The Crown, the Bridge and the Parrakeet.



House arrest/quarantine continues and so does the chain of clicks. Following on from the one that which brought up the postcard of the Railway Tavern in Hurlford came a couple more which produced another pair of postcards taken on Riccarton Road. One of which, at least, had a scene that was familiar to me.


The first postcard was taken from Riccarton Road at Hurlford Cross in about 1900.


Hurlford Cross with the Crown Inn on the extreme right. c1900

The road going straight ahead is now the A71, Galston Road, heading to, err, Galston. The building centre shot is the Hurlford Institute along whose other flank runs Mauchline Road, leading to... You've guessed it. The building on the extreme right is, or was, the Crown Inn. Could the picture have been taken on the run up to opening time?


The second postcard presents a view which I recall from my early childhood visits to the place. Most likely dating from the 1950s, but possibly from the early part of the following decade, the Institute is part-hidden by the Crown Inn and to the left of shot is the Clydesdale and Northen Scotland Bank. A road widening scheme in the late 1960s/early 1970s removed, along with the row of cottages, all three of these buildings.


Looking east along Riccarton Road to Hurlford Cross. 1950s?

The picture below shows the scene now, from a similar viewpoint. Galston Road leaves the roundabout top left with Mauchline Road curving off to the right.


Hurlford Cross in June 2018. © 2020 Google

The late Crown Inn was in existence by at least 1857 as it is named on the 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map produced that year and the organisation also has it listed in its 1855-57 Name Book for Ayrshire, The entry reads, "A Small Inn in the Village of Hurlford occupied by G. Ross and the property of Alexander Sheddan Riccarton."


Also on the same map, and featured on the same page in the Name Book, was the Bridge Inn. ("An Inn situated in the Village of Hurlford occd. by Robt. Barr and the Property of Mr Howie of Newhouse near Hurlford.") This stood by the bridge over the River Irvine, on the site occupied by the bank in the 1950s photograph. Whether or not it was the same building I'm not sure, although it does look as if it could've seen life as a boozer at some time. Whether or not it was the same building is also rather moot as it no longer exists.


Realigning the road wasn't just a case of losing a pub, for a new one was built a few strides away from the Cross. On the corner of Mauchline Road and Academy Street rose the Parrakeet. Why the Parrakeet, and why the more unusual version of the spelling? I've no idea.


The Parrakeet in July 2009 with Hurlford Cross roundabout in the background. © 2020 Google

Built around a decade before restrictions on pubs were eased it therefore still had to meet the criterion that it must be impossible to catch a glance of people drinking inside in order to prevent the corruption of children and God-fearing folk. Traditionally Scottish pubs met this by having double-doored entrances and windows of frosted glass but what could be simpler than not putting any windows in the place at all and building a nuclear bunker? In the summer of 1977 I ignored the much-spouted advice, "Never drink in a flat-roofed pub."and ventured inside, lured in by its warm and welcoming appearance.


I was heading up to Glen Coe and beyond to do a bit of hill walking and rock climbing with a student mate. We'd popped in to see my aunt and uncle who lived in Hurlford, had been given a bite to eat and thought it would be nice to wash it down with a beer before continuing northwards. We were familiar with quaffing pints of hand-pulled McEwan's in the Harp on Bangor's High Street and the brewery's sign offered hopes of something similar here, but no such stuff was on offer. You have to remember that this was before the resurgence of demand for real ale had fully taken off and it was rare to find decent stuff outside the main cities when north of the border. We made do with some keg heavy.


What was the place like? Memory has it as being a bit of a barn. Large function room which hosted bands, pool table, an old boy in flat cap sitting over his 'hauf an' a hauf'... Nothing particularly noteable about it. It was certainly the most forgettable hostelry of the trip, which might have contributed in some way to its later demise. The Bridgend Inn in New Cumnock, the Clachaig in Glencoe, the Islander in Kyle of Lochalsh (where, quelle surprise!, I bumped into my old French teacher - only about 600 miles from home) and the Cluanie Inn are all still serving, forty-odd years on.


I last passed the place early in the autumn of 2009, a couple of months after Mr. Google had taken the above picture. It may well have been shut by then. It was certainly closed when he drove by again two years later and was up for sale or rent.


For sale or rent. July 2011 © 2020 Google

Whoever was driving that day did a thorough job as they even took a tour of the car park, picking up a sign of the undercurrent of sectarianism which presumably still exists at some level in East Ayrshire, with a door being used to profess support for the UDA.


A McEwan's illuminated sign and loyalist graffiti. July 2011 © 2020 Google

So, what became of the Parrakeet? It's now a local supermarket. The addition of windows and a new facade have made a huge difference to its appearance. No longer looking like it could withstand an attack by Brezhnev's Russia on the base at Faslane, it is at least still serving the local community in some way and hasn't been converted into apartments - or flattened - like so may of its post-war, flat-roofed bretheren.


The Hurlford Coop. June 2018 © 2020 Google

You'll no doubt be pleased to hear that I've three Premiership rugby matches to watch over the weekend which, along with the Tour de France coverage, will eat into the time I have to produce this drivel. But not to worry, there'll more coming sooner than you might hope or think.


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