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Our thanks to Edward Snodgrass for sending us in the information below.

By Norman Snodgrass Jr.

The 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 themselves).

The site (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 In modern times it has been replaced by other ports north of it on the west coast of Ayrshire between Irvine and Glasgow on the Firth of the Clyde river (30-40 miles north).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.

Isabelle 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 Scot’s revolt against the English.” ALL THESE MEN WERE FROM AYRSHIRE. Wallace grew up at Riccarton, only a few miles from Snodgrass.   

At the 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 

France 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.

There are numerous histories of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, which was incorporated into Scotland centuries later. One of the more colorful is one by Croman mac Neesa, a modern-day Druid scholar (,

Mac Neesa’s prime contribution is a detailed description of the ethnic structure of Britain as related to the Celts, and specifically the Brythonic Celts who populated Strathclyde.

He gives 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 Britain.

Given the 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” or“Gaels”, in Gaelic) he met were the same race he had fought In French Brittany.

St. Patrick 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 of The 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.

The 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 Wallace’s 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. 

Although we 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 Brythonic Celts.

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.   

The Romans 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. Patrick’s father, Calpurnius,  was a Romanized Celt and was a tax collector for the Romans. He survived to die in bed).

After Roman 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.

In 476AD 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.

Oddly, Ireland, that had spawned Patrick’s 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.

Sorry, King 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 that’s were the wealth of the English Yeoman is stored!”

The 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.

And what 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.

(see 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.

The entire 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.

The Lowland 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, 1724.

Take note 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

 Probably 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.

Some years 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.

Obviously, 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.

The 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.

Eventually 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.

Several 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.

For many 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 1610-1720).

 For 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.

The village 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 Irvine.

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 survival.

2001 Roadmap of Irvine Parish Area, Ayrshire, Scotland

Road Map Glasgow to Irvine



Map of Snodgrass Village Area and old course of the Garnock river 1841

Open pit coal mines were worked for centuries by villagers.

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 pits. 

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 seen.   

Snodgrass houses

Map showing location of Snodgrass village houses

Houses standing at Snodgrass, 1994, now demolished

Bridge from village site (right end ) to the Nobel Plant across river Garnock

View looking North West across Golf Course. Snodgrass Village site is beyond tree line at center.

British Artillery Map of 1775 showing Snodgrass Village.

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.

Road to Village site

Award of Arms to the Snodgrass Family Clan Society, 1984, by the Chief Herald of Ireland in recognition of services to N. Ireland 1609-1712.





Clan Badge and Tartan




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