Cumnock became a market town in the early sixteenth century and went on to flourish both as an agricultural centre and a focus for local industry. Initially, industrial activity was concentrated around handloom weaving and the manufacture of snuff boxes, but aided by the arrival of the railways in the 1850s coal began to be mined on a large scale. Famous resident James Keir Hardie put Cumnock on the map when he formed an early labour union in the town, later becoming a founder member of the Scottish Labour Party. His story features in the book, along with photographs of many of Cumnock's best-known sights. Several of these, such as the Bell Tree, Hillside House and the old open-air swimming pool in Woodroad Park, have now vanished. Photographs of the neighbouring communities of Cronberry and Lugar are included also.