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174 Harbour Street

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

Harbour Master’s Office, 174 Harbour Street, Irvine

This is the second time I’ve painted the Harbour Masters Office, I just love this building and wish something could be done with it. It’s a two minute walk from my studio and has been lying empty now since 1992, however, I’ve recently heard a rumour that it may be lined up for renovation soon which would be fantastic – we shall wait and see.

I‘ve tried to imagine what this building would have looked like when it was in use in the late 1800’s on a typically cold, grey and wet Ayrshire morning. The ‘Blue Billy Bing’ would have been looming in the background and I like to try and imagine the smells and noises that would have been found at the busy harbour back then, very different from today’s car parks and busy coffee shops! I’ve spoken to a lot of Irvine folk who remember the bing with surprising fondness before it was the present day grassy hill. I found out a lot about it through a really interesting project that P7 pupils at Castlepark primary worked on back in 2014 – so great for children to learn about local history!

The only old photo of this building I have managed to find shows it with the clock (in much better condition that what it is in now) and what appears to be notice boards. I found out that there are records of previous harbourmasters (or shoarmasters as they were also known) since the early 1800’s although the first was appointed in 1731 and as I wanted to include them somehow in the painting I’ve made a board featuring them. It’s really small – you would need a magnifying glass to read it properly but it includes all the names I could find. A close up of the clock face reveals the name of its maker, Robert Crawford of Irvine.

I have depicted sash windows with small panes as I think they may have featured on this structure at some point in history. Smoke is coming from a chimney as I’m sure the fire would have been lit on such a dreich day and I know only too well how cold it gets at the harbour! Unfortunately I don’t think we will ever see a coal fire burning in that property again but hopefully at some point in the future we could see it being tidied up and in use once more. We can live in hope.

I hope you will perhaps ponder a little longer on this building the next time you walk past and think of how it once was.

*This painting is currently available for purchase from my shop

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