Category Archives: New Cumnock

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

Andrew Gibson – Burns, Lapraik and the Irish Football Association

Howard Gibson from Victoria, Australia a descendant of Andrew Gibson ( surgeon in New Cumnock ) recently visited the Auld Kirkyard at New Cumnock and I had the pleasure of joining him in seeking out some of his ancestors family lairs.

  • See a previous blog on the Gibson family here


Howard also visited Burns Monument Centre (BMC) , Kilmarnock to continue his family research where he unearthed a connection with a family of the name Lapraik. This name of course rang bells with the staff at BMC, and a possible connection with John Lapraik, poet friend of Robert Burns and subject of three epistles by the bard.

The research that followed was not to disappoint!


  • John Lapraik (1727-1807)

John Lapraik was born at Laigh Dalfram in the parish of Muirkirk, Ayrshire a few miles west of the village. A man of considerable means he later fell on hard times and was all but ruined by the financial crisis of 1772 with the collapse of the Ayr Bank . Six years later he was struggling to pay his creditors, including ‘George Crawford of Brochloch’  (N.B. this may be Brochloch, New Cumnock) and three years later was in ruin following the collapse of the Ayr Bank. Lapraik spent some time in debtor’s prison before returning to Muirkirk where he leased the land and mill of Muirsmill, near Nether Wellwood.

John Lapraik was also a keen poet and some of his work became known to Robert Burns. The two poets struck up a friendship, meeting first at Mauchline and the bard then visiting his acquaintance at Muirsmill.

In the ‘Poets of Ayrshire'(1910) editor John McIntosh writes –

“these meetings, together with the success of Burns’s Kilmarnock volume, doubtless had a good deal to do with stimulating Lapraik to continue writing verse; indeed he professes that it never occurred to him to trouble the world with his ‘dull, insipid, thowless, rhyme‘.”

‘Till Burns’s muse, wi’ friendly blast
First tooted up his fame,
And sounded loud through a’ the wast,
His lang forgotten name.

Copyright Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Lapraik Cairn – Copyright Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

  •  A cairn to the memory of John Lapraik

The on-line Burns Encyclopedia entry for John Lapraik, puts the Murikirk bard’s poetic skills to one side and celebrates

Lapraik’s real importance, however, is that his friendship with Burns stimulated the poet to write two of his best verse epistles to Lapraik. The first, dated 1st April 1785, follows the usual pattern of the 18th Century verse epistle form — a scene setting followed by a bouquet of fulsome compliment to the recipient, the main matter of the epistle, then a concluding section celebrating the pleasures of friendship and conviviality.

In the ‘First Epistle to John Lapraik‘, Burns sets out his poetic creed

“I am nae poet, in a sense,
But just a rhymer, like, by chance,
An’ hae to learning nae pretence;
Yet, what the matter?
Whene’er my muse does on me glance,
I jingle at her…
“Gie me ae spark o’ Nature’s fire,
That’s a’ the learning I desire;
Then, tho’ I drudge thro’ dub an’ mire
At pleugh or cart,
My muse, tho’ hamely in attire,
May touch my heart.”

A further two epistles to John Lapraik were penned by Burns, the Second (21st April 1785) and the Third  (13th September 1785).

John Lapraik married Margaret Rankin of Adambhill, Tarbolton and sadly she died giving birth to their fifth child. A few years later John married Janet Anderson from the nearby farm of Lightshaw and together they had nine of a family. John Lapraik died in 1807, aged 80 years, and lies buried in the kirkyard at Kirkgreen, Muirkirk.

  • Thomas Lapraik (1771- )

Thomas Lapraik was born at Dalfram in 1771 and was the fourth child of John Lapraik and Janet Anderson.  He was the shepherd on the farm and married Elizabeth Hood and it is through their daughter Janet that emerges the Lapraik connection to New Cumnock and the Gibson family.

  • Janet Lapraik (1810-1901)

Janet was born on 24th May 1810 at Coltburn, Muirkirk (Colt Burn is a small tributary of the Garpel Burn). In 1841, Janet is working at Polquhirter , New Cumnock at the farm of William McTurk and Margaret Arthur ( sister of the Arthur brothers of Wellhill).

Also living at Polquhirter was agricultural labourer David Murdoch .  The two marry and together have two children. However by 1851, Janet is widowed and living at Liggate, New Cumnock with her son John (5) and daughter Elizabeth (3) and her mother Elizabeth, now in her eighties. In 1864, Janet Murdoch (nee Lapraik) marries William Kennedy Gibson, a druggist in New Cumnock.

  • William Kennedy Gibson (1820-1870)

William Kennedy Gibson was born in New Cumnock the eldest son of Andrew Gibson , surgeon and Ann Kennedy, probably at Nith Bridgend in the house that later became the Afton Hotel. ( See blog entry Afton Hotel and the Auld Kirkyard).

afton hotel

As a young man he worked as an agricultural labourer at Merkland, New Cumnock farmed by Andrew Black, who had previously lived at Mossback near High Polquheys where Andrew and his wife Isabella Wood raised their family of daughters – Elizabeth (1816), Jean Gibson (1819) and Janet Campbell (1820) .

Ruins of the well-named Mossback with High Polquheys in the distance

Ruins of the well-named Mossback with High Polquheys in the distance

The Black family moved to Merkland overlooking the River Nith and here in the 1841 Census Records we find widow Isabella and her daughters Jean , Janet and Christian (1826) and farm labourer 20 year old William Gibson.

Merkland Farm and River Nith, New Cumnock

Merkland Farm and River Nith, New Cumnock

William married Janet Black (by coincidence their names appear in the same page of the baptismal register of the parish church of New Cumnock, 1820 ) and together they had seven children – Andrew (1841) , Isabella (1843), Peter (1846), Michael (1849), Ann (1850), Ann Kennedy (1851) and Willimina (1854). The family had settled at Pathhead where William earned a living as a general labourer, grocer and later a wood forester.

His wife Janet died of tuberculosis in 1859, aged 37 years and was buried in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock presumably alongside her father Andrew Black. Janet’s mother Isabella  died 10 years later at the grand old age of 95 years and lies in the Black family lair.

A widower of five years William Gibson married Janet Lapraik, the widow of David Murdoch,  at the Free Church, New Cumnock on 26th April 1864, but sadly six years later he passed away. There is no record of his burial in the Auld Kirkyard, but he probably lies in the Gibson / Black plot alongside his first wife Janet Black .

Gibson lair (erect stone) and Black lair (flat stone) Courtesy of Howard Gibson.

Gibson lair (erect stone) and Black lair (flat stone) Courtesy of Howard Gibson.

Janet Lapraik, now a widow for the second time,  and her daughter Elizabeth Murdoch lived at Castle, New Cumnock and worked as dressmakers for many years in the town. Janet died at her home in New Cumnock, aged 90 years,  on 27th February 1901 and her daughter Elizabeth passed away four years later, aged 57 years Ayr District Asylum, Ayr.

Janet, the grand-daughter of John Lapraik, friend of Robert Burns, is buried in the Auld Kirkyard alongside her first husband David Murdoch and their daughter Elizabeth. Here too lies her mother Elizabeth Hood, who died aged 88 years, and a niece Georgina Lapraik, aged 6 years. Sadly, the headstone, rests recumbent within the ruins of the Auld Kirk.

Resting place of Janet Lapraik (foreground)

Resting place of Janet Lapraik (foreground)

However, the connection with Robert Burns, does not end there.


  •  Andrew Gibson (1841-1931)

Andrew Gibson, the eldest son of William Gibson and Janet Black, was 18 years old in 1859 when his mother died. He and a younger brother Peter worked as clerks at the nearby railway station and lived with their grandmother Isabella Black at Pathhead, next door to their widowed father and three sisters.


Afton Buildings on left at entrance to Railway station, New Cumnock

Andrew eventually moved to Glasgow (although it is unclear if he did so before 1864 when his father married Janet Murdoch nee Lapraik) to work as a shipping clerk for G. & J. Burns , pioneers in providing steamer  services between Scotland and Ireland, at their Jamaica Street office in the city. He lived in lodgings at Nicholson Street in the Gorbals at the home of Duncan Brown and his wife Margaret and in 1869 he married the daughter of the house Mary Brown. The couple set up home in nearby Langside Road and together the couple had five children Margaret (1871), Jessie (1872), Annie (1875) , William (1876) and Duncan (1879).

Andrew progressed in the company and in the late 1880’s he moved to Belfast as a steamship agent for the G. & J. Burns . Neal Garnham in ‘Association Football and Society in Pre-partition Ireland’ summed up Gibson’s impact in his new life in Belfast.

Over the next three decades he established himself a secure place in the city’s commercial, intellectual and sporting elites. By 1910 Andrew Gibson was the Belfast agent for both the Burns and Cunard lines. He was also the Governor of the Belfast Library and Society for Promoting Knowledge, colloquially as the Linen Hall Library. In fact in 1901 he has been responsible for providing the library with a collection of works by and on Robert Burns that was unrivalled in the world. He was also regarded as an authority on the Irish poet Thomas Moore, and had been elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries in Ireland. Under the auspices of the Linen Hall he also became involved in the 1903 Belfast Harp Festival, and joined the Irish Folk Song Society. On the sporting front Gibson served for three years as the president of the Belfast Bowling Club and as early as 1892 was both president of the Cliftonville Football Club and vice-president of the Irish Football Association.’

Andrew Gibson was a great,almost fanatical,  collector of the works of Robert Burns as well as those of fellow Scot’s poet Allan Ramsay and the celebrate Irish poet Thomas Moore.

‘The Oxford History of the Irish Book, Volume IV, The Irish Book in English’ , 1800-1891. Edited by James H. Murphy’ captures Andrew Gibson’s aspirations as a collector –

“He particularly wished to acquire every edition of Burns he could accrue and went to great lengths to do is. His Burns collection received international attention when over 300 of his texts were lent to the Burns Exhibition in Glasgow in 1896. It was said that the Burns poetry books included 728 distinct editions, running to over 1,000 volumes with a further 1,000 volumes relating to materials dedicated to Burns.”

The Burns Exhibition was held in the Galleries of The Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow from 15th July to 31st October, 1896 – the centenary year of the death of Robert Burns,

The Burns Exhibition Catalogue 1896

The Burns Exhibition Catalogue 1896

Two of the many Burns’ editions lent by Andrew Gibson – Glasgow (278) and Belfast (714)

  •  278. Poems ascribed to Robert Burns, the Ayrshire bard, not contained in any edition of his works hitherto published.Glasgow, printed by Chapman & Lang, for Thomas Stewart, bookseller and stationer. [8vo., fours.] 1801
  • 714 Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect. By Robert Burns.
    Belfast : printed and sold by James Magee, no. 9, Bridge-street. [i2mo.] mdcclxxxvii

In a remarkable twist of fate on marrying William Kennedy Gibson, Janet Lapraik the grand-daughter of John Lapraik,  became step-mother to his seven children from his first marriage to Janet Black, including Andrew Gibson who became renowned for its collections of the works of Robert Burns.


Courtesy Linen Hall Library Belfast

This week on Thursday 22nd January 2015, The Inaugural Andrew Gibson Memorial Lecture will be held in the Linen Hall Library, Belfast . Presented in association with the Ulster Scots Agency, John Killen, Librarian, Linen Hall Library.

Check out the Linen Hall Library web-site

Andrew Gibson , born New Cumnock, Ayrshire.


William Kennedy  Gibson  (1876-1949)

WK Gibson

Courtesy of NIFG

Andrew Gibson’s eldest son William Kennedy Gibson born in Glasgow on 1st October 1876 made a name for himself on the football fields of Ireland and beyond. He features prominently in the excellent Northern Ireland Footballing Greats (NIFG) blog. Please check it out here .

As a schoolboy he played made his debut in 1892/93 season with local side Cliftonville, where his father was the club President for a period. He made his international debut for Ireland the following  season in a British Championship match  while still a 17 year old.  Willie scored a later equaliser in a 2-2 draw against England, the first time Ireland had avoided defeat against the English side – and became only one of three players to score for Ireland before their 18th birthday.

In February 1898, ‘Willie’ was honoured by captaining Ireland in the match against Wales at Llandudno and to add to the sense of occasion a 1-0 victory gave the Irish a first win on ‘foreign’ soil. He went on to make 14 caps for his country.


WK Gibson

While playing for Cliftonville (1892/93-1901/02) he scored 35 goals and won two Irish Cup Winners medals (1987, 1901) and the Country Antrim Shield (1898).  Willie Gibson also made one appearance for Sunderland in a 3-0 league  win over Bury at Roker Park, Jimmy Millar from Annbank scoring a hat-trick. Sunderland were crowned English Champions, leading to some contemporary sources claiming William Kennedy Gibson as Ireland’s first English title winner. There were seven other Scots in the Sunderland side that day. Missing however, was winger Colin McLatchie, who had made 25 league appearances for the Roker Park side and born in the miners rows of the parish of New Cumnock, birthplace of Andrew Gibson the great collector of the work of Burns . In a neat closing touch, in 1973, the son of Colin McLatchie, another Colin, was in the President of the New Cumnock Burns Club!




  • Howard Gibson, Victoria, Australia
  • Burns Monument Centre, Kilmarnock
  • ‘Lapraik web-site here
  • Poets of Ayrshire'(1910) editor John McIntosh
  • On-line Burns Encyclopedia
  • Neal Garnham ‘Association Football and Society in Pre-partition Ireland'(2004)
  • The Oxford History of the Irish Book, Volume IV, The Irish Book in English’ , 1800-1891. Edited by James H. Murphy
  • The Burns Exhibition Catalogue (1896)
  • Linen Hall Library web-site
  • Northern Ireland Footballing Greats (NIFG) blog .

New Cumnock Interactive on Future Museum

We are delighted to announce that the New Cumnock Interactive and Discovery Quiz is now live on Future Museum a partnership between East Ayrshire Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, North Ayrshire Council, South Ayrshire Council and the independent museums of the south-west of Scotland.


Just click on New Cumnock Timeline on the front page to go to the Timeline – including major events in New Cumnock’s history, and 3 trails based on the kirkyard of the Auld Kirk. You can find out more about the soldiers, ministers and other locally important families associated with it or who are buried there.

And after you’ve explored these ‘Auld Kirkyard Trails’ why not click on the Discovery Quiz to see what you have learned? Good luck!

  • Find the Future Museum New Cumnock Interactive Timeline and Discovery Quiz here

 Have Fun!

  • Please note the Timeline is best viewed on Full Screen mode.
  • Screenshots from the application are here with some tips on navigation

(Please note the application is not suitable for devices that do not support Flash)


The Kirk’s Alarm and New Cumnock Connections

Robert Burns (1759 – 1796)

In 1789 Robert Burns penned ‘The Kirk of Scotland’s Garland” or “The Kirk’s Alarm” as it is better known. Inspired by the reaction of a band of Ayrshire ministers set in their old ways (Auld Lichts) to a publication by the minister at Ayr, one of many ministers now expressing much more liberal views (New Lichts).

Burns pulls no punches in the opening verse –

Orthodox! orthodox, who believe in John Knox,
Let me sound an alarm to your conscience:
A heretic blast has been blown in the West,
“That what is no sense must be nonsense,”
Orthodox! That what is no sense must be nonsense


Ayr Kirk Second Charge

Reverend William McGill (1732-1807)

The minister at the centre of the controversy was William McGill , a friend of the bard’s father William Burnes. The son of a Wigtonshire farmer he was appointed assistant minister at Kilwinning in 1759 and the following year was ordained to the second charge of Ayr, which sits on the banks of the River Ayr.  At the age of 53 years he received a Doctorate of Divinity from the University of Glasgow.

In 1786 he published an essay ‘ The Death of Jesus Christ’ which was deemed to be at odds with the orthodox doctrines of the kirk by Dr William Peebles of Newton-on-Ayr. McGill attempted to defend his position but three years later the General Assembly ordered an inquiry and after the beleaguered minister offered an apology the case was dropped.

Rabbie mocks the punishment that should have been meted out to Dr Reverend McGill –

Doctor Mac! Doctor Mac, you should streek on a rack,
To strike evil-doers wi’ terror:
To join Faith and Sense, upon any pretence,
Was heretic, damnable error,
Doctor Mac ‘Twas heretic, damnable error.

With the sense of injustice established in the opening verses Burns turned his attentions to a number of the Auld Lichts in turn.

Reverend William McGill

Reverend William McGill

Reverend William Dalrymple (1723-1814)

The first in line was William Dalrymple.

The younger son of the Sheriff-Clerk of Ayr he was ordained minister of the second charge of Ayr in 1746 and translated to the first charge ten years later. On 26th January 1759, he baptised Robert Burns one day after his birth at Alloway.

Dalrymple received a Doctorate of Divinity from the University of St. Andrews in 1779 and two years later he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly.  He would go on to serve as minister at Ayr for 68 years.

D’rymple mild! D’rymple mild, tho’ your heart’s like a child,
And your life like the new-driven snaw,
Yet that winna save you, auld Satan must have you,
For preaching that three’s ane an’ twa,
D’rymple mild! For preaching that three’s ane an’ twa.

Rev Dalrymple

Rev Dalrymple

Ministers of Ayrshire

The verses that followed attacked the following ministers

  • John Russel (Kilmarnock) – ‘Rumble John
  • James McKinlay (Kilmarnock) – ‘Simper James
  • Alexander Moodie (Riccarton) – ‘Singet Sawnie
  • Dr William Peebles (Newton-on-Ayr) -‘Poet Willie
  • Stephen Young (Barr) – ‘Barr Steenie
  • James Young (New Cumnock) – ‘Jamie Goose
  • David Grant (Ochiltree) – ‘Davie Bluster
  • George Smith (Galston) -‘Irvine Side
  • John Shepherd (Muirkirk) -‘Muirland Jock
  • Dr. Andrew Mitchell (Monkton) – ‘Andro Gowk
  • William Auld (Mauchline) – ‘Daddy Auld

Reverend James Young (1711 – 1795)

In that band is our own Reverend James Young of New Cumnock. Born in  1711, the son of Alexander Young  a cooper in Falkirk.  He married Elizabeth Hunter, the daughter of Robert Hunter, minister of the Kirkconnel. He was called to New Cumnock on 29th December 1756 and was ordained on 3rd May 1758, the year before Burns was born.

Burn lampoons the Rev. Young as ‘Jamie Goose’ and attacks the minister for his pointless provocation of ‘hunting the wicked Lieutenant‘.  This was Hugh Mitchell of Dalleagles, a captain in the Royal Marines, who was married to Grizzel Logan, sister of John Logan of  Laight and close acquaintance of Robert Burns. The minister had refused to baptise either one or both of their children born at that time and had entered into some form of ecclesiastical prosecution against Mitchell.

Burns, also had other information on the minister as he makes reference to his father’s trade of cooper.

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.

The Reverend Young died on 1st Augut 1795, aged 84 years – the year before Burns died. He lies buried alongside the walls of the Auld Kirk ruins.

Reverend James Young

Reverend James Young , New Cumnock Auld Kirkyard

John Logan of Knockshinnoch and Laight

John Logan of Knockshinnoch and Laight was a close acquaintance of Burns. His marriage to Martha McAdam in March 1779 had caused some controversy. It was considered to have been irregular having been celebrated, it was was believed by an Episcopalian clergyman, not entitled to do so by law. Logan as one of the heritors in the parish of New Cumnock was also responsible for contributing to the upkeep of the kirk and he and the Reverend Young also crossed swords on this matter.

On the 7th August 1789, Robert Burns at Ellisland sent a copy of ‘The Kirk’s Alarm”  to John Logan Esq. Of Afton at Laight House, along with a letter which included the remarks –

“I am determined not to let it get into the Publick; so I send you this copy, the first I have sent to Ayrshire, except some few of the Stanzas which I have wrote off in embrio for Gavin Hamilton under the express provision and request – that you will only read it to a few of us, and do not on any account give or permit it to be taken, any copy of the Ballad.  If I could be of any Service to Dr. McGill I would do it though it should be at much greater expense than irritating a few biggoted Priests; but as I am afraid , serving him in his present embarrass , is a task too hard for me , I have enemies enow,  God knows, tho’ I do not wantonly add to that number”

Burns enclosed copy of the Kirk’s Alarm which included the following presentation stanza reiterating his request not to to give out a copy, other than too their mutual friend, William Johnston , Laird of Clackleith in Sanquhar.

Afton’s Laird ! Afton’s Laird when your pen can be spared,
A copy of this I bequeath,
On the same sicker score as I mention’d before,
To that trusty auld worthy, Clackleith,
Afton’s Laird! To that trust auld worthy, Clackleith.’

Laight Farm, New Cumnock

Laight Farm, New Cumnock


‘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.

Auld Kirkyard connections with Canadian Forces

Today on Armistice Day the words of the epic war poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ are close to mind, written by John Alexander McCrae , a Canadian with strong roots in New Cumnock. His great great grandfather Ivie Campbell lies in the Auld Kirkyard.

The names of two other New Cumnockians, Alexander Sloan and Robert Paterson, both of whom emigrated to Canada  and were lost in the Great War whilst serving in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Forces are also remembered on family headstones.

Ivie Campbell

Ivie Campbell

Ivie Campbell

Ivie Campbell was born in 1754 at the farm of Garclaugh and later turned Dalgig into a prize-winning farm.  One of his sons, William,  farmed at Maneight where his daughter Jean Campbell was born in 1814 on Christmas Day.



Jean married Thomas McCrae of Kells, Kirkcudbrightshire and the couple along with  their young family emigrated to Canada. One of their grandsons John Alexander McCrae served as a surgeon in the Canadian artillery in the Great War. The death of an acquaintance inspired him to write the epic war poem ‘In Flanders Field’.

John McCrae

John McCrae

In Flanders Field

‘In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.’

John McRae, died of pneumonia on 28th January 1918.

Read more about his New Cumnock roots here

Private Alexander  Sloan

  • 49th Canadian Infantry Regiment Alberta
Sloan family headstone

Sloan family headstone

In a remarkable coincidence some 70 years after the birth of Jean Campbell at Maneight, brothers Alexander,William and John Sloan were born in the same farmhouse.

Alexander emigrated to Canada where he found work as a bank clerk . On 15 July 1915 at Edmonton, Alberta, he signed up to serve in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Forces. Some 15 months later he was killed in action on 9th October 1916 at the Battle of the Somme, aged 25 years.

His younger brother William was killed in action at  Macedonia on 25th April 1917 and elder brother John was awarded the Military Medal.

Alexander and William fell on foreign fields and both are remembered on the family headstone here in the Auld Kirkyard.

Sergeant Robert Paterson

  • 29th Canadian Infantry British Columbia Regiment    
Robert Paterson

Robert Paterson

Robert was born on 6th February 1879 at Coalcreoch farm, the son of Gavin Paterson and Mary Mitchell. He served in the Ayrshire Yeomanry before emigrating to Canada.

On the 11th November 1914 (99 years ago today) at Vancouver, British Columbia he signed up to serve in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Forces.

Robert died of shrapnel wounds in a casualty clearing station in France, on 6th April, 1918, aged 39 years.