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The Parliament Wall

As early as 1758, the handloom weavers of the village would meet at the village pump to discuss all manner of current affairs. In those days, meeting in groups and especially to discuss radical ideas, was outlawed and dangerous.

However, the Parliament Wall provided a perfect location for meeting to discuss radical ideas where the men could talk in the shadow of the wall, while their wives and children could stand watch on the three converging roads and notify them of any dangers.

At the Wall nine master weavers and seven apprentices formed a plan to work together to regulate both the prices they paid for yarn and the prices they would charge for completed cloth. A charter, which made this legal, was signed by the Fenwick Weavers on 14 March 1761 in Fenwick Church, thereby creating the first Co-operative Society in the world.

The Charter and Record Book of the Society are in the safekeeping of the National Library of Scotland.

Fenwick Cemetery

Many notable people are buried in Fenwick Cemetery, just outside the village. These include:

Matthew Fowlds, the last surviving weaver, died at the age of 100 years and 47 days. Matthew was born in 1807 and joined the Society on his 20th birthday. He worked as a weaver all his life, and when the Society closed, he inherited all the records of the Society, which remained in the family until 1965. He is buried alongside his wife.

Sir George Fowlds, the youngest of Matthew’s children, who became a draper in Glasgow but emigrated to South Africa, where he married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Ann Fulton, the niece of John Fulton. He then moved to Auckland, New Zealand where, after building a very successful drapery business, he went into and became very successful in politics.

He joined the Government as Minister for Education and Public Health, and served in various other Ministerial posts before resigning in 1911 to pursue other interests. George was knighted in 1928 and, after his death in 1934, his ashes were brought back to Fenwick to be interred with his parents.

Thomas Godfrey Polson Corbett, Lord Rowallan, who was born in 1895 and served in the Ayrshire Yeomanry and the Grenadier Guards in World War 1 where he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. After the war he turned to farming in Ayrshire and became involved in the Scout Movement. He also served during the Second World War and in 1945 he accepted the appointment of Chief Scout of the British Commonwealth and Empire serving the movement with great distinction until 1959.

In 1959 he became Governor of Tasmania and served until 1963, when he retired to his family estate at Rowallan near Fenwick. On his death in 1977, he was interred in Fenwick Cemetery.

Rev James Barr MP
James Barr was a United Free Church Minister, who was elected as Member of Parliament for Motherwell from 1924 – 31 and for Coatbridge from 1935 – 1945. He campaigned tirelessly for home rule, a minimum wage and temperance.

On retiring in 1945, he remained active in the Church, opposing any reunion with the Church of Scotland. He died in 1949.

About Covenanters

Covenanting was an important religious and political movement in Scotland in the 17th century. The Presbyterian Church drew up the National Covenant in 1638, refusing to accept the imposition of bishops by King Charles I.

They believed that all officers of the church should be chosen by the people. This led to war when the King outlawed the Covenanters. The Church signed the Solemn League and Covenant and allied with the English opponents of the King. When the Church called for parish militias to oppose the pro-royal Duke of Montrose in 1645, Rev Guthrie appointed Captain John Paton to lead the Fenwick Militia.
On the return of the Royalists after the death of Cromwell, Paton became a fugitive, but was eventually captured in Mearns. He was taken to Edinburgh where, after being found guilty as a rebel, he was hanged in the Grassmarket in 1684. Before he died, he handed his Bible to his wife. The Bible can be seen today in Fenwick Church.

There are many other Covenanting Memorials in and around the church including the “Call” to the Rev Guthrie and the banners of the Cameronian Regiment.

Weavers welcome

The Fenwick Weavers go online in 2011 – just months after celebrating their 250th anniversary. The Fenwick Weavers’ Society was a professional association created in the village of Fenwick, East Ayrshire, Scotland in 1761. In 1769, the society formed a consumer co-operative for the benefit of members in 1769. The original purpose of the society was to foster high standards in the weaving craft, but activities later expanded to include collective purchasing of bulk food items and books. The latter resulted in the creation of the Fenwick Library in 1808.

This practice of collective purchasing for the benefit of members has led many to consider Fenwick Weavers’ Society the first co-operative.

The Society was reconvened in March 2008 and has been reconstituted as a co-operative, in legal form as an Industrial and Provident Society, in order to record, collect and commemorate the heritage of the Fenwick Weavers.