Headstone Hunting

With the snow and its accompanying biting wind of recent weeks abating this bright Sunday afternoon proved to be a perfect time to visit the Auld Kirkyard. Members of the New Cumnock Parish Church , New Cumnock History Club and New Cumnock Liaison Group joined together in their mission to seek out the headstones of ministers and soldiers resting or remembered here. Our ‘Time Team’s’ activity soon attracted the attention of a passer-bye out enjoying one of the many lovely local walks and soon we had another pair of hands and eyes to help us in our cause.

Time Team

Time Team

We split into three groups, each one armed with a sketch map of numbered lairs and set off to locate the headstones, note their condition and photograph them.

Planning the route

Planning the route

Off we go

Off we go

Taking note

Taking note

soldiersministers4

Who have we here?

Are you sure this is the right one?

Our minister with two of her predecessors

Our minister with two of her predecessors

Far flung corners

Far flung corners

Getting there

Successful conclusion

Successful conclusion

We successfully tracked down the headstones of six ministers and sixteen soldiers, somequicker than others. Many were legible while some were damaged or overturned but each made us stop and think.

Why we are here

Why we are here

During our search, other headstones caught the eye, carrying the surname or a farm name that whetted our appetite for further visits to our Auld Kirkyard.

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6 Responses to Headstone Hunting

  1. Well done to all concerned Bobby.
    Very interested in John Findlay Arthur. There is definately a very interesting fellow there.
    I see that in the Glasgow University record it states that John Findlay Arthur was born born at Walkside House, New Cumnock. [Addison 1727-1897]

  2. flowgently says:

    Yes, it was a fantastic day. Many of the tombstones have a story to tell. Sometime even Glasgow Uni can be mistaken.

  3. Morag Galbraith says:

    Well done Bobby. As a child I spent almost every day in the auld kirkyard and I know every inch of it. Just before seeing this article I had a walk round it and was concerned about the number of headstones which have been removed. I assume this was done by the council for safety reasons but I’d like to know if they have been stored. There was one which used to be surrounded by railings and was very significant so presumably someone of importance. I also noticed the headstone for Andrew Stirling has been broken. He was the teacher in New Cumnock for 44 years in the school which was located in the now derelict hall opposite my mum and dad’s house on Castlehill. I would hope it could be repaired. It is the last red granite stone on the first row to the right as you come in the gate. Just opposite that is a new stone to the memory of a number of children from one family. That is a replacement of an earlier white marble stone which was damaged in the storms some years ago. There must be a famliy with great interest in their heritage who have gone to all that trouble. There is also a stone in the bottom left of the graveyard aginst the boundary wall which you may have noticed had the remains of a holly wreath. So long as I can remember flowers have been placed on that grave at various times of the year and at Christmas that one and one other also in the bottom section were the only two where holy wreaths were placed. Again there must be interested families. I do remember a handful of funerals taking place and the last one I think was in the 1970s. I will follow this with graet interest. Morag Shankland

  4. flowgently says:

    Hello Morag,
    Thanks for visiting. I’ve many happy memories of the Auld Kirkyard. Sadly, many of the headstones have gone and I think fragments of many these may be stacked along the boundary between the lower and upper section. Glad you singled out Andrew Stirling, he will feature as one of the ten headstones selected to feature in the School research – we are in the kirkyard tomorrow – so look out for a report soon after.

    I noticed the wreaths as well and it is important that we recognise that people still visit to pay their respects. I hadn’t appreciated there are been burials as recently as the 1970s’.

    Replacing headstones is outwith the scope of the current funding. As part of this project we intend to set up a ‘Friends group’ to support maintaining the kirkyard in a decent condition and hopefully the web-site may reach other like-minded folk.

    Thanks again for your kind comments,
    all the best
    Bobby

  5. Morag Galbraith says:

    Your day at school looked first class Bobby. I am so delighted you are doing all of this with the NCLG. I am very pleased the Hyslop lair is being repaired. It has suffered greatly in the last 30 years. Like me you will remember it all surrounded with railings and I am sure many years ago there was a locked gate. There are so many tales to tell but I was very impressed with the description of a funeral procession to the graveyard in Dr Begg’s wonderful book the man’s the gowd for a that. He talks of the procession stopping at the port and the coffin being carried in through the original gates. Perhaps a reading from that might also interest the school children. I think the book should be compulsory reading in all ayrshire schools! The last funeral I remember was on a wet day and it was a horsedrawn carrige which went up Stamp Brae. It was terrifying! I don’t know who it was but it was somewhere on the bottom part of the graveyard. I had steeped out our door at the bottom of the hill and got the fright of my life! I did see a lot of the broken stones but there are definately some very large stones missing. The lair I am thinking of was just in front of the Hyslop lair nearer the church. I look forward to your next update! All the best
    Morag

  6. Hello Morag, The school visit was fantastic and I can’t believe how confident young folk are now, plus they put up with a biting cold wind. Yes, the Hyslop Lair is in quite a state now and I wish I had photos of the original but no luck in tracking it down. Dr Begg’s book is brilliant and it’s fascinating how his family tree leads you into such a diverse history, Covenanters , Burns and Currie’s Lemonade – three of my favourites 🙂 Now Stamp Brae always creates a debate. Some say after the ‘horse stamping their hooves on the castle hill. I’m with Donald McIver on this one and go for Stank Brae, from Scots stank ‘defensive ditch, or moat’ . I am sure I came across a census record that had Stank brae instead of Castlehill, but I can’t track it down now . The class are at Burns Monument Museum, Kilmarnock on Thursday, so I look forward to hearing how they get on, Thanks for visiting, all the best, Bobby

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