On Tuesday 30th April 1901, The Dick Institute was opened by the wife of James Dick who had been born in Soulis Street, Kilmarnock in 1823.
In May 1897, Provost David Mackay had written to his friend James Dick who was by now living in Australia, complaining that Kilmarnock did not have sufficient library and museum amenities. On the same day as James received David’s letter, he found out that one of his gold mines had come up trumps and he duly offered to pay for the construction of a building for the people of Kilmarnock and Ayrshire.
The Institute had electric lighting even although Kilmarnock did not have a supply of electricity at that time. Lights were powered by a small generator. Eight years after it opened the Institute and some of its collections were severely damaged by a fire. It reopened in 1911.
In 1916, after some persuasion from the Provost, the Red Cross were granted permission to use the Institute as an Auxiliary Hospital. Early in 1917 books were taken to the Art Galleries in London Road, and the museum exhibits were boarded up while it was used to look after WW1 soldiers. The Dick Institute (named in memory of James brother Robert) was one of the biggest Auxiliary Hospitals in the country.
Jacqueline Heron Wray