Cumnock History Group has reached 50,000 names on their family tree project which aims to record people who were born, died or lived in Cumnock to show how they link together.

Launched seven years ago with about 3,000 names gleaned from the personal family trees of Cumnock History Group’s Kay McMeekin and the late Bobby Grierson, the Cumnock Connections tree aims to showcase the rich tapestry of lives lived in Cumnock, with names added by researchers worldwide.

The family tree goes beyond names and dates, however, and effort has been put in to reveal the story behind the bare facts - a task which has unearthed a very special link to Keir Hardie’s great-granddaughter who has been enthusiastically contributing to the project.

Dolores May Arias lives in the USA but has been sending photographs mainly from the 1930s that her mother Jean Hardie took. Keir Hardie’s son, also James Keir Hardie, married Cumnock girl May Stoddart and they lived in the USA.

Cumnock Chronicle: Jim Smith Machinery, 1950Jim Smith Machinery, 1950

Their only daughter Jean, born 1916, was sent home to Cumnock for her secondary schooling at Cumnock Academy. She lived with her mother’s Stoddart sisters at 47 Townhead Street.

Dolores told the Chronicle: “My mother was very proud of her grandfather, and although she herself was never very political, she seemed to inherit his sense of justice and respect for human dignity. As a nurse, she was a kind and compassionate caregiver, but she could also be a fierce advocate if she saw an injustice.

“We do have lots of Keir Hardie photos, books, and postcards which were in a trunk in the attic for many years. Also, lots of Stoddart photos and many photos of my mother’s school friends in the 1930’s. I have been busy scanning them and sending them along to CHG so they can be posted and seen.

“Two trips to Cumnock have been Keir Hardie related. In 1992 for the Centenary celebration of Keir Hardie’s election to parliament, Cumnock organised a fantastic two-day event. My mother and I attended, and were so proud of the way it was organised. There were plaques unveiled, speeches, a block party on Keir Hardie Hill, luncheon at the Royal hotel, dance, and church service. It was such a wonderful tribute.

Cumnock Chronicle:

“My last trip to Scotland was in 2011. The family is now all gone, the homestead at 47 Townhead St taken down, but the spirit and warmth remained. We attended a meeting of the Keir Hardie Society, and it was wonderful to meet so many people who are still so interested in his life and his work.”

Other fascinating tales from the project include Mary Dalgliesh who had always wondered what happened to her great-grandmother who went to the USA with two of her children but left Mary’s grandfather behind.

Kay was able to trace several cousins in the USA and France and now they have a fortnightly Zoom call to get to know each other.