fullerton, Chief of Clan Montgomery who worked the coal
1800 Census lists two families at Snodgrass
village; one farmers and one coal miners. Neither were Snodgrass. (See
History of Cunninghammehead estate of John Snodgrass, 1748). Snodgrass
village, Bartonholm and other sites were part of holdings of John
Snodgrass, purchased from estate of last Chief of Clan Cunninghammehead,
deceased without issue, 1724. Parts of those estate buildings are still
showing location of Snodgrass village houses
standing at Snodgrass, 1994, now demolished
from village site (right end ) to the Nobel Plant across river Garnock
looking North West across Golf Course. Snodgrass Village site is beyond tree
line at center.
Artillery Map of 1775 showing Snodgrass Village.
location is not shown on maps since 1938.
Nobel Chemicals plant in 2001. This plant
gradually extended into the Ardeer Hills across the river from Snodgrass and
now extends on both sides of the river and occupies the north end of the
village with bunkers built to hold explosives. Bunkers were empty in 2001.
The footbridge is not for heavy vehicles. Another (vehicle?) bridge extends
across the river to the N. end.
Arms to the Snodgrass Family Clan Society, 1984, by the Chief Herald of
Ireland in recognition of services to N. Ireland 1609-1712.
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