‘Celebration and Thanksgiving’

New Cumnock Parish Church

New Cumnock Parish Church

The New Cumnock Liaison Group (NCLG) held a ‘Celebration and Thanksgiving’ event in the New Cumnock Parish Church to mark the completion of major milestones in the Auld Kirk and Village Heritage trail project, which in partnership with East Ayrshire Council,  kicked off in January of this year.

Celebration and Thanksgiving Service

Joining members of the NCLG were, among others,  members of the Parish Church, New Cumnock History Club and Primary 6 of New Cumnock Primary School, all of whom had been involved in researching a number of family lairs found in the Auld Kirkyard.

Rev. Cuthbert

Rev. Cuthbert

The event was held in the New Cumnock Parish Church, which in 1833 assumed the role of parish church, from the Auld Kirk and the Reverend Helen Cuthbert welcomed all and admirably led us through a lively service.

“Down through the years
We will tell New Cumnock’s story
Down through the years
Keep the flame of HOPE alive”

Together, in the spirit of Christmas and in celebrating our heritage we sang ‘While Humble shepherds watched their flocks‘ one of the Scottish Paraphrases of 1781, which would have been sung in the Auld Kirk – Reverend James Young, minister at that time.

“Down through the years
We will tell New Cumnock’s story
Down through the years
Keep the flame of FAITH alive”

Responsible Citizens, Confident Individuals, Effective Contributors and Successful Learners

New Cumnock Primary School : Primary 6

New Cumnock Primary School : Primary 6

Pupils from New Cumnock Primary 6, our young citizens, gave their views on New Cumnock’s past, present and hopes for the future.  They spoke of their research in the Auld Kirkyard and of Wallace and Burns and of ‘Flow Gently Sweet Afton’ and in their pride that Sir Tom Hunter came from New Cumnock.

Their likes reinforced many of the positives things about living in New Cumnock including the glorious landscapes of hills, rivers and trees, new footpaths, great variety of wildlife  and the wind-farm. Their new School and friends and family ranked high in the things they loved and so too the Swimming Pool, while the Pathhead play park,  the new shop and new doctor’s surgery earned a special mention.

Hopes for the future included less litter and dog-dirt, no boarded up building, more things for young people to do, more jobs for young people and adults.

Rab Wilson – “The Kirk’s Alarm” and ‘The Scottish Prejudice …”

Rab Wilson delivers 'The Kirk's Alarm'

Rab Wilson delivers ‘The Kirk’s Alarm’ under the pulpit of the parish church !

Who better than local lad Rab Wilson, who has gained national recognition for his brand of radical poetry, to deliver ‘The Kirk’s Alarm” beneath the kirk pulpit. Rab explained the poem was Robert Burns satirical attack of a band of Ayrshire ministers set in their old ways (‘Auld Lichts’), including the Reverend James Young of New Cumnock, or ‘Jamie Goose’ as the bard lampooned him.

“Jamie Goose! Jamie Goose, ye made but toom roose,
In hunting the wicked Lieutenant;
But the Doctor’s your mark, for the Lord’s holy ark,
He has cooper’d an’ ca’d a wrang pin in’t,
Jamie Goose! He has cooper’d an’ ca’d a wrang pin in’t

Rab also read ‘A Scottish Prejudice …. ” one of his own works which recalls his days at Primary School in New Cumnock – Primary 6 by coincidence. He tells how Mrs MacSween his teacher ‘wove magical spells’ in her stories about Wallace and Bruce and of the impression that made on him.

“Micht thon auld teacher wryly smile tae ken,
The boys she tocht hae nou grown Scots men,
An thon keen prejudice whilk kennled Burns
Whilk she sae glegly instillt intae us
Strivin tae mak siccar, lest we forget,
Still floods our veins, an nevirr will abate.”

Bobby Guthrie – “The Project’s Progress”

The lintel stane at the Auld Kirk

The lintel stane at the Auld Kirk

On behalf of the NCLG, Project Leader Bobby Guthrie gave thanks to all those that contributed and participated in the project as he presented an overview of its progress throughout the year, with the use of the marvelous multi-media system in the church.

He began by acknowledging the support of the NCLG and especially that of chairperson Ian Howat for the tireless works he does on behalf of the community.

Bobby also thanked project partners East Ayrshire Council and in particular Adam Geary (now with East Ayrshire Leisure) and Anneke Freele , who played a major role in turning our ideas for a village heritage trail into a structured proposal for funding applications.

Our first application , which included the construction of the footpath along the banks of the Afton to Pier Point and from there along to Nith Bridge was unsuccessful. Thankfully our friends at East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative with this part of the project as part of their fantastic path network they have created in the parish, and is now one of the best used paths in the village.

We restructured our funding applications and re-submitted them in November 2012 were delighted that these were approved by the Heritage Lottery Fund and by SCORE Environment on behalf of Barr Environmental Ltd through the Landfill Communities Fund. Since then we have received excellent support and advice from Catriona Macpherson at HLF and Mr. William Beattie at SCORE Environment.



Auld Kirk and Kirkyard

There were many reasons for preserving the Auld Kirk ruin (a designated Listed Building)  from a historical,  architectural or Christian heritage viewpoint. Of course it is this church that put the ‘New’ in New Cumnock, when in 1650 the parish of Cumnock was sub-divided into the two new parishes of Old Cumnock (served by the existing or ‘old’ church) and New Cumnock served by the ‘new’ church.

Auld Kirk Transformation Phase 1

Auld Kirk Transformation Phase 1

East Ayrshire Council Neighbourhood Service Department, under the guidance of Robert McCulloch and Brian Jones,  implemented a programme of work to prune back much of the overhanging ivy and self-seeded trees to reveal more of the ruin. Further analysis of the ruin led to a recommendation by EAC that the project engage the services of Wylie Shanks Architects, their appointed Conservation Architects, to firm up a detailed programme of work on the ruins and the five family lairs identified in the original project application.

Following discussions with HLF and SCORE Environment we were delighted that we were able to re-align some of the funds to re-erect four fallen headstones on which soldiers that fell in the Great War were remembered

WylieShankslogo Stephen Kerr and Wendy Corrigan of Wylie Shanks put together a comprehensive work plan for the ruin (removing the remaining vegetation from the gable ends, stabilising masonry and  lime re-pointing) and the family lairs and soldiers’ headstones. Tenders were duly issued and appraised and Stone Timber & Lime Conservation were offered and accepted the contract.

Prior to Stone TLC  beginning work,  volunteers gathered over several summer evenings to rake away the fallen ivy leaves (and fight off the midgies), pull out weeds and clear up any rubbish within the ruin.

Clean-up Session 1

Clean up continues

Clean up continues

StoneTimberLineLogoGraeme Frew and his team from Stone TLC arrived on site and began the next phase in the transformation of the ruin which included revealing the bell-tower for the first time in living memory.


Work on the family lairs began with cleaning and repairing headstones with that of the Arthur Family proving the most challenging, including making a  copy of the original ceremonial urn.


ayrshirememorialsTo re-erect fallen headstones the services of Ayrshire Memorials Ltd. were called upon. Russel Brooks and his team arrived with the impressive lifting gear to hoist the stones in preparation for securing to their newly dug foundations.


William Sloan

William Sloan

The project team are in discussion with East Ayrshire Council to carry out some further work in the Spring, including laying gravel chips at several of the family lairs and re-locating some of the fallen masonry within the kirk – perhaps creating a cairn to house a commemoration plaque of the work carried out.

Gravemarkers for the three Kirkyard Trails have been produced by Ayrshire Memorials and these will be set during the Spring too, when further training on cleaning headstones will also be delivered.

Andy Bell, Ian Howat and Ian Lyell

Andy Bell, Ian Howat and Ian Lyell at Mauchline Kirkyard

We may also take the opportunity to implement some of the ideas gleaned from the visit to meet with Mr Bell and Mr Lyell at the Mauchline Burns Club to witness the fantastic work carried out in Mauchline Kirkyard.

Auld Kirkyard Trails

Prior to the work carried out on the Auld Kirk ruin and the headstones, local community groups participated in

  • Discovery Trail

Project manager Bobby Guthrie selected 10 lairs in the kirkyard belonging to a cross-section of families with a range of occupations from throughout the parish. Class teacher Alison Smith set up a plan for P6 pupils of New Cumnock Primary School to discover the lairs and then record and share information with their classmates.

Altogether in the Auld Kirkyard

Altogether in the Auld Kirkyard


P6 at Burns Monument Centre – photo courtesy of BMC

Ross McGregor of Burns Monument Centre, Kilmarnock hosted a visit from the P6 class and introduced to them to a range of materials (e.g. archive records) and techniques (e.g. Scotland’s People on-line) to carry out further research on the families they were studying.

Bobby, provided some other information for the class to assist them in building a profile of the selected parishioners and later invited him to the school to interview him and ask questions to try and help fill any gaps!

  • Ministers and Soldiers Trails

Members of the New Cumnock Parish Church, New Cumnock History Club and New Cumnock Liaison Group tracked down the headstones of ministers and soldiers that are buried or remembered in the Auld Kirkyard and recorded the transcriptions.

Time Team

Time Team

Minister and Soldiers being researched at BMC

Ministers and Soldiers being researched at BMC

These groups too visited Burns Monument Centre to make use of the magnificent facilities and do further research to create a profile for the ministers and soldiered being studied/ During the visit they were shown the Ayr Presbytery Book by the archivist and in particular entries associated with the aforementioned Rev James Young, or ‘Jamie Goose’ as he is perhaps better known in the BMC!

Rev. Hew Craufurd - First Minister of New Cumnock

Rev. Hew Craufurd – First Minister of New Cumnock

The headstone of the Rev. James Millar was beyond repair and a memorial plaque was beyond prepared. Plaques were also prepared  for the Rev. Hew Craufurd and Rev. Matthew Kirkland, neither of whom were buried in the Auld Kirkyard.

Ayrshire Memorials made the plaque and Mr Russel Brooks kindly donated one to the project team.


Auld Kirkyard Trail Leaflets

The profiles created from the research will be used as the basis of Auld Kirkyard Trail leaflets.

MuseDesignLogoMuse Graphic Design were selected to do the design for all four sets of leaflets ( 3 x  Auld Kirkyard leaflets and Village Heritage Trail leaflet) and for the interpretation panels that make up the Village Heritage Trail.

The logo that designer Alan Buttar created for the project, which includes a symbol of the meeting of the Afton Water and River Nith was particularly popular with the team.

Muse Design will also design and develop an interactive application based on the school children’s research which will be hosted on the Future Museum’s web-site. This will be completed before the end of March 2o14.


This set of three Auld Kirkyard Trails will go to print early in the New Year. The leaflet for the Village Heritage Trail is still a work in progress.

Village Heritage Trail

A total of eight locations were identified throughout the village for the siting of interpretation panels with information and images that would help tell the story of new Cumnock.  Two other panels were located in convenient locations which include a trail map.

Marion Ferguson and Alan Edgar of East Ayrshire Council Planning Department along with Sandra Marshall provided guidance and support in the completion of the necessary planning permission.  Mr and Mrs James Hamilton of Afton Bridgend and Mr John Campbell of Glenafton Athletic Football Club kindly gave permission for panels to be erected at their properties . The New Cumnock Community Council also kindly fully supported the project.

Click on Logo to visit BSG's web-site

Border Signs Graphics manufactured and installed the panels.

One panel, which is to mounted on a small cairn, has yet to be installed.It is intend to erect the cairn early in the New Year.


Panel at the New Cumnock Railway Station with the Heritage Trail Map and a small parish map showing other points of interest.


Interpretation Panel at the Castle Green about the New Cumnock Mural and the Miners’ Memorial Lamp.

Closing Remarks

Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council, on behalf of the project partners thanked everyone for their contribution to the project

The Reverend Helen Cuthbert then invited school pupils to unveil a fantastic painting of the Auld Kirk and Kirkyard, the transformation having inspired local artist Julie Winter to put brush to canvas.




Guests retired to the Church Hall for a marvelous lunch with teas and coffees served by the friendly faces of the Church Guild.

Project Photographic Display


A static photographic display was also set up in the Church Hall for afternoon visitors, many thanks to Ciss McCreadie of East Ayrshire Council, Vibrant Communities and my wife Sheena for their assistance in setting it up.

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