Wellwood - the house & the family

Take this online tour of the house (courtesy of North Ayrshire Council), and read below about the family who bequeathed their Edwardian home to Irvine Burns Club


In 1904, the widow and family of John Paterson (who had bought an Eglinton St house in 1869) bought the property next to it to build the 5-bedroom 'Wellwood', possibly because one of the family (Thomas, see 'family' below) was retiring from Canada and returning to Scotland in 1905. Shown here in the watercolour by Past President Jim Butler, it is named from Wellwood, near Muirkirk, where John's grandfather had farmed and died.

Music room

On the ground floor  was the parlour (now the Directors' Room*), the dining room (the Burns Room), a bedroom (the Hogg Room library), the kitchen (now Ladies' WC and the Templeton Chair area), a closet (the Gent's WC), and a servant's room (now kitchen). There were also a scullery, a larder, a wash-house, a store, a coal cellar, a WC and a place for tools. On the upper floor the drawing room with bow window, a box room and a front bedroom are now all one as the Music Room (pictured here), a bedroom (now storeroom), two rear bedrooms (now into one as the Wilson Room), a WC and a bathroom (now a kitchen).
* In this room are the chairs occupied by Club founder members Dr John Mackenzie and David Sillar when councillors of Irvine Town Council; the Council presented them to the Club in 1926 in recognition of the Club’s centenary; at Directors' meetings they are occupied by the current President and Vice-President.

John Paterson

John Paterson (1827-1898 at the Union Bank House, Irvine), the son of Alexander Paterson, Union Bank agent and J.P. in Irvine, followed his father as bank agent. He was a Burgh councillor for many years, and Provost 1872-78. This 1877 portrait, now in 'Wellwood', recognised "his valuable public services during a period of 23 years"*. John Paterson was also a keen local historian, and his information about the development of Irvine harbour is published online at www.irvineharbourside.org

Continue scrolling down for more about the Paterson family, and their generous bequest to Irvine Burns Club. Irvine Burns Club used the ground floor from 1963, and became the sole occupant in 1976.

* The portrait title states "of Knowhead" - Knowhead is a name in the Wellwood area near Muirkirk.

John Paterson's family:
John Paterson and Catherine Gillies Campbell married in 1858 and had six children, none of whom married. Alex died of phthisis (TB) in 1875, aged 15. John, a farmer, drowned in the River Dochart in 1903. Four lived with their widowed mother in 'Wellwood', with (in 1911) three domestic servants. Their mother died in 1915, aged 77. Thomas, once Chief Inspector of the Phoenix Insurance Coy in Toronto, later Manager of its office at Toronto, retired to Scotland in 1905 and died in 1931, aged 69. Annie died in 1934, also aged 69. James (d. 1952, aged 71) and Robert (d. 1954, also aged 69), both bank accountants, bequeathed the house to Irvine Burns Club, subject to the condition that the Club looked after the interests of their housekeeper Miss McLean (dates of transfer below).

John Paterson's siblings (with reference to 'Wellwood'):
John's three brothers all emigrated to a family business in Montreal*. One was Alex. (1833-1909), and at least four of his descendants are linked with 'Wellwood'. 
A great-grandson, James, visited the two Paterson brothers in Irvine. Another great-grandson, Alex. K Paterson#, an eminent Montreal lawyer, has visited the Museum.
A great-great-granddaughter, Elspeth#, visited from Northumbria in 2017, and another great-great-granddaughter, also named Elspeth, of London, had hoped to visit.
* John's great-uncle John (1732-1806) had been with Wolfe's campaign at Quebec and had founded Paterson & Co in Quebec City.
(# these two have both contributed to our information)

John Paterson's wider family
(with reference to 'Wellwood'):

John's grandfather Robert, a tenant farmer, died at Wellwood House, Parish of Muirkirk, in 1819, aged 76.
Of his ten children, one was John's father Alex., agent for the Ayr Bank, then for the Union Bank. Another was Marion - she married the Edinburgh 'writer' (i.e. solicitor) William Young who died young in 1816 and whom we believe to be the subject of the portrait in the 'Wellwood' hall (Paterson papers record James G Paterson having an oil portrait of him). Another was Grizell, whose early-widowed husband's great-great-great-granddaughter Tana in Iowa has also kindly contributed to our information and visited Irvine in 2010.

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Dates in the 'Wellwood' background

1869 - John Paterson, banker, Irvine, buys the house then existing on the site at a public roup from the Trustees of Thomas Campbell of Killyleoch (a farm near Dumfries), then residing at Annfield, Irvine (Thomas Campbell was Provost 1851-64)
1898 - John Paterson dies and the house passes to his widow Mrs Catherine Gillies Paterson.
1904 - Mrs Catherine Gillies Paterson acquires the adjoining property to the north which belonged at one time to George Dickie, innkeeper, Irvine. It was possibly at this time that the family built the current (larger) house.
1906 - Mrs Paterson conveys both properties to her daughter Miss Annie Rankin Paterson "For love, favour and affection".
1933 - Miss Paterson acquires the ground at rear of 'Wellwood', bounded by East Road, from the Trustees of David Martin, mason, formerly of Cotton Row and latterly 85 East Road, Irvine.
1934 - Miss Paterson dies, leaving her estate to her three brothers, Thomas Campbell Paterson, who predeceased (1931), James Graham Paterson and Robert Paterson.
1955 - The survivor of James and Robert dies (Robert, 1954) and by their mutual Trust Disposition and settlement, 'Wellwood' is bequeathed to Irvine Burns Club, subject to a liferent in favour of their housekeeper Miss Jessie McLean, later restricted to the upper flat.
1963/64 - 'Wellwood' is conveyed to Irvine Burns Club subject to Miss McLean's liferent.

1967 - 'Wellwood' was opened as the home of Irvine Burns Club by Sam K Gaw, the 141st President
1975 - On the demise of Irvine Royal Burgh, 'Wellwood' hosted the Royal Burgh of Irvine Museum; moveable artefacts have since been transferred to the care of the North Ayrshire Museums Service.
1976 - Miss McLean renounces her liferent, leaving Irvine Burns Club as sole occupants of 'Wellwood'.

  • Wellwood Burns Centre & Museum
  • 28 Eglinton Street,
  • Irvine, Ayrshire, KA12 8AS