In 1871 a memorial was erected by the workmen at Ardeer Ironworks. The inscription was, "In this plot rest 606 inhabitants of Stevenston who died between 5th August 1845 and the 15th April 1871". These people had died as a result of the plague, ie. Cholera. The first outbreaks of cholera had arrived in Britain in 1832 but the most severe spread came in 1848-1849. Many parts of the UK were affected both rural and urban. In North Ayrhsire the cholera pits were built to bury those who had died from the disease. Barrmill, Beith, Irvine, Dalry and Stevenston all had pits.
Cholera is believed to have been brought to Britain by soldiers serving in India. The reasons for the rapid spread of cholera were due to the insanitary conditions of the time with little means of removing human and animal waste, few washing facilities, dung heaps being near to drinking wells and general lack of hygiene meant the disease spread quickly.
Symptoms of cholera were sickness, deafness and blindness lasting about seven hours before death.
Mention is made by Dr Craig in his Report on Cholera in Scotland 1848-1849 that a man from Kilwinning took the disease to Stevenston.
As a consequence of the outbreaks the government was forced to pass legislation which would improve the sanitary conditions for the poor. Locally a sanitary committee was set up to regulate sanitation and such moves had the effect of ending the scourge of this dreadful disease.
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