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Dreghorn in Ayrshire: Nicola Sturgeon's Hometown


Recently the Guardian newspaper sent one of its "big city" reporters to the village of Dreghorn in our humble shire to dig up background for a profile piece on Scottish Nationalist Party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, one of our local lassies who made good. Here is the excerpt from the article by Ian Jack, in which he writes about Dreghorn. The full article, which starts a bit slowly with some dull non-Ayrshire-related material can be read here, but the bit you really want to read is already here:

"The Sturgeons’ slice of this Scottish normality was a street in Dreghorn, a village that once stood on the edge of a coalfield; the last pit closed in 1963. By the time of Sturgeon’s childhood, it had become a suburb of Irvine, a port that was then expanding inland as the last of five new towns that were intended to give the Scottish economy a fresh start, as well as improve the lives of those who moved to them. It was here that Sturgeon attended her primary and comprehensive schools and, as a 16-year-old, joined the SNP. Her parents live today in the same house, which, according to Sturgeon’s biographer, David Torrance, they bought under Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme in the 1980s. 
"It is a pleasant-enough place, a typical lowland settlement that is neither densely urban nor truly rural. In the Sturgeons’ street, a series of 1950s terraces backs on to greenery and a river. The village’s main street is much older – one of those long, straight thoroughfares that give so many Scottish villages their simple linearity. In Dreghorn’s case it contains three or four pubs, two barbers’ shops, a Betfred, a dairy, a florist, a mini-market and a post office. To supply any lingering spiritual needs, a handsome 18th-century kirk stands at one end and a nonconformist Ebenezer Hall at the other – both still in use. The old school, a large red-sandstone Jacobean building that opened in 1908, now houses a micro-distillery that makes sake, not whisky. A plaque on the village hall announces Dreghorn as the birthplace of John Boyd Dunlop, inventor of the pneumatic tyre. 
"The main street has remained relatively undamaged by the recession; despite a bus every seven minutes to Irvine and its mall, few shops seem to have closed. There are six Indian and Chinese takeaways and one fish-and-chip place, which seems a lot for a population of about 4,000 (“People don’t cook,” my taxi driver said). Men stood smoking at the doors of the pubs. Outside the Eglinton Arms, I asked one of these groups where Nicola Sturgeon had lived and a man pointed over the road and said: “That’s where the bus shelter used to be. That’s where she used to hang about wi’ the boys.”
"He was teasing: didn’t newspaper reporters like details like these? 
"Aye, she’d hang around there and then she’d be away up the munt wi’ wan o’ them," he said. 
"I wondered about “the munt” and inside the pub discovered it was Ayrshire dialect for the mount, a freestanding hill at the village’s eastern end surmounted by a stand of trees and a war memorial. A man at the bar said it was a navigational aid in the days of sailing ships and the last piece of the mainland that an outward-bound passenger from Irvine might see. 
"I walked up the track to the top and looked west. Given the shortness of the climb, the view was unexpected and sensational. To the left, steam rose from the chimneys and complicated pipework of a busy paper mill. To the right lay the village and the northwards curve of the Ayrshire coast. Further off, a freighter moved slowly up the Firth of Clyde, a red hull against the faint greens and blues of the Isle of Arran, the peaks of which were smothered in cloud. Alex Salmond has often talked about how his nationalism had its foundation in listening to his grandfather’s stories of old Linlithgow, a historic town celebrated as the birthplace of James V and Mary Queen of Scots (and Salmond himself). Dreghorn can hardly compete with that romance, but this view, I thought, might have offered Sturgeon something similar: a memorable and distinctive landscape hung as a backdrop to a village that, thanks to John Boyd Dunlop, was home to an entry on the long scroll of Scottish inventions."


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