The Annual General Meeting of the Fenwick Weavers Cooperative will be held on Tuesday 10 March 2015 at 1900hrs in Fenwick Church Hall.
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This weekend, February 11th sees the start of a new project in which we are hoping to encourage those residents living in the older houses to tell us what they know about their house and it’s history and previous occupants. A booklet called ‘The Co-operators’ and a note requesting their help will be dropping through their letterboxes over the next few days. There are approximately ninety houses that fall into this category, mostly of course those within the conservation area. We will also try and help those who may not know their houses history but are interested enough to learn and find out. We are looking for stories, anecdotes, old photos, pictures, in fact anything of interest to the rich heritage of the village. Hopefully the project will develop in all sorts of directions and we would like to see whole families involved.
We also hope to talk to some of the long term members of the community and tap their knowledge. There is probably a wealth of information about Fenwick out there and it would be interesting to record it for posterity. We welcome any input about the village whether you live in the conservation area or not. If you would like to learn more please drop me an email – you can contact me at [email protected]
In the summer of 2005 Danielle Penders was being shown round Fenwick by her grandfather John Smith. She was taken to the site that was the house of John Fulton and she was told how John Fulton made the then largest and most sophisticated Orrery in a workshop attached to the house. She was then taken to the church yard where she was shown the gravestone of John Fulton.
While in the church yard she was told about the Covenanters and was told about their struggle for freedom of religion. She was told about the various artifacts about the Covenanters in the church and was shown the Covenanter memorial stones in the churchyard. She was then told about the Fenwick Weavers and how they were the first recorded example of the mighty Co-operative movement.
She then said to her grandfather “You showed me all about John Fulton and his achievements and his gravestone. You told me about the Covenanters and their struggle and showed me their memorial stones in the churchyard. She then said WHY IS THERE NOTHING ABOUT THE FENWICK WEAVERS IN FENWICK?”
Her grandfather said to himself you are right why is there nothing in Fenwick about the weavers. He then contacted John McFadzean who was the chairman of the Fenwick Community Council and they decided to send a letter to the Co-operative Group in Manchester to make Fenwick’s claim to be the first recorded Co-operative where full records exist. From the start they knew this was going to be difficult as there had been many other valiant but unsuccessful attempts to have Fenwick recognised to their rightful place in Co-operative history.
A seminar was arranged for the January of 2006 to put the claim to the secretary of the Co-operative Group John Butler. That seminar was a great success and John Butler agreed with the Fenwick claim.
The two JOHNS as they were later to be called were co-founders of a new company that was set up in September 2006 to take forward the history of the Fenwick Weavers which is know acknowledged by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) the governing body of the Co-operative movement worldwide as the earliest recorded example of a co-operative. This work is still in progress.
In 1918, a committee was formed to build a public hall and library to celebrate the memory of John Fulton, the builder of the famous Orrery. Led by William Brown of the Schoolhouse in Fenwick they sought to raise £1,200 to buy and equip what had been the Guthrie Memorial Church.
The Guthrie Memorial Church (1843) had been set up as a splinter from the Orr Memorial United Secession Church, the scene of the famous visit by Frederick Douglass. The original church bell of the Church remains in the safekeeping of East Ayrshire Council.
Over the next two years, they received subscriptions from all over the world, one of the first being from the Hon (later Sir) George Fowlds in New Zealand, who had married Fulton’s niece. Indeed, judging from the large number of subscriptions from New Zealand, it would seem that George played a very active part in the fundraising.
By the end of 1919, they had achieved their aim, and took possession of the Hall, which was opened in 1920. The Hall remains the public meeting hall for the village, and is now managed by East Ayrshire Council.
Born in 1620, educated at St Andrew’s University and ultimately a highly regarded preacher it is reported that people came from far and wide to hear William Guthrie preach, with reports of up to 3000 people coming to the village on weekends.
Licensed to preach in 1642 and ordained in 1644 he was called to be the first Minister of the new parish of Fenwick. During his first two years in the village, he lived in a house on this spot, whilst the Church, and the Ministers House opposite it, were being built.
Fenwick Parish Church has the highest number of Covenanting memorials in Scotland. Guthrie had made public his support for the Covenanters and many villagers followed his lead, indeed dying for the cause. Guthrie was imprisoned on several occasions for his support of the Covenanters but always remained true to his beliefs.
Despite being tempted to richer and larger parishes Guthrie served Fenwick until he died on 10 October 1665, aged 45. He was buried in Brechin but has a memorial in the parish churchyard.