I noticed with some interest this week the Nobel Prizes being announced, which reminded me of our hometown Irvines connections to the Nobel factory.
Obviously better details can be found at wikipedia or the like, and I’m lifting heavily from the articles on there, but Alfred Nobel was the inventor of Dynamite, who capitalised on this by setting up the largest explosives factory in the world at Ardeer, just outside Irvine.
The site was founded in 1870, and was chosen for the company’s first factory. The business later diversified into the production of blasting gelatine, gelignite, ballistite, guncotton, and cordite.
It was commonly known locally as the ‘factory’ or the ‘Dinnamite’. At the time the company generally provided higher quality employment regarding terms and conditions and pension rights than other local firms. At its peak, the site employed almost 13,000 workers in a fairly remote location and the Ardeer site was almost like a community, and there were so many people employed there that a bank, travel agent and dentist were at one time based on the site.
The local bus company at the time, Western Scottish Bus Company, provided tens of buses per day to transport the workers to and from the site, and there were even two trains per day to transport workers to a station within the factory which was used solely for workers and any special visitors with business in the ICI plant, and was never a regular passenger stop.
The factory had its own jetty on the River Garnock in Irvine Harbour serving ships disposing of time expired explosives or importing materials for the works, and it’s own tug boat, the Garnock, which upon retirement was donated to the Maritime Museum in Irvine Harbourside.
Being an explosives factory Ardeer had its share of explosive accidents, including fatalities, and on at least 2 occasions it shattered windows across Irvine.
Alfred Nobel used the template of the factory at Ardeer for sites across the world, and in fact created a near exact copy outside Melbourne Australia, even down the the train station being named Ardeer.
When his brother died, a newspaper accidentally printed Alfred Nobels obituary instead, and was entitled “The merchant of death is dead”, shocked Nobel into creating the Nobel Prize and signing over the bulk of his legacy to maintaining the prize.
So that’s how the Nobel Prize in connected to my hometown of Irvine, Scotland, there’s plenty more the the Ardeer Factory, and to the life of Alfred Nobel, but I thought I’d just give a little glimpse into another fascinating little connection that this small Ayrshire town has.