Category Archives: Auld Kirk

Margaret Campbell Kirkland Collection


New Statistical Account and the Cameronian Vision (MCK)

I wish to offer my sincere thanks to Marion Gilliland for getting in touch through the New Cumnock Heritage Facebook to consider if I would be interested in a looking at collection of photos, documents etc. from New Cumnock’s past that she had inherited from her close and late friend Margaret Kirkland, Polmarlach, New Cumnock. Marion and her partner Jim Marshall, who both formerly lived in New Cumnock, welcomed me into their home at Mauchline and although still on a high after Glenafton’s victory in the Scottish Junior Cup Quarter-final the next 90 minutes were equally rewarding and I must admit the butterflies in the stomach were equally active!

Margaret was the daughter of Alexander Kirkland, Draper in New Cumnock and granddaughter of Thomas Kirkland and Margaret Lambie (Lammie). The Kirklands were one of the family’s that were researched as part of Auld Kirkyard Heritage Trails and it is fantastic to have some amazing photographs to put faces to the names.


Margaret Lambie and Thomas Kirkland (MCK)

That research revealed that Thomas’s grandfather, another Thomas had married Jean Peden who was born at Sorn in 1798, the daughter of Alexander Peden and Jean Smith.  This then begged the question could this family be descendants of Alexander Peden, the Prophet of the Covenant, who died in 1666 and is buried at Barrhill Cemetery, Cumnock ?


Jen Peden (MCK)

It is clear throughout the genealogy notes within Margaret Kirkland’s collection that there is a strong and long-held family tradition that this the case.

Indeed Jean Peden the great great grandmother of Margaret Campbell Kirkland is the great great grand niece of Alexander Peden

The Auld Kirkyard Trail account of the Kirklands can be found here –

D2: Thomas Kirkland

From my interest in Covenanters I have researched the connection between the Kirkland family through the Lammie (Lambie) family. Margaret Lambie was the grand-daughter of Maggie Lammie the mother of James Hyslop, poet and best remembered for his poem Cameronian Dream, composed in 1820 and honouring the loss of Richard Cameron, ‘Lion of the Covenant’ at the Battle of Airdsmoss on 22nd July 1680. My current article on James Hyslop can be found here.

This research can now be extended for within Margaret Kirkland’s collection is the manuscript of James Hyslop’s poem the Cameronian Vision, signed and dated by Hyslop at the Banks of Crawick, 3rd April 1825. This poem is another epic work and relates to the killing of Covenanter John Brown of Priesthill, Muirkirk by Graham of Claverhouse – Bluidy Clavers! This is a fantastic find and great addition to the history of the Covenanters, New Cumnock and Kirkconnel, home of James Hyslop.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In an unexpected twist, Marion then handed over another manuscript which carried the signature of a Kirkland, the Reverend Matthew Kirkland, minister of the parish of New Cumnock. This manuscript was in fact the New Statistical Account of the parish of New Cumnock compiled by the minister in November 1838. My hands were trembling by this time as the Reverend Kirkland has always been a bit of hero of mine. He left the established church at the Disruption of 1843 and was the first minister of the Free Church of New Cumnock, the one that pre-dated the Arthur Memorial Kirk. The Reverend Kirkland features in the Auld Kirkyard Trails and he article about him can be found here -.

M5: Reverend Matthew Kirkland

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is nothing to suggest the Reverend Kirkland (who was born is buried in Glasgow) is an immediate member of Margaret’s family although nothing would surprise me now. Margaret’s grandfather Alexander Kirkland was on the Free Church Committee and it is possible the New Statistical Account came into his possession through this connection.

It is hoped to get support to properly catalogue the Margaret Campbell Kirkland Collecttion and get professional digital copies of some of the documents and photographs.

I look forward to sharing some more of the collection in the future.

Thank you again to Marion and Jim for a memorable day.

Bobby Guthrie 19th March 2017

The Callan Family: Grocers and Engine-keepers

When strolling  through the Auld Kirkyard at New Cumnock take time to pay your respects to the Callan family. But what is their story?


10 DEC 1864 AGED 30 YEARS

This branch of the Callan family’s connection with New Cumnock began with John Callan and his wife Mary Hunter setting up home at Grieve Hill, the small miners’ row attached to the Mansfield Colliery. John, from Durisdeer, Dumfriesshire was the son of Archibald Callan, a lead-miner and Isabella Meggat. His wife Mary was the daughter of John Hunter, an agricultural labourer in Morton, Dumfriesshire and Isabella Somerville.

The family appear in the 1841 Census records as coal miner John and Mary at Grieve hill along with their six children – Archibald (b. 1823) and Tibby (b.1827), both born at Sanquhar, Dumfriesshire along with the New Cumnock born trio of John (b.1836), Mary (b.1838) and Jane (b.1840).


Mansfield Colliery with the small row of houses at Grieve hill.

Two years later following the great schism (‘The Disruption’) in the Church of Scotland many of the parishioners in New Cumnock left the Established Church to join the Free Church of Scotland.  John was a member of the Free Church committee that quickly set out to build a new church on the castle-hill, the foundation stone being laid on 29th August 1843.

By the time of the next census of 1851 John had established himself as a grocer based at the Castle. He was one of four grocers in New Cumnock listed in the Ayrshire Directory of that year, the others being Mrs.Brown, Castle along with William Aird and Hugh McKerrow both at Pathhead. Youngest son John (16) found work as a shoemaker’s apprentice while eldest son Archibald (27) remained at Grieve Hill working at the colliery on the hill as an engine keeper.

John Callan relocated his grocer’s to Mansfield Village and set up home at Pathhead where his bachelor son Archibald, returned to the family home, now working as a coal miner, presumably at the nearby Pathhead pits.

Meanwhile youngest son John had not only left the family home but had left New Cumnock and moved to the Newton and Wallacetoun district of Ayr (in the parish of St. Quivox) where he followed in the steps of his elder brother Archie and worked as an engine keeper at the nearby coal pits.


A: junction of George Street & Content Street B: Coal Pits and Tram Road

John lived at Content Street, on the north side of the River Ayr and in 1858 he married Carluke-born Margaret Robertson, dressmaker who lived at the High Street, south of the river. She was the daughter John Robertson, underground pit manager (possibly at the same pit at where John worked) and Janet Murray.

John and Margaret set up home at George Street, just round the corner from Content Street, where sons John (b.1859) and James Robertson (b.1861) were born. It is under this address which John Callan, engine-keeper appears in the Ayrshire Directory (1861). [N.B. in the 1861 census the family address in given as Youngs Land, parish of St. Quivox]. When third son Archibald is born the following year, the address is given as Whitletts, St.Quivox.

Soon after John returned to New Cumnock with his family during a time of significant developments in the New Cumnock coalfield. John Hyslop of Bank had formed the Bank Coal Company in 1860 and three years later he established a branch line from the major Glasgow & South Western Railway line to the Bank pits.


A: Junction at main G&SWR line (Glasgow- Dumfries), B: Bank House and coalfields. 1: Pathhead, 2: Mansfield, 3: Castle, 4: Connelburn

This line cut across the New Cumnock – Dalmellington road at Connelburn where it was necessary to set up gates and a level crossing as well as a gatehouse. It was here that John Callan, engine-keeper set up home and that his young wife Margaret probably managed the closing and opening of the gates.


Gatehouse at the level crossing of mineral railway to the Bank

Sadly, John was struck down by fever for several months before dying of dropsy at the age of 30 years old. His death certificate refers to the gatehouse as the Railway Cottage, while his headstone in the Auld Kirkyard at New Cumnock records the local name of Gatehouse, Connelburn.


The gatehouse would have stood behind the gate on the right.

Margaret (27) moved the family to Maryhill, Glasgow and lived with her sister Barbara Robertson, a grocer and provision merchant. Through time, and in Callan tradition, son John found employment as an engineer-turner and son Archibald entered the grocery trade; while middle son James worked as a clerk in the local gasworks.

Back at New Cumnock the Callan family moved to Pathbrae where John and son Archibald also owned and rented out some of the adjacent properties. In 1873 Mary passed away and was laid to rest in the family plot at the Auld Kirkyard. The following year 73 year old John married his housekeeper Margaret (57) and moves to nearby Pathhead, where the Callan family again own and rent out adjacent properties – son Archibald with a number in Polquheys Road.


1: Pathbrae 2: Polquheys Road

John passed away in 1886, aged 79 years and his name alongside that of and ‘Merchant, Pathhead’ is  carved on the family headstone. Archibald passed away at Polquheys Road, Pathhead in 1897 aged 73 years and rests along with his brother , father and mother in the Auld Kirkyard.  John Callan’s second wife, Margaret Patrick died in 1900, aged 81 years and presumably is buried in the Afton Cemetery.


Maps ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’

Gibson & Lees and Letters & Shoe Leather

Headstones off John Gibson and John Lees

Headstones of John Gibson and John Lees, Auld Kirk, New Cumnock

The headstones of John Gibson, John Lees and their families can be found in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock. Although, there is no information on either stone to suggest any connection between these two men, they raised their families in New Cumnock as work colleagues and friends.

John Gibson: The Early Years


Burns Street, Tarbolton and Tarbolton Church

John Gibson was born on 29th June 1855 at Tarbolton, Ayrshire the fifth child of William Gibson and Agnes Oliver. His father was an agricultural labourer and the family lived at 11 Burns Street a stone’s throw from Tarbolton kirk. As a 15 year old he began learning his trade as a shoemaker’s apprentice, living at Smithfield farm on the outskirts of the village.


Ordnance Survey Map (1896): Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

It is unclear when John moved to New Cumnock, however in 1881 he was residing as a boarder at Mains Avenue, New Cumnock working as rural letter carrier. Mains Avenue, now known as Castlemains Avenue, then comprised two semi-detached dwellings on the road from Afton Bridgend to Castlemains Farm. The letter ‘P’ can be seen at one of the dwellings in the Ordnance Survey map and this symbol was often used to indicate, amongst other things, ‘small-scale Post Office’. At that time Cumnock-born Mary Kerr was the post-mistress at the main Post Office in the Castle. A young widow, aged 35 years, she lived there with her two young children, both of whom had been born at Ontario, Canada.

In 1884, John Gibson married local girl Margaret Stewart McCartney. Her father John McCartney had moved to New Cumnock from Argyll and worked as an agricultural labourer at Merkland farm where he met and later married Janet Steele, daughter of the farmer Robert Steele and Flora Vass. John McCartney then moved from Merkland to the Castlehill (Stank Brae) and worked as a railway porter. The marriage was conducted by the Free Church minister George Anderson and the witnesses to the marriage were Margaret’s sister Flora and John Lees, a friend and colleague of John.

John Lees – The Early Years

John was born on 27th September 1863 the first child of James Lees, farm servant at Dalmaca Toll, Coylton and his wife Mary Brown. Siblings Euphemia and David were born before the family moved to New Cumnock to live at the Bank Cottage, where in 1869 , another sister Margaret was born.

The cottages stood at the road-end to the grand Bank House, home to William Hyslop, head of the New Bank Coal Company and his wife Margaret Gibson, who coincidentally had been born at Dalmaca Toll, some seven years before John Lees.

Bank Glen, New Cumnock

Bank Glen, New Cumnock

As the New Cumnock coal-field developed and the Bank Cottages had become part of the developing Bank Glen community the Lees family now lived in the Bank Glen row. James Lees  now laboured at the pit-head rather than on the land as a ploughman.  By 1881 the Lees family had grown to include children Jane, Andrew, James and William, while John, now aged 17 was working as a shoemaker’s apprentice, probably to shoemaker George Houston, who also resided at one of the Bank Cottages.


Ordnance Survey Map (1857): Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. B: Bank Cottages , S: Stepends

The Lees family moved to Stepends cottage, owned by the Bank estate, on the bank of the Connel Burn. To supplement his income from shoe-making John Lees had also taken to delivering the mail as a post runner .

Nether Linn

Nether Linn, Mansfield, New Cumnock

On 28th November 1890, John Lees married Elizabeth (Bessie) Milligan, daughter of Anthony Milligan and Jane Gemmell. Bessie had been born at Pathhead, New Cumnock before the family moved to Brandley farm near the Glendyne Burn, Sanquhar. The family returned to New Cumnock and lived at Linn (also known as Nether Linn) on the Mansfield estate where her father was coachman to the Stuart-Menteth family, baronets of Closeburn and Mansfield.  The couple were married at Linn farm and set up home at Pathhead.

Gibson & Lees Boot & Shoemakers

It’s difficult to say for certain when exactly John Gibson and John Lees entered into their business partnership. In 1891 both recorded the same occupation, more or less,  in the census of that year, Gibson a ‘rural postman & shoemaker’ and Lees a ‘rural letter carrier & postman and shoemaker. The combination of these two jobs was not uncommon in New Cumnock as witnessed by George Sanderson in “New Cumnock Far and Away” [1] through identifying George McKnight, John Stevenson and William Barbour as others that walked the length and breadth of the parish delivering the mail while no doubt wearing out their shoe-leather.


Ordnance Survey Map (1896): Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

In 1892 John Gibson was appointed post-master [2] and he, his wife Maggie and their three young children, William,  John and Jessie lived at the Castle, the main thoroughfare through the growing town.  The post-office (indicated by P.O. in the map above) was located a few hundred yards away on the opposite side of the road from the kirk-port, the entrance to the Auld Kirk and Kirkyard.


Thomas Kirkland’ shop with Post Office to the left

Thomas Kirkland’s Drapery.

Thomas Kirkland owned this building which housed the Kirkland home and drapery, the Post Office and  a bakery along with the home of John Wilson and his family, baker at that time.


In 1893 the name of Gibson & Lees appeared in the ‘Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Wigtownshire, and Kirkcudbrightshire Business Directory'[3] under the list of Boot and Shoe Makers –

  • Cowan, William,
  • Gibson Thomas
  • Gibson & Lees
  • Gordon, John
  • Logan, William

A few years later the name of John Currie had replaced that of William Cowan, while John Gibson was also listed as Bookseller & Stationer.

Tragedy struck the Gibson family in 1894 when John’s wife Maggie died of pneumonia at the young age of 31 years old, a month after the birth of their fourth child James. Sister-in-law Flora McCartney took over the task of house-keeper and her telegraphist skills honed when she had worked at the Railway Station would later be put to use in the Post Office.

New Cumnock to Newcumnock

On the subject of telegrams George Sanderson [2] relates how in 1902 –

‘there was a strong movement in the Post Office to have the official name of New Cumnock changed to Newcumnock. This it was claimed would avoid confusion with Cumnock and it was jocularly pointed out would save a coin every time a person was sending a telegram; one word instead of two and payment was a penny a word.’

post office henderson

Post Office, Henderson Building, Castle , New Cumnock

The following year the post office relocated along the road to the Henderson Buildings, owned by grocer James Henderson, where  eldest son William Gibson earned his crust as a telegraph clerk.  The Scottish Post Office Directory of 1903 [4] provided details of the post office at the Castle and the Bank.


Population, 1891, 4,419, and 1901 was 5,367, of which 2,005 are in the town.

  • Post, T. & M. O. O. & S. B. ; John Gibson, postmaster (Railway Sub-Office. Letters should have R.S.O. Ayrshire added to them). Deliveries, 6 a.m. & 4.45 & 7 p.m. ; dispatches, 9.20 a.m. & 1, 6.10 & 9.30 p.m. Office opened from 9 till 10 on Sundays for callers’ letters
  • Post, M. O., T., T. M. O., E. D. & P. P. Office, S. B. & Annuity & Insurance Office, Bank ; James Shankland, sub- postmaster. (Letters should have ” New Cumnock R.S.O. Ayrshire ” added to them.). Dispatches, 12.20 & 7.55 p.m.

Bank Post Office ‘For : Money Order Savings Bank, Parcel Post & Telegraph and Insurance and Annuity Business’

The post-office at the Bank was set up in one of the Bank Cottages, where the Lees family had lived. Sub-postmaster James Shankland and his family lived at Stepends (where the Lees family had also once resided) including his daughter Grace, a telegraphist and young son James, a telegraph message boy.

The Directory also recorded John Gibson as a “stationer and china dealer” and a close look at the post office shop window in the Henderson buildings (above) reveals a fine display of fine china; while Gibson & Lees were still one of the established  boot-makers in the town.

Postcards were popular means of communication

Postcards were popular means of communication and many were published by John Gibson

John Lees and his wife Bessie were still living at Pathhead at this time. Their daughter Jane had died in infancy in 1894 and since then the family had grown to six with four children Mary, Anthony, James and John.

Sadly John Gibson’s health deteriorated and his sister-in-law Flora McCartney took up the position of postmistress and in February 1905, he passed away at his home in the Castle, aged 49 years old. George Sanderson [1] gives a brief insight into his social life in the town –

“like other merchants his ‘free time’ was taken up by community life: amateur dramatics, his own choral association, member of the band and held all the posts at the bowling green. On his death the post office was employing 12 persons full time”.

On 21st March 1905 the Co-partnership of Gibson and Lees was dissolved and the following ‘Notice of Dissolution’ appeared in the Edinburgh Gazette, 20th June 1905 [5]

‘The subscriber Mr John Lees will carry on the Business in his own name, and has arranged with the Trustees of the late Mr. Gibson to pay all debts due by, and collect all outstanding accounts due to, the late Firm.’

  • William Young, Solicitor, New Cumnock witness
  • Bella Dick, Saleswoman, New Cumnock, witness
  • FLORA McCARTNEY and JAMES MOODIE Executors of late Mr Gibson
  • James McFarlane, Flesher, New Cumnock, witness
  • James Henderson, Merchant, New Cumnock, witness

New Cumnock , 13th June 1905.

Gibson Family

Flora McCartney, was appointed legal guardian of her Gibson nephews and nieces and continued in the role of postmistress at the Castle for a period before William Gibson eventually followed in his father’s foot steps as post master in New Cumnock.

William Gibson (postcard)

William Gibson (postcard)

William later lived at Afton Place, between the mill cottages and the bridge over the Afton, next to the premises of William Aird, joiner who in 1915 married Flora McCartney.

Afton Place

‘Afton Place’ and Mataura, New Cumnock

Lees Family

Following the dissolution of the Gibson & Lees business John Lees continued to serve as a postman and established a shoe shop at the Castle in a building owned by draper Alexander Gold.  In the postcard below the Gold building is on the bottom right and at that time housed three shops – James Tweedie, hairdresser (the traditional striped pole can be seen above the barber’s shop entrance), John Lees, shoemaker in the middle and Anderson & Gold, drapers at the near side. The three storey building at the top of the hill is the Henderson building that housed the post office.


Tweedie (Barber), Lees (shoes) and Anderson & Gold (draper)

By this time Lees family had moved from Pathhead to live in the Castle and named their house ‘Glendyne’, in honour no doubt of Glendyne Burn, Sanquhar where Bessie Lees (nee Milligan) had lived as a youngster.



 In 1923 John Lees, aged 60, retired as a postman and as a civil servant having served 25 years at the time of his retirement was recognised with the award of the Imperial Service Medal, courtesy of King George V. The occasion recorded in the London Gazette [6]

Whitehall, 2nd November 1923

His Majesty the KING has been pleased to award the Imperial Service Medal to the following Officers –

  • Lees, John, Postman, New Cumnock, Sub-Office, Cumnock

George Sanderson [2] gives a flavour of the miles covered and the shoe-leather worn by letter-carrier and shoe-maker John Lees –

‘it was estimated he covered a quarter of a million miles. That included twice a week to Barbreck in New Cumnock but getting close to Muirkirk. His return journey was no light hearted affairs, householders on his route were allowed to hand him letters or parcels for posting, up to seven pounds in weight.’

John continued to work in his shoe shop, the building now owned by John Trotter, draper who had also replaced Anderson & Gold in the shop next door. It was now John Lees & Son, with eldest son Anthony Milligan Lees following in his father’s footsteps;  Anthony living at Mataura Villa a next door neighbour of William Gibson in Afton Place – Gibson & Lees together again!

Sadly, Anthony died as a young man, aged 35 years in 1930 and his mother Bessie passed away four years later aged 70 years old. In 1948, John Lees passed away peacefully at home in ‘Glendyne’ at the grand old age of 84 years.

The family business passed to son John and ‘John Lees & Son’ shoe shop continued to operate from the Trotters Building with Peter Turnbull, barber and John Trotter, draper as neighbours.


John Lees shutting up shop


Returning full circle to the Auld Kirkyard with Billy Lees, grandson of John Lees ‘rural letter-carrier and shoemaker’ helping to clear up the kirkyard as part of the Auld Kirk and Village Heritage Trail project’.

Billy Lees at the Auld Kirk

Billy Lees at the Auld Kirk


  • [1] George Sanderson ‘New Cumnock Far and Away’
  • [2] George Sanderson ‘New Cumnock Long Ago and Faraway’
  • [3] Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Wigtownshire, and Kirkcudbrightshire Business Directory (1893)
  • [4] Scottish Post Office Directory (1903)
  • [5] Edinburgh Gazette, 20th June 1905
  • [6] London Gazette, 9th November 1923

Scotland’s People

National Library of Scotland

Mansfield and Pathhead Collieries and the Auld Kirkyard

ROBERT KERR (1803-1864), Mansfield Colliery

Robert Kerr was born in 1803 at Sanquhar the son of James Kerr (coal-agent) and Mary Milligan. He married Elizabeth Barrie and together they had four sons and two daughters, all born in Kirkconnel, where Robert worked as a coal banker (1841 Ancestry Census).

Kind permission of National Library of Scotland (Ordnance Survey 1843-1882)

Kind permission of National Library of Scotland (Ordnance Survey 1843-1882)

By 1851, Robert is the manager at Mansfield coalworks in New Cumnock and the family living at Mansfield Colliery. Two of his sons also worked at the colliery, John as a coal salesman and Robert as the engine-keeper. The colliery was on Grieve hill on Mansfield estate, owned at that time by Sir James Stuart-Menteth, Baronet of Closeburn and Mansfield.

In 1858, Robert Kerr entered into a partnership with James Gray of the neighbouring Pathhead Colliery, to operate the collieries and limeworks operated by the Stuart-Menteth family.

As the coal-master Robert, lived in the small miners’ row on Grieve hill adjacent to the colliery, along with his wife Elizabeth,  son Samuel (engineer) and daughter Mary (house maid).  Robert died here, in 1864, aged 62 years. He is buried in the Auld Kirkyard of New Cumnock alongside his wife Elizabeth and sons Robert, Samuel.

 coalmaster:RobertKerrHis Son died 6th March
1857 aged 22 years
Also the above
Who died at Mansfield Colliery
11th March 1864 aged 62 years
Who died 29th January 1870
Aged 29 years
His Son JAMES KERR who died
At Kirkconnel 29th November
1882 aged 55 years
Who died at Kirkconnel 5th January 1890
Aged 86 years

ARCHIBALD GRAY (1791-1857), Pathhead Colliery

Archibald Gray was born in Parkhead, Glasgow the son of a coal-miner and like his father he would later work in the mines. He married Jean Robertson and together they had a large family . At aged 50 years old he was working in the pits at Rutherglen and 10 years later in 1851, he had progressed to be the coal-master at Drakemire in Dalry, Ayrshire. Here he established Archibald Gray and Company to operate mines at Court Hill, Dalry and Pathhead, New Cumnock.

Pathhead Colliery  (Courtesy of National Library of Scotland)

Pathhead Colliery (Courtesy of National Library of Scotland)

In 1856, Pathhead Colliery was valued at £260 and was the largest undertaking in the district . One of the pits was situatedon the banks of Muirfoot Burn which effectively marked the boundary between Pathhead to west and Mansfield village to the east.

The following year Archibald Gray died at the family home in Dalry and he is buried at Tollcross cemetery, Glasgow. One of his sons, also Archibald, made his name as the manager at Glengarnock Iron Works, Kilbirnie.

JAMES GRAY (1823-1904), Pathhead Colliery

Archibald’s son James Gray moved from Dalry to manage the Pathhead Colliery. He and his wife Margaret Galloway set up home at Pathbrae  leading down to the Mansfield Road where in 1855 the first of their New Cumnock born children arrived.

James entered into partnership in 1858 with  Robert Kerr (see above) to work the collieries and lime works of the Stuart-Menteth family, until the partnership dissolved following Kerr’s death six years later.

Pathhead Colliery and Oil Works (Courtesy National Library of Scotland)

Pathhead Colliery and Oil Works (Courtesy National Library of Scotland)

James Gray continued to develop the coal reserves on the Cumnock side of Pathhead, below Rottenyard farm and established a branch line to the main Glasgow and South Western Railway.

Pathhead Colliery (Courtesy of National Library of Scotland)

Pathhead Colliery (Courtesy of National Library of Scotland)

Around 1866 an Oil Works was established by Messrs Brown and Co adjacent to Patthead Colliery (  to extract shale oil from the rich seam of cannel coal at Pathhead. However this appears to have been a short-lived enterprise and the plant abandoned.

Riverside House, Lugar Street, Cumnock

Riverside House, Lugar Street, Cumnock

James established a new family home at Riverside House, on the banks of the Lugar Water, at 1 Lugar Street, Cumnock.  The Gray family is found there in the Census Records from 1881 through to 1901;  including son James (pit clerk) and Archibald (colliery manager).

In his retirement James served on the School Board of New Cumnock and a Justice of the Peace in Cumnock. Five of his children had died in their early years and are buried in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock.


James Gray’s children , headstone at Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock

James Gray died at Cumnock in 1904, aged 81 in lies in Cumnock Cemetery alongside his wife Margaret and some of their children.


The Pathhead Colliery was acquired by the Polquhairn Coal Company (who also operated a colliery at Coylton) the following year and was abandoned some 20 years later.

New Cumnock Primary School Presentation

New Cumnock Primary School Presentation

It was a great pleasure to hand over an Ipad containing the interactive New Cumnock Auld Kirkyard and Village Heritage Trail application to Mary Smith , Head Teacher at New Cumnock Primary School and a number of the pupils that participated in the project.

New Cumnock Primary School Presentation

New Cumnock Primary School Presentation

To make the day extra-special Neil Harris and his partner Viv from Australia paid a visit to thank the school for the work they had carried out in the Auld Kirkyard and their research into Neil’s great great great great grandfather Ivie Campbell of Dalgig and present them with gifts from Australia. They also kindly presented the School and Bobby Guthrie with a copy of their family history book ‘The Rowan Family” – Ivie Campbell’s daughter Thomina  Campbell married Alexander Rowan and six of their seven children emigrated to Australia.

The children had loads of questions about Australia with wildlife top of their lists. Kangaroos, koalas, snakes and scary spiders. Young Euan (middle, back row) and I took the opportunity to tell our Australian visitos about the deadly Scottish midgies that tried to devour us when clearing up the ivy leaves from the Auld Kirkyard!

Neil and Vic hand over gifts to grateful pupils

Neil and Viv hand over gifts to grateful pupils

The children gave a traditional warm Scottish welcome to their guests with a fantastic accordion solos, an elegant and energetic dancing display of ‘The Gay Gordons’ and perfect rendition by the choir of Robert Burns ‘The Diel’s Awa’ with the Exciseman”.

Goodbye wave

A Goodbye wave from New Cumnock Primary School

New Cumnock Auld Kirk and Village Heritage Trail Interactive Application

The application has been developed for use on an Ipad with designed by Muse Design.

From the opening screen the user can choose to

  • visit the New Cumnock Timelineor
  • take the Discovery Quiz
Opening Screen

Opening Screen

New Cumnock Timeline

interactive Timeline

Interactive Timeline

The Interactive Timeline has ‘lollipops’ and the user can scroll back and forth  along the timeline. the a person of their interest. The lollipops are colour coded

  • Orange: Ministers
  • Magenta: Discovery – 10 families studied by New Cumnock Primary School
  • Green:  Soldiers
  • Blue – New Cumnock History – text boxes of key events of that year


  • Clicking on the lollipop brings up the Minister selected with a photo of the headstone and supporting text.


  • Scroll to the right for more text and the inscription on the headstone.


  • Clicking on the headstone enlarges the size of the image.



  • Clicking on the lollipop brings up the Minister selected with a photo of the headstone and supporting text.


  • Scroll to the right for more text and the inscription on the headstone.


  • Clicking on the headstone enlarges the size of the image.



  • The Discovery Trail includes 10 family lairs and there is a timeline lollipop for each member of the family selected. The family members appear in order of ‘oldest’ to ‘youngest’ from top to bottom.


  • Any member of the family can be selected by clicking on the small circles on the right


  • Any member of the family can be selected by clicking on the small circles on the right


  • The bottom screen contains a series of images and scrolling to the right gives the headstone inscriptions


  • Clicking on the image enlarges the size of the image.



Over 80 questions on Ministers, Soldiers and Discovery Trail have been prepared. The Quiz, against the clock, consists of 10 questions randomly selected and can be taken time and again, with a fresh set of 10 questions.


Auld Kirkyard Ribbon Cutting


Auld Kirkyard , Castlehill

Auld Kirkyard , Castlehill

Members of the ‘Improving New Cumnock group’ marked the completion of the work carried out in the Auld Kirkyard and Village Heritage Trail with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Auld Kirkyard gates on Sunday.

Project Leader Bobby Guthrie led the vote of thanks to those that had come along and those engaged in the project including our young citizens from New Cumnock Primary School and those ‘young at heart’ from Improving New Cumnock, New Cumnock History Club and New Cumnock Parish Church. He also expressed the team’s gratitude to the project funders – The Heritage Lottery Fund, Barr Environmental Ltd and East Ayrshire Council and then celebrated the project’s achievements –

We have preserved the ruin of the Auld Kirk which was built as a new church in 1659 and is responsible for putting the ‘new’ in New Cumnock. We have restored and cleaned many headstones, including several remembering fallen soldiers from the Great War, we have added several memorial plaques and we have replaced the kirkyard gates. We have also built a heritage trail with 10 information panels at places of interest throughout the village and produced Village Heritage Trail and Auld Kirkyard Trail Leaflets. ’

Rev Helen Cuthbert

Rev Helen Cuthbert

The Reverend Helen Cuthbert then led a short service at the Auld Kirkyard gates, including reading an excellent poem she had composed to mark the event, before with the support of Ian Howat, Chair of Improving New Cumnock, cut the ceremonial ribbon.

Auld Kirk and Kirkyard

Auld Kirk and Kirkyard

Auld Kirkyard Names, Stanes and Stories

Murray, Hunter, Dick and McKnight,
A’ guid New Cumnock names , that’s right,
A’ buried here aneath these stanes,
That we’ve scoored oot wi’ muckle pains,
But pains well worth the time and treasure
For what lies here is beyond measure.

Dear stanes: some clear and ithers faded,
By win’, rain, time their words degraded,
Some staunin’ stracht like sodgers ranked,
Some bo’ed like ‘aul yins’ frail and lank.
A wheen o’ life-times markit here,
Some quate, some causin’ sic a steer,
But a’ to daith and dust surrendered,
A’ noo’ time’s rollin’ stream has ended.

So whit dae mean? Ah hear ye say,
Whit guid are these stanes in oor day?
Well, michty me, dae ye no’ ken?
They tell our story – now and then,
Fur there’s still sodgers in oor toon,
Teachers, grocers, e’en fermers wannerin’ roon,
There’s still we bairnies, an’ aul’ men,
Mithers, faimlies, but noo’ adays less than ten.
An’ there’s still a Kirk –lies just o’er there,
Though its roof’s in slightly better repair,
Ministers tae are in the land o’ the leevin’
An’ some o’thaim are even – weemin!
New Cumnock’s story goes oan and we’re proud tae tell it,
Wi’ the help of these stanes, oor history to interpret.
So thanks to all those who for this day have strivvin’
Tis Heritage Trail I open wi’ the cuttin’ o’ this ribbon.

Rev Helen Cuthbert and Ian Howat

Rev Helen Cuthbert and Ian Howat

Thank you.

Afton Hotel and the Auld Kirkyard

I. ANDREW GIBSON (1793-?):  Surgeon

Andrew Gibson, surgeon, was one of seven professional persons in New Cumnock listed in the Ayrshire Directory of 1837, the others being the school master, four teachers and a physician.

afton hotel


Andrew lived with his wife Ann Kennedy at Nithbridgend, a large house that stood at the Nith Bridge, opposite to the entrance of the Railway Station.

His eldest son William Kennedy Gibson was a druggist master and his son Andrew Gibson began his working life as a railway clerk at New Cumnock before moving to Glasgow as a shipping clerk. He and his family moved to Belfast where he worked as an agent for the Cunard Steamship Company. A great collector of books and he later became the Governor of the Linenhall Library, renowned for its collections of the works of Robert Burns.

Andrew Gibson, surgeon

Andrew Gibson, surgeon

A small headstone was erected by ‘Andrew Gibson, surgeon’ in memory of his children Jean and Margaret.

On the rear of the stone are found the initials A.K. and H.C. , presumably those of his wife’s parents, namely Alex Kennedy and Helen Currie.

Sadly the stone has since been fractured and it can only be assumed that Andrew Gibson and his wife Ann Kennedy were later buried in this lair.

The Kennedy family lair lies adjacent to this stone.

II. ANDREW GIBSON (1825- 1879):  Grocer & Spirit Dealer

Andrew Gibson, the third son of the surgeon,  was born on 10th July 1825 at Nith Bridgend. As a young man he moved away from the parish and in 1853 he married Margaret Brown of Langholm and it was here in the same year that daughter Grace was born.  The family returned briefly to New Cumnock where daughter Annie (1855) was born.  Back on their travels Andrew later worked as a grocer in  Coylton, and it was here that daughter Margaret (1857) was born.


Craigbank : Courtesy of National Library of Scotland











The family returned to New Cumnock where by 1861 Andrew had established himself as a grocer and spirit dealer in the miners rows at Craigbank, on the Front Row. Here sons Andrew (1862), John (1864) and William (1867) were born along with two more daughters Ann (1870) and Agnes (1871).

Gibson Family Lairs

Gibson Family Lairs

His wife Margaret passed away in 1877 and Andrew two years later. They lie together in the Auld Kirkyard with daughter Annie, son William and grandson Andrew. In the adjacent plot lies son John, daughter Grace and aunt Margaret Brown who worked as a barmaid in the Gibson’s public house at Craigbank.

Daughter Margaret Gibson married William Hyslop, Laird of Afton and Bank, the driving force of New Cumnock Collieries Limited and landlord of the miners rows at Craigbank.  Both of them lie together in Hyslop Lair in the Auld Kirkyard.

HUGH ROSS (1855-1899) :  Grocer & Spirit Dealer

In the 1881 census we find Hugh Ross, the son of a farmer from Wallaceton, Auchinleck living in lodgings at the Bank Glen Cottage and working as a grocer and provision merchant. Meanwhile at 59 Front Row, Craigbank is spirit merchant William Lind and his wife Marion along with their children, including Agnes Robertson , Marion’s daughter from her first marriage to the late Robert Robertson.

Afton Hotel and Nith Bridge

Afton Hotel and Nith Bridge

The following year Hugh Ross married Agnes Robertson and and was now living at Craigbank, the tenant of the properties ( house, shop and public house) owned by the Trustees of Andrew Gibson.

The Trustees of Andrew Gibson also owned the Gibson Nith Bridgend properties with the house now licensed as a hotel known as the Afton Hotel and next door lodgings  Although the hotel sat at the Nith bridge, the name Afton and its association with Robert Burns was a stronger marketing brand. In 1885 the Valuation Rolls, record that John Ross is the tenant (presumably a relative of Hugh Ross) although four years later when it was put up for sale, Hugh Ross is identified as the occupier.


The Afton Hotel, New Cumnock belonging to the Trust Estate of the late Mr Andrew Gibson and as presently occupied by Hugh Ross . The House has long been licensed, and is well situated, being near the Railway Station. The property is held on a 99 years lease which expires on Whitsunday 1930. Tack-duty 13s 6d. Entry at Whitsunday first. For further particulars apply to A. Brakenridge, Solicitor, Cumnock who will receive offers up to Saturday, 9th March. The Highest or any Offer, may not be accepted. Cumnock, 25th February 1889.

Courtesy of Glasgow Herald, Friday 1st March, 1889

In March 1890, Hugh Ross’s young wife Agnes passed away and in the Census of the following year he is at Craigbank with his young children Elizabeth (6), William (5), step-daughter Minnie Robertson (12) along with sister-in-law Margaret Lind (19)

In 1895 Hugh Ross married Margaret Hastie in the Royal Hotel, Kilmarnock. He was now the proprietor of the former Gibson properties both at Craigbank, (where he lived with his family) and the Afton Hotel where William Lind (his father-in-law) was now the tenant.

Hugh and Margaret’s first born, a son Hugh died in infancy in 1896 and another son James was born two years later. Archibald was born in early October 1899, only for Hugh to die of double pneumonia before the end of the month.

Margaret and her two sons moved to Cathcart, Glasgow, she passed away in 1916, aged 50 years. Archibald served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers in the Great War and in 1918, at the age of 19 he died of pneumonia in the Victoria Infirmary, Glasgow.

Ross Family Lair

Ross Family Lair

The Ross family plot lies against the far wall of the Auld Kirkyard with the original grand sandstone headstone now badly weathered and which has since been replaced with a new stone on the left. Hugh, his two spouses Agnes and Margaret and children Hugh, Elizabeth and Archibald all are remembered on the stone. To the right stands the war grave of Private Archibald Ross.

JOHN  LOCKHART (1837-1890) Hotel-keeper


Obelisk to John Lockhart , Afton Hotel

When the Afton Hotel went on the market in 1889, it’s not clear if any offers were accepted at that time, although by 1895 Hugh Ross was the proprietor.

In 1890, John Lockhart was the hotel-keeper at the Afton Hotel. Originally a journey man stone mason from Lesmahagow he married Helen Wilson in 1856, a dairy maid from Benston, Dalrymple.

The family spent many years in Perthshire and Stirlingshire with John now working as a gamekeeper. It’s not known exactly when the Lockharts arrived in New Cumnock either as owners and / or tenants of the Afton Hotel, but John died in September 1890 whilst hotel-keeper there.


Lockhart_AftonHotel03In the census of the following year Helen Lockhart, hotel-keeper and her daughters  Jane (27) and Ness (26) – a school teacher -are living at the hotel. A son David died at Dalrymple that year and three years later Jane passed away. By 1901, Helen Lockhart is living in Eastwood.

WILLIAM LIND (1846- 1920) : grocer, spirit-merchant, hotel keeper

As discussed above, in 1895 William Lind (father-in-law of Hugh Ross), was tenant and hotel keeper at the Afton Hotel. William was born in 1846 at West Calder and as young man worked as a grocer’s assistant to his brother John, before running his own shop in the village and then in the 1880s’ moving to Craigbank.

Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

In the 1901 Census William (54), now a widower and his children Marion (32), Isabella (31), Janet (25), Robert (21) and several grandchildren are resident in the Afton Hotel.  He later married Janet Millar and was proprietor and tenant of the Afton Hotel until his death in 1920, aged 75 years.

Afton Hotel: Photo courtesy of Donald McIver

Afton Hotel: Photo courtesy of Donald McIver

The Afton Hotel remained in the hands of the Lind family for many years . Sadly soon after it changed hands it was consumed by fire in January 1963 and so badly damaged that it had to be demolished.


‘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.

New Beginnings at the Auld Kirk


aa_HLF_auldkirk01Things are moving along at a great pace in the Auld Kirk.

  • Vegetation has been removed from the ruin to reveal parts of the Auld Kirk that have never been seen for generations.
  • The next phase includes essential masonry repairs to part of the ruins.
  • Followed by a programme of lime pointing



Work has started on cleaning and repairing some of the headstones

Reverend Thomas Hunter

The lair of the Reverend Thomas Hunter and his family lies against the Auld Kirk walls. He served the parish for 50 years and died in 1760, aged 95 years.  His first spouse Christian Ker lies and son Joseph lie buried here too.



A number of the family headstones which remember their sons fallen in the Great War required to re-set in new foundations.  Local firm Ayrshire Memorials from Auchinleck came to the rescue with an amazing piece of kit that could lift the fallen stones, some weighing 1.5 – 2 tonnes.


  • Ayrshire Memorials at work


New foundations with securing pins now in place.

Of course on occasions the Auld Kirkyard doesn’t only allow us ‘to walk in the footsteps of  our ancestors’ it delivers some wonderful sunsets.



Uncovering our parish roots

StoneTimberLineLogoStone, Timber & Lime Conservation are have started the work on preserving the ruins of the Auld Kirk.

  • Removing the roots of the ivy is beginning to reveal parts of the kirk that haven’t been seen for many years.

BTJbKqCIcAAW6SB.jpg large

  • The east entrance to the old kirk with the window revealed and the top of the bell tower.


  • Stone TLC tell us this is a good example of a traditional harl finish, a technique for providing a weather-proof finish. The lime deposits in New Cumnock at both Benston and Mansfield were known its property of being able to bind under water, and used in bridge building.

BTQDv-DIgAA1HJc.jpg large



All photos courtesy of Stone TLC