No fewer than sixteen weekly local newspapers were being published in Ayrshire during the war, including the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald, Ayr Advertiser, Ayrshire Post, Cumnock Chronicle, Irvine Herald, Kilmarnock Standard, Largs & Millport Weekly News, Saltcoats Herald, and Troon & Prestwick Times. Most of these contained national and international news, including coverage of the course of the war, in addition to local material. While those who could afford to would also have taken at least one daily paper, the local weekly would have been the only purchase for many. Despite the introduction of censorship, a remarkable amount of local war-related information appeared in these papers. The proceedings of military service tribunals, dealing with appeals for exemption from the call-up, were reported, but the names of those involved were omitted. As the war increased in intensity, more and more space was devoted to the toll of local casualties. Photographs and short obituaries of those reported killed were often submitted by relatives. More heartening was the news of decorations awarded to local men.
Newspapers and other sources of information could be consulted free in the reading rooms of public libraries. Other services were also provided. The annual report of Ayr’s Carnegie Public Library in September 1915 noted that, soon after the commencement of the war, part of the reference area was reserved as a reading and writing room for soldiers stationed in the town. Writing material was provided, with over 2,000 letters being written weekly at the busiest time. To the end of May, over 600 soldiers had made use of this facility.
Families with men at the front dreaded the arrival of an official letter bearing the news that their loved one had been killed or wounded or was missing in action. All too often in the latter case, there was no further news, the body having never been recovered or identified, or having been lost at sea. For some, however, there came the relief of notification that the missing man was now known to be a prisoner of war. Food and other items could then be sent via the Red Cross, which also arranged for the recipient to send back acknowledgements of their safe delivery.
Ayr Carnegie Library circa 1910. South Ayrshire History.