This lovely little book is an absolute must for anyone with any interest in the small town of Cumnock in East Ayrshire. Cumnock is many centuries old, and it stands at the important crossroads formed by the roads linking Kilmarnock and Dumfries on the one hand, and Ayr and Edinburgh on the other. Well, actually, it would be more accurate to say that it used to stand at this crossroads. As the author notes in his introduction, the building of a bypass to the west of the town in 1992 changed things considerably, as did town centre redevelopment in the 1970s which saw the loss of many attractive old buildings.
Change is inevitable, and as you wander around any town in Scotland today, it is always tempting to wonder what it used to be like before the arrival of this or that new development, or before the streets were lined with parked cars, or before concrete and glass became so popular.
"A Look Back at Cumnock" by Dane Love does much to answer those questions for Cumnock. Each full page photograph, most taken during the first two thirds of the last century, has a full facing page of text discussing what is shown and identifying elements that have changed and others that have remained the same. The selection of images and the range of different types of image is especially good. The view from Stepends Bing takes in virtually the whole town, and like various street views can be compared directly with the equivalent scenes today by anyone living in or visiting Cumnock, allowing a very direct understanding of what has remained and what has changed. While on the subject of street scenes, the image of lorries parading up a crowded Glaisnock Street for the Cumnock Carnival in 1950 does more than any other to bring back a world now gone, though not all that very long gone.
Other images show more directly what has been lost. Cumnock railway station closed in 1966; the outdoor swimming pool in 2003; and the picture house shown next to the town hall in one image was demolished in 2010. Meanwhile, the people of Cumnock are not overlooked: you wonder how many readers will recognise their grandmothers or great grandmothers in the posed shot of women living in Waterside Place. As the author notes, slum clearance saw the demolition of much of the street in 1934 and the area is now occupied by the Glaisnoch Shopping Centre. This is a truly evocative book that will bring back many memories for some: and add a new dimension to Cumnock for those too young to have those memories.