Tag Archives: New Cumnock

Campbells of Dalhanna: Road Builders

Campbells of Dalhanna

The Campbell family have a long association with the lands of Dalhanna (Over Dalhanna) in the lower reaches of Glen Afton in the parish of New Cumnock, legend has it perhaps from the times of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots and numbered among those persecuted in the parish during the Covenanting times.

Dalhanna Farm, New Cumnock

In the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock the tombstones of William Campbell and Margaret Young and their family stand side by of that of their son James Campbell and Elizabeth McKnight and their family.

James Campbell & Elizabeth McKnight and William Campbell & Margaret Young

I. William Campbell of Dalhanna (1768-1857)

  • Spouse: Margaret Crawford Young (1773-1858)
  • Children: James (1797), John (1798), William (1799), Elizabeth (1802), Quintin (1804), Jean (1806), Katherine (1808), Robert (1810), Thomas (1812), Marion (1814), Peter (1816), Margaret (1819).

The story of William Campbell, Laird of Dalhanna can be found in the section in thr Heritors of New Cumnock (1833) at New Cumnock History. He married  Margaret Crawford Young, the daughter of the Reverend James Young minister of the parish of over 50 years and remembered as ‘Jamie Goose’ in Robert Burns’ attack on the church “The Kirk’s Alarm”. Together William and Margaret had 12 children,  all named on the family headstone, made up of 7 sons and 5 daughters.


Eldest son James acquired the lands of Dalhanna on his father’s death in 1857  but life on the farm was not for him and  by that time James Campbell had already established himself as a leading road surveyor in the Ayrshire. Before considering James Campbell’s contribution to road network of his time, let’s first consider its development.

Dalhanna Farm and Glen Afton

Turnpike Roads and the Ayr Road Acts

The history and development of the Ayrshire road network is well documented by David McClure in his excellent booklet ‘Tolls and Tacksmen’ [1] and on-line at ‘Old Roads of Scotland’ [2]. Our story of the Ayrshire starts during the turnpike period where tolls were established to meet the costs of building and maintaining roads. An Act of Parliament was necessary to allow a trust to be formed, the first of which applying to Ayrshire was passed in 1767 , some thirty years before James Campbell was born.

The 1767 Ayr Road Act 

McClure explains the provisions of this act and are summarised as follows –

  • named 24 roads with total length of 255 miles,
  • named 135 trustees and their qualifications
  • set tolls which could be applied and permitted the erection of gates, both on turnpike roads and on side roads
  • it permitted the raising of capital by subscription
  • it stipulated that the first meeting should be held on 14th July 1767, with subsequent meetings to be set by adjournment
  • it allowed the conversion of statute labour “for such sums annually as to the said trustees shall seem reasonable” and the appointment of collectors
  • it provide for the setting of milestones.

Road N0.9 of the 24 roads was the road from  ‘Ayr, by Ochiltree, Old Cumnock, New Cumnock, towards Sanquhar so far as the Road within the County of Ayr’

The boundary of New Cumnock -Kirkconnel & Sanquhar road

The 1774  Ayr Road Act 

Provisions of this new act included –

  • named 39 roads with a combined length of 295 miles and the 24 roads brought forward from the previous act  giving a combined total of 63 roads and 550 miles
  • continued with the trustees from the previous act
  • increased the tolls for certain roads in former act and set tolls for new roads
  • it gave preference to the roads contained in the former act
  • as well as milestones it provided for setting up of guide-posts where the roads crossed or joined other roads.

Road No.39 was the road from ‘Dalmellington to New Cumnock’.

Dalmellington Road at Mossmark with junction to Afton Road on left

McClure identified the most active trustees as William Logan of Castlemains, New Cumnock who was in attendance at 129 meetings (including the inaugural meeting 0n 14th July 1767) over the period 1767 to 1805, some 38 years.  Other trustees from New Cumnock included John Logan of Knockshinnoch, William Hyslop of Blackcraig, Thomas Gordon of Earlstoun (Baronet of Afton) , Charles Howatson of Craigdarroch and Adam Crauford Newall of Dalleagles.

The minutes of the general meeting of the trustees in 1782 reveal that ‘the portion of the high road to Dumfries that lay within the parish of New Cumnock was complete.’ The conversion money (i.e. the conversion of statute labour into a tax) for the parish amounted to about £70 per year. Another noteworthy minute involved trustee John Logan of Knockshinnoch (friend of Robert Burns) who was deputed with the great road-builder John Loudon McAdam to go to  Sanquhar for a meeting with Dumfriesshire trustees to consider the appropriate place for McCadam’s Muirkirk to Sanquhar road to cross the county line.

In 1776 George Taylor and Andrew Skinner surveyed the roads of Scotland and the Ayrshire section shows the Ayr to Old Cumnock road (15.2 miles) and then on to New Cumnock (5.1 miles) and from there to Sanquhar (12 miles).

George Taylor and Andrew Skinner (1776)

The 1805  Ayr Road Act 

Further roads were added to the Ayrshire network including the following two relevant to New Cumnock  –

  • ‘A road from the village of Old Cumnock leading past Benston Limework to join the Dalmellington to New Cumnock Road.’
  • ‘A Branch, or other Road, to go off from the Road last described on the Estate of Ochiltree, through Part of that Estate, then through the Lands of Burnockston, and across the Water of Burnock, through another part of the Estate of Ochiltree, all in the said Parish of Ochiltree, till it joins a Road made by the late Earl of Dumfries on his Estate on the March of the Parish of Old Cumnock, leading to the said Earl’s Limework, and the Village of New Cumnock, where it terminates and falls into the great Turnpike Road between Ayr and Dumfries.’
Benston Toll (the tollhouse sat to the left)

The Reverend Matthew Kirkland, minister of the parish of New Cumnock,  writes in the New Statistical Account of the parish in 1832 “There is one turnpike road in the parish and several parish roads in good repair. On the public road there passes daily coach from Glasgow to Carlisle, and from Carlisle to Glasgow.

II. James Campbell of Dalhanna (1797-1871)

  • Spouse : Elizabeth McKnight (1797-1869)
  • Children: Catherine (b.1828), Margaret (b.1829), William (b.1831), Elizabeth (b.1833 d.1836) Jane (b.1835 d.1835), John (b. 1837), Elizabeth (b.1840).

James Campbell was born in April, 1797 at Dalhanna while his future wife Elizabeth Mitchell McKnight was born in September of the same year in the Old Mill farm, the daughter of John McKnight and Katherine Rankine. The McKnight family could trace their time in the mill back to the late 16th century. Within its confines once stood an inn where Elizabeth’s grandparents George McKnight and Betty Mitchell played host to Robert Burns.

The couple moved away from New Cumnock and their first child Catherine was born in 1828 in the neighbouring parish of Ochiltree, where James’ skills as a surveyor were no doubt put to use on the parish and perhaps on the road referred to above in the 1805 Act.

The young family was soon on their travels again and set up home at High Street, Ayr where another daughter Margaret was born the following year. By 1841 the family had grown to five with the addition of three more children William, John and Elizabeth in that order and loss of two in infancy (Elizabeth & Jane).

A flavour of the work carried out by James Campbell can be found in the following extracts from Ayrshire newspapers and local directories.

The Ayr Advertiser , September 12th, 1844

‘CONTRACTORS WANTED: To Raise and Prepare a considerable quantity of PAVING STONES from the lands of South Craig in the Parish of Coylton which are to be carted to Ayr, For particulars application may be made to Mr James Campbell, Road Surveyor or to John Paul, Dean of Guild, Ayr. Ayr, 12th Sept. 1844′

The Ayr Advertiser or West Country Journal, Thursday November 28, 1844

‘ROAD MONEY — AYR DISTRICT: NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, that the CONVERSION MONEY, in lieu of Statute Labour, for the year 1844 is now under COLLECTION as follows, viz: – For the parish of Tarbolton by Mr ROBERT WALKER, Tarbolton; for the parishes of Coylton, Stair, Ochiltree, Cumnock, New Cumnock and Dalmellington, by Mr JAMES CAMPBELL, Road Surveyor, Ayr; and for the parishes of Newton, Prestwick, Monkton ,St. Evox and Dalrymple by W. BONE, 53 Sandgate Street, Ayr, 25th Nov. 1844′

Directory of Ayr Newton Wallacetown St. Quivox  Prestwick and Monkton

‘Ayr District of Roads and Trustees. — The roads embraced in this district lie in ten parishes of the County — Newton, Monkton, St Quivox, Coylton, Dalrymple, Dalmellington, Ochiltree, Old Cumnock, New Cumnock, and Tarbolton. The turnpike roads are upheld out of the money realised from the let of toll-bars, which, this year, amounted to £3910. The statute or bye-roads on the other hand, are maintained out of the conversion money. The assessment for this purpose, in the parishes stated above, amounts to somewhere between £500 and £600. The conversion money is levied at the rate of 50s. per hundred pounds Scots of valued rent upon tenants of land. Householders are charged 3s., and carters and innkeepers, who let out horses for hire, are assessed in lieu of six days’ statute service —1s, per day for their horses, and 6d. for themselves. Clerk, J, M’Murtrie; Treasurer, William Bone; Surveyor, James Campbell.’

The Campbell family moved to the far end of the High Street, Ayr to Townhead House, presumably in the Townhead district of Ayr with Townhead  Railway Station nearby, which stood a few hundred yards from the modern-day Ayr Station. James Campbell also owned a housed in Afton Bridgend that was rented out.

In 1857 his father William Campbell, the Laird of Dalhanna passed away and James inherited the lands of Dalhanna. There was to be no return to farming for the surveyor and his younger sister Margaret and her husband William Sharp worked  Dalhanna as tenants.

James Campbell fortunes were on the rise and by the 1861 census the family is found at Nursery Hall on the road from Ayr to the small settlement of Whitletts. The property has long since disappeared and would have on sat on what is now the Whitletts. Sadly no postcards or photographs appeared to have survive but the map shows a fair size building with adjoining orchards, gardens or nursery. The property was previously owned by William Campbell Esquire, perhaps a distant relative, who held the lands of Milnquarter, Braehead and Milnacre in the parish.

Nursery Hall, Whitletts

Road Building Brothers

William Campbell (1799-1858) and Thomas Campbell (1812-1884)

The parish of New Cumnock continued to fall under James Campbell’s responsibility as the county’s surveyor. His brothers William and Thomas both worked on the roads. William was ‘a labourer on the turnpike’ and lived at Pathbrae with his wife Janet Park and their children. He was struck down with cholera in 1858, aged 59 years. Thomas was also a labourer on the turnpike and later a roadway surfaceman. He lived with his wife Agnes McMillan at various houses in Afton Bridgend, including for a time in the manse of the Reformed Presbyterian Church and Coupla Brae where he would pass away in 1884, aged 72 years old.


Other ‘Road Surfacemen’ at that time included John Mills who  lived at Afton Bridgend and John Montgomerie a tenant at the Old Mill farm. Montgomerie also farmed at Nether Dalhanna for a time and was clearly known to the Campbells. His son John was killed serving as a sergeant in the Imperial Yeomanry at Boshof, South Africa during the Boer War and is remembered on the family headstone in the Auld Kirkyard.

George Sanderson in ‘New Cumnock  Far and Away’ [3] identifies the change in the nature of the work on road surfaces and in particular the change from the use of water stones & earth to the best blue whinstone; he comments “Samuel Sharp and Tammas Campbell, roadmen of the past, now gave way to a new job description, stone knappers with their long shafted hammers, among them Alex Rorrison, John Blackwood , George Sanderson and Jock McKenzie“.

Critical to the funding of the work carried out on the road networks was the collection of tolls including those strategically positioned to prevent any ‘fly’ detours designed to avoid payment. Trawling through the Census records the following people and places associated with toll-keeping appear.

Turnpike Road

  • Pathhead: Robert McKenzie (1861)
  • Old Mill Toll / School House: Robert McKenzie (1855), Frances & Flora McKenzie (1871)
  •  Gatelochside (Situated on the New Cumnock to Kirkconnel Road between the farms of Blackwood and Polshill ): Agnes Vallance (1841), Elizabeth Richard (1851)

Parish Roads

  • Bowes Cottage (Mansfield Road): Robert Wilson (1851), Marion and Andrew Beattie (1881)
  • Benston Toll: Janet Dunbar (1851), Allan McQuarry (1871), Alexander Boyd (1881)
  • Dalleagles: Andrew Ross (1875), David Turnbull (1881) – also worked as grocer and cow-feeder
T.P. – Toll Point at the Old Mill / Schoolhouse – this area is still known as The Toll

Meanwhile the work of the Ayr District Road Trust continued and the plans for activity during the period March 1863 to March 1864 were proposed by James Campbell, surveyor.

The Ayrshire Express , March 7, 1863

‘AYR ROAD TRUST: STATED MEETING of the TRUSTEES on the TURNPIKE and PARISH ROADS in the DISTRICT of AYR will be held in the Court-House, Ayr on Friday, the 13th March, at Twelve, noon. At this Meeting the Conversion Money will be allocated to all the Parish Roads in the District. The Allocation proposed by Mr Campbell, Road Surveyor, appears from the subjoined Report, prepared an lodged by him  in order of the Trustees. JOHN McMURTIE, Clerk   Ayr 3d March, 1863′

The Report prepared by James Campbell, 25th Feb 1863 covered the parishes of Coylton, Old Cumnock, New Cumnock, Dalmellington, Dalrymple, Monkton, Newton, Ochiltree, Saint Quivox, Tarbolton. It included “an estimate of the probable Expense of Making, Widening, Improving and Repairing the Parish Roads in the District of Ayr, from March 1863 to March 1864.” The extract from the parish of New Cumnock reads –

The Parish of New Cumnock: Sum for allocation £117 5s 3 1/2d

  1. Afton Road / £15
  2. Auchincross Road / £15
  3. Branch from Burnton to Mansfield Road* / £25
  4. Road from Moat to Marchburn Road to the Road from Benston Toll to South Bogg / £5
  5. Road from the Mansfield Road by Midtown to the Cumnock Road** at March £15

* This roads crosses the Nith by a ford. **Cumnock Road is the turnpike road and this is the road from Corsencon to March at the boundary between Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire)

Afton Road with Craigbraneoch Hill and Stayamara in the distance

‘There was a REMIT from the District Trustees to take the Road from the south end of the Afton Road to the separation of Roads to Craigs and Craigdarroch into the list. This road has been formed and slightly metalled. The formation is rather narrow, and the water course are defective. A considerable part on the high side is upon rock. The water courses will not be easily cut in it. Some parts of the high side will require breast walls. Part on the low side has retaining walls without any protection fence. This is dangerous for persons passing along the Road. There are some points of rock that will require to be cut off. The whole Roadway covered 12 feet broad, an 6 inches deep of clean gravel. The water courses cleaned out. In aid of this £92 5s 3 1/2.’


The funding for building and maintaining bridges in Ayrshire was managed by the Bridge Committee.

Ayrshire Express, Saturday 21st February 1863

The Ayrshire Express, April 4, 1863

‘The Stated Meeting of the County Road Trust was held on the Court-house yesterday, at 12 o’clock noon. Present – P.B. Mure Macreadie, J. D. Boswell, Thomas Davidson, Gavin Gemmell, Provost Paterson, Baillie Smith, Robert Robertson and A. Lang. The balance at the credit of the Bridge Fund was ascertained to be £3805 10s 3 1/2d; and it appeared from the pass books containing the account of the Bridge Money, kept by Mr Boswell, that there was in the National Bank of Scotland, at Ayr, on 2d March, £3823 to their credit.’

Mr Boswell, was John Douglas Boswell Esq. of Garallan, Old Cumnock who also owned the lands of South Boig, New Cumnock. Among other things he was the collector of bridge money and  determined how this would be allocated. Sadly this would prove to be his last meeting of the Bridge Committee. He had been in poor health and on travelling from his residence in Ayr to the family estate at Garallan, caught a cold and passed away on 14th April . He lies in the family lair in the kirkyard at Ayr.

Of particular interest in Boswell’s final committee meeting is the allocation of funds to two bridges in the parish of New Cumnock – one small and one large.

  • No 12: Petition by the Most Noble Marquis of Bute and Curators for a Grant to build a Bridge near Dalgig Burn, on the Turnpike Road from the Moat Toll to the Marchburn. £28 16s from new bridge fund
  • No 13: Petition by the Trustees of the Ayr District for additional Grants to re-build and widen the Bridge over the Water of the Nith, on the Turnpike Road from Ayr by Cumnock to the march of the County. £303 15s for widening the bridge from the repair funds, and £604 for repairs from the repairs fund.
Bridge over Dalgig burn

On the motion of Mr Robertson, seconded by the Provost Paterson, it was agreed to transfer the £217 originally given to Afton Bridge for repairs, but which repairs might with perfect safety be laid aside for some time, to the bridge over the Nith at New Cumnock, on the recommendation of the district committee.

Afton Bridge repair funds diverted to the Nith Bridge

The plans for the building a three-arch bridge over the River Nith were quickly progressed and the following advert placed in the Ayrshire Express (18th April 1863)

‘CONTRACTORS WANTED: To BUILD a BRIDGE of THREE ARCHES over the Water of Nith, near New Cumnock on the road from Ayr by Cumnock and New Cumnock to Dumfriesshire. Mr Campbell, Road Surveyor will attend at the Nith Bridge on MONDAY, the 27th current, at 11 o’clock and show the Plans, Sections, and Specifications for the works. Sealed estimates to be lodged by Mr McMurtie Clerk to the Road Trustees, Ayr on or before THURSDAY, 30th current. The Road Trustees do not bind themselves to accept the lowest, or any of the Offers. Security will be required for the due performance of the works. Ayr, 17th April, 1863.’

Nith Bridge with Afton Hotel on the left and original Free Church on the castlehill

The Glasgow to Dumfries and  Carlisle South Western Railway line ran parallel with the River Nith as it cut across the parish of New Cumnock on its way to the Solway Firth. This section of the railway had been completed in 1850 and although it provided competition to the roads, the local traffic from the village to the railway station and back relied heavily on the Nith bridge.

Three-arched Nith Bridge with Arthur Memorial UF Church on the castlehill

NITH BRIDGE FOUNDATION STONE [The Ayrshire Express, 8th August, 1863]

The foundation stone was laid on Thursday 6th August 1863 -“the day was observed as a holiday, being quite a gala day in the parish; and the weather was exceedingly favourable.” The procession left the Castle at one o’clock and the ceremony at the bridge began with some singing followed by a prayer from the parish minister the Reverend Robert Murray. which included the words –

May this bridge, of which we are about to lay the foundation stone, be of great service to this community, and may all who pass over it remember that the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.

The foundation stone was laid and a bottle containing the newspapers of the day and coins of the realm was deposited in the cavity of the stone along  memorial inscribed brass plate.

Nith Bridge, New Cumnock

The Ayrshire Express, November 14, 1863

Ayr Road Trust: The report on the Nith Bridge was read. Provost Campbell made a thorough survey of the work, and found it most substantially executed. The committee had authorised payment of the contract prices. Authority had also been given to Mr Campbell, surveyor, to valuate several pieces of which obstructed the approaches to the bridge, with a view to their purchase. The committee reported that the total outlay was £1475, or less by £125 than the sum of £1600 which by the minutes they were authorized to expend.’

The road to Dalhanna

The three-arch Nith Bridge still stands today over 150 years later a fitting legacy of James Campbell of Dalhanna and his working years as road surveyor with the Ayr District Road Trust. The Old Roads of Scotland web-site [2] provides the following overview of James Campbell, surveyor.

James Campbell

  • Surveyor for the turnpike and statute labour roads in Ayr and Mauchline Districts noted the high cost of maintaining roads in towns due to heavy traffic, pavements, and obtaining road materials.
  • He thought it was more economical to have management of both types of road and that it would be beneficial if revenues could be diverted from particular parishes and particular turnpike roads so that they could be used where most needed.
  • He noted the dissatisfaction with the toll system and felt this could be alleviated if trusts were consolidated and tolls re-sited so that payment only had to be made every 5 or 6 miles. Having to keep separate accounts for each trust led to a great deal of unnecessary work.
  • He thought that having an assessment in place of tolls would be more unfair than tolls, and that it would be difficult to collect a horse assessment.

After retiring from his role as road surveyor James continued to live at Nursery Hall with his wife Elizabeth and son William (civil engineer) and daughter Margaret, both unmarried. Elizabeth passed away in 1869, aged 72 years, while staying with their son John McKnight Campbell (shipbroker) at his home in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. James passed away two years later, aged 74 years, at his home at Nursery Hall. They rest together in the Campbell lair in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock are also remembered on the McKnight family headstone a few steps away.


McKnight headstone – including Elizabeth wife of James Campbell, Road Surveyor

III. William Campbell of Dalhanna (1831-1914)

Following the death of his father William Campbell, aged 40 years, inherited the lands of Dalhanna. Unmarried William worked as a civil engineer for a time in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He returned to Scotland and lived with his parents at Nursery Hall on the outskirts of Ayr while the farm at Dalhanna continued to be tenanted by his sister Margaret and husband William Sharp.

William followed in his father’s footsteps and worked as a road surveyor; this is his occupation recorded in  the 1875 Valuation Rolls for New Cumnock as the proprietor of Over Dalhanna. It is not clear when he began working in this capacity for the Ayr Road Trust and indeed he later enjoyed an uneasy relationship with the Trust in his endeavour to be admitted as Trustee and this is played out in number of newspaper articles.

He had previously applied to join but withdrew his application in January 1879 only to apply again in July of that year. His application may have been motivated by the Trust’s refusal in March 1879 to accept a petition put forward to the Trust meeting in March.

The Ayrshire Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal,  March 20, 1879

A petition from farmers and others along the Afton road in the New Cumnock district, complaining of the hardship of having to pay a toll when they used only about 70 yards of the turnpike road, and prayed to be relieved from that exaction, was refused

At the same meeting the Surveyor’s recommendation to raise the rate at the Benston toll in the parish of New Cumnock “from 2d to 3d a cart, and other vehicles in proportion was accepted, on the ground that the present revenue was insufficient to maintain the road in the repair“.

Carcow burn bridge & Lochingerroch Farm on the Afton road with Blackcraig hill in the distance

The Ayrshire Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal,  August 7, 1879

William Campbell’s application to join the Trust was also dismissed –

An application by Mr Wm. Campbell of Over Dalhanna to be appointed a Trustee to the roads in the district of Ayr was unanimously dismissed. Mr Campbell’s qualification was, it was explained, sufficient to entitle to him to act as a Trustee for the County, but it was optional on part of the Trustees to appoint him to any district. The dismissal of the application was moved by Col. Campbell of Treesbanks and seconded by Dr Ronald, Ayr.

The Ayrshire Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal,  September 18, 1879

Nevertheless, William Campbell attended the meeting of Ayr Road Trust at the County Buildings in September where the newspaper report refer to him as the “ex-surveyor”. It proved to be a heated meeting. Colonel Campbell moved that Mr Campbell be asked to withdraw, but he refused to do so and stated his case

‘By the Ayrshire Roads Act, I am entitled to vote on the question of maintaining the roads in the County. I may also mention another thing which Mr Shaw (Clerk), will be aware, that independent of any motion, by the minutes of the general meeting, I am entitled to sit as a trustee in the parish of New Cumnock.‘ The heated discussion continued and the Chairman moved that the meeting proceeds to buisness and leaves Mr Campbell’s name of the sederunt which was met with applause and seconded by Dr Ronald. There was then an exchange of words between Colonel Hay Boyd of Townend and William Campbell. “What are you making such a noise about?” demanded the Colonel. “I am not making a noise about anything“, replied Campbell , “I want to talk about my right to act as a Trustee.”  The Chairman instructed the Clerk to proceed to business and the matter was then dropped.  Mr Campbell, maintained his place at the table, and occasionally took part in the conversation on the different subjects discussed.

The Glasgow Herald, November 15, 1879

The newspaper report of November’s meeting of the Ayr Road Trust was accompanied with the sub-heading ‘A Scene’ with William Campbell’s right to attend the meeting was grabbing the headlines again.

Mr William Campbell (the late road surveyor) objected to a portion of the minutes in so far as they related to the erection of a bridge over the Nith and that he objected to the bridge being made of wood instead of iron.”

The Clerk asked Mr Campbell to put his objection in writing before the Chairman (General Burnett of Gadgirth) challenged his right to attend the meeting. Back and forth went argument and counter-argument until the exasperated Chairman exclaimed “You have no right to speak, sir, and if you do you will be turned out the room” forcing Provost Steele to interject “with all respect to the chairman, he did not think the meeting would support such a line of action.” Mr Campbell in deference to some of his friends decide to retire but he had to tell the meeting and the chairman that he had to be there.

The Ayrshire Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal, November 27, 1879

Undeterred William Campbell penned a letter to the Editor of The Ayrshire Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal

“Sir -Having been prevented at the meeting of the above Trust, held on Friday 14th, from explaining how I claimed to be a member of the Trust in so far as the Parish of New Cumnock is concerned. I will feel obliged by your granting me space to show that I claimed nothing but what I was fair and legally entitled to.”

Campbell proceeds to the specific Clause of the Ayrshire Roads Act drawing particular attention to the statement “provided always that the Heritors of each Parish who are Trustees under this Act shall be Trustees of their respective parishes.

Campbell explains I consider this latter part of the clause

“justifies me in attending any meetings, wherever held, at which business regarding the Parish Roads in New Cumnock is taken up, and not, as the Clerk (Mr. C. G. Shaw) states, only those which are held in the Parish of New Cumnock, where a meeting of the Parish Roads Trustees has not been held during the currency of the present Act, which came into force in 1847. It is even doubtful if such a meeting has been held in the parish within the memory of oldest inhabitant. I may also give the opinion of the Clerk (Mr. Wm Pollock) of the General Road Trust for the County, and that is – I am entitled to be present at all meetings of the Ayr District Road Trust at which business affecting the Parish Roads in New Cumnock is taken up, and my experience is that business affecting them may be brought up by any member.”

Campbell then expanded on the matter of the bridge over the Water of Nith, on a New Cumnock parish road, that he had been prevented from discussing at the Trust meeting last week. He explains

“A bridge there is much-needed, and I merely wished to say that if, instead of erecting a wooden foot-bridge, a grant from the bridge funds had been applied for to build a bridge with stone abutments and iron girders and of a width suitable for the traffic of district, three-fifths of the cost might have been obtained, and the proprietors benefited would no doubt have contributed handsomely.”

From the Ha’Runnel : Bridge over River Nith in foreground with Glen Afton in the distance

The Ayr Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal, December 18, 1879

County of Ayr Road Trust: The TRUSTEES will hold a STATED GENERAL MEETING within the COUNTY BUILDINGS, at AYR, on FRIDAY the 2d of January next, at Noon. The meeting will dispose of the following matters: namely,

  1. A motion, of which notice was given by MR JAMES INGLIS McDERMENT Eldest, Bailie of the Burgh of Newton-on-Ayr, at the last Stated General Meeting of the Trustees, that the Resolution of the Trustees at their Stated General Meeting held on the 1st August last, refusing an application of William Campbell of Over Dalhanna, Nurseryhall, Ayr to be appointed a Road Trustee for the District of Ayr and on the Parish Roads in the Parishes of that District, be revoked and that Mr Campbell be appointed in terms of his application.
  2. An appeal by the said Mr WILLIAM CAMPBELL against the proceedings of a meeting of the Road Trustees for the District of Ayr, held on the 14th November last, in so far as his acting as a Trustee for the Parish Roads in the Parish of New Cumnock is concerned.
  3. Applications for the Authority to Pay Grants of Bridge Money

William Pollock, Clerk / Ayr, 16th December, 1879.

The new decade began with good news for the New Cumnock landowner. 

The Glasgow Herald, 3rd January 1880

On the motion of Mr McDerment and seconded by General Burnett of Gadgirth, William Campbell, late road surveyor, was unanimously appointed a Trustee for the Ayr District.

His appointment went through unanimously, the motion being seconded by Burnett of Gadgirth who had threatened to have Campbell ejected from the meeting back in mid-November, perhaps in an attempt to building some bridges, metaphorically speaking!

William Campbell continued to represent the parish of New Cumnock for many years. He moved from Nursery Hall and lived with his spinster sister Margaret at Stewart Villa in the Hawkhill district of Ayr, on the Whitletts Road.

The Ayr Advertiser, or West Country and Galloway Journal, February 8, 1879

County of Ayr Road Trust:  The first meeting of the Trustees appointed under the Roads and Bridges Act of 1878 was held in the Court House, Ayr, on Tuesday last. The meeting was the largest of the kind we have seen in Ayr, both the area and the gallery of the Court House being filled.

The New Cumnock representatives that day were –

  • William Campbell of Dalhanna
  • James Craig of Craigdarroch
  • Alexander Hazle of Blackcraig
  • William Howat, Burnfoot
  • William Hyslop of Bank
  • Hugh C McKerrow, Muirfoot
  • John Picken, Mansfield Mains
Bout Burn Bridge, Afton Road with Blackcraig Hill

Perhaps by that time, or soon after, Campbell and other landed proprietors in New Cumnock had been successful in their application for funds to build an iron bridge with stone abutments over the River Nith. It is fitting that after James Campbell had been a driving force to improve the Nith Bridge on the turnpike road through the town of New Cumnock, that his eldest son William Campbell had been a driving force in building of the Nith Bridge on the parish road from Connel Park to Old Cumnock.

Bridge over the Nith on the parish road from Connel Park to Old Cumnock

William Campbell died in 1914, aged 83 years old, at his home at Stewart Villa. His sister Margaret Crawford Young Campbell had passed away at their home three years beforehand and both lie together in the family lair in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock. William’s younger, and only, brother John McKnight Campbell had passed away in 1906 and his story will follow. It was John’s son James Campbell that fell heir to the lands of Dalhanna. Born in Glasgow in 1866 , he would marry Grace Bryson from the parish of Sorn, his father had acquired the lands of Daldorch in that parish. This family moved to County Durham where John became a very successful iron merchant and the Campbell of Dalhanna’s links with New Cumnock were now entirely that off absentee landlord, the tenants farmers at Dalhanna had not been a member of that family for over forty years.

The road to Dalhanna Farm road

Dalhanna Farm continues to nestle on the lower slopes of Dalhanna hill a few hundred yards from the Afton Water in glorious Glen Afton.


Following in the footsteps of James Campbell and his son William as road surveyors in the district of Ayr was surveyor Allan Stevenson, born in Tarbolton. His father John Stevenson later worked on Garallan Estate, Cumnock for a time before moving to Sorn and then returning to Changue in Cumnock where the well known Stevensons Dairy Farm emerged.

Muifoot Burn Bridge, Mansfield Road

Allan Stevenson was appointed as the first secretary of the Road Surveyors Association of Scotland in 1884 and held the post for 25 years. He became a prominent architect in the county and his contributions in New Cumnock listed in the Dictionary of Architects [4]  are as follows – the Muirfoot Burn Bridge on the Mansfield Road (plans, 1875), West Polquhirter Bridge (plans, 1880), Afton Bridge (additionss & alterations, 1882), New Cumnock Town Hall (1888), Afton Cemetery (plans, 1901) and Glen Afton Sanatorium (site architect, 1904; extensions, 1908, 1915).  Another of Stevenson’s contribution worthy of note in the context of the Campells of Dalhanna is the additions and alterations made in 1921 to former Campbell residence of Nursery Hall, Whitletts, then owned by William Baird & Company. 

You can read more about Allan Stevenson at the Dictionary of Scottish Architects project


[1]  David McLure (1994), Tolls and Tacksmen. 18th century Roads in the County of John Loudoun McAdam. Ayrshire Monographs No. 13. Ayr Arch & Nat Hist Soc.

[2]’Old Roads of Scotland web-site’, Gerald Cummins at www.oldroadsofscotland.com

[3] George Sanderson (1992), New Cumnock Far and Away, Geddes (Irvine)

[4] Dictionary of Scottish Architects project

National Library of Scotland

Scotland’s People

Scotland’s Places 

The British Newspapers Archives

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’

Howatson of Craigdarroch

The headstone of Andrew Howatson of Craigdarroch and his family sits against the ruins of the Auld Kirk of New Cumnock in a place of note only a few yards from the lair of the Reverend Thomas Hunter, minister of the parish from 1705-1757 before he passed away three years later. The inscription on stone to the immediate left of the Howatson stone has been lost and this stone too may belong the same family.


Howatson headstone with the Rev. Thomas Hunter’s lair in the background

The Howatson stone is damaged and the main part of the stone covers the base now to the rear which also carries some inscription. Thankfully that was recorded by the Manpower Service Commission (MSC) team during the fantastic work they carried out in the 1970’s .


Howatson Headstone

The inscription reads (with the coloured text taken from MSC inscription)



The headstone was erected by Charles Howatson in memory of his grandfather Andrew Howatson of Craigdarroch, the eldest son of Andrew Howatson and his wife Margaret Campbell of Pencloe.

A. Andrew Howatson (I) & Margaret Campbell (Pencloe)

Pencloe Altogether four of Andrew and Margaret’s children were born at Pencloe with three daughters Margaret (1710), Jean (1712) and another Jean (1715) arriving before Andrew (1719).  Pencloe farm is situated in Glen Afton some two miles or so from the village. In the baptismal records of the children the names appears in the form Penclove.

The family moved another two miles or so up the Afton valley to live at Craigdarroch where two sets of twins Hugh & James (1723) and Helen & John (1725) were born before Ann (1729) completed the family.

B. Andrew Howatson (II) of Craigdarroch (b.1719 , d. 1796)

Craigdarroch farm lies in the shadow of the majestic Stayamera  (or Craigbraneoch hill as it is formally known)  a distinctive landmark within  the parish.  This was a prime sheep farm and the Howatson property would include the neighbouring herd’s cottage of Monthraw, further still up the Afton valley, earning it the appellation ‘The Lone Monthraw’.

Craigdarroch with Craigbraneoh Hill and Stayemera rock face to the right

Craigdarroch with Craigbraneoh Hill and Stayemera rock face to the right

Unfortunately, as yet I have been unable to identify Andrew’s spouse nor can I track the births or baptisms of his children in the Old Parish Records of New Cumnock or neighbouring parishes. However, from the headstone we know he had a son Charles.

C. Charles Howatson of Craigdarroch and Cronberry (b. 1757, d. 1822) & Margaret Reid (b. 1768 , d. 1837)

Charles appears to be the first born son of Andrew Howatson and succeeded his father in Craigdarroch and Monthraw.

The Lone Monthraw Where man never heard His neighbour's cock craw

Ruins of Monthraw Cottage “The Lone Monthraw Where man never heard His neighbour’s cock craw”

He married Margaret Reid the eldest daughter of John Reid of Duncanziemuir and Cronberry in the parish of Auchinleck. Together they had  daughters Mary (1791) and Jennet (1793) born at Craigdarroch. While at Auchinleck seven more children were born – Marion (1797), Andrew (1800), Jane (1804), Agnes (1806), William (1808), Ann (1810) and Charles (1813) – all born presumably in Auchinleck parish.

In 1798 Charles was a tenant in Cronberry of his father-in-law John Reid [1] and in the same year his name appears in the Horse Tax Rolls both in Cronberry (6 horses – 3 liable for tax) and Craigdarroch (all 3 horses liable for tax – a total of six shillings).

Blaeu Atlus Novus Courtesy of National Library of Scotland - Cronberry & Duncanziemuir

Blaeu Atlus Novus Courtesy of National Library of Scotland – Cronberry & Duncanziemuir

In the land tax rolls of 1803, Charles Howatson has to pay £136 13s for Craigdarroch and Monthraw, the money for the absentee proprietor paid by William McKnight in the Old Mill. Charles Howatson died in December 1822 and his wife Margaret passed away five years later and are both buried in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock.

C1: Andrew Howatson MD of Cronberry (b.1800 d. 1827)

Notes from the Scottish Jurist (1830) reveal that the Howatson’s had fell on hard times. [2]

Andrew succeeded to the lands of Craigdarroch , Monthraw and Cronberry ‘burdened with heritable debts amounting to £4200 and personal debts to £2000‘ .  His brother-in-law John Murdoch (husband of Margaret Howatson), a cotton yarn merchant in Paisley, took up the management of Andrew’s affairs and determined that his succession amounted to £8108 and his debts were £8008, and advised the properties be put up for sale. Murdoch then made the offer to buy the properties for £7500 and pay the creditors of 14s in the £1 of their debts, which was accepted.

That John Murdoch was acting in the interest of Andrew Howatson was evident in a letter he had sent to a friend of his brother-in-law.

Cumnock 12th February, 1825

In consequences of some observations just now made by Mr. David McKerrow*, I think proper to intimate, that the offer I made yesterday is entirely for the behoof of our mutual friend Mr Andrew Howatson, which I wish you understand; and if I hold the lands at all, it will only be until I am refunded for the (sums) I lay out.

*McKerrow was the husband of Mary Howatson, sister of Murdoch’s wife Margaret.

Matters took a turn for the worse when Murdoch was declared bankrupt in March 1826 and Andrew Howatson M.D. died in April of the following year, aged 27 years and his name appears on the headstone in the Auld Kirk.

C2: William Howatson (1808-1882) and Jane Samson (1811-1891)

William the second son of Charles Howatson of Craigdarroch and Cronberry established himself as a tenant farmer at Mortommuir, Cronberry. He married Jane Samson the daughter of George Samson of  Rigg, Auchinleck at Auchinleck Mill (1831) and together had 13 children. William is buried in Auchinleck Kirkyard and the grand obelisk he had erected carries the names, among others, of his father Charles, mother Margaret and brother Alexander , all of whom are named in the stone in the Auld Kirkyard of New Cumnock and are buried there.

Covenanters Memorial Muirkirk Cemetery, erected by Charles Howatson

Covenanters Memorial Muirkirk Cemetery, erected by Charles Howatson of Glenbuck

Charles Howatson of Glenbuck

The eldest son of William Howatson worked for many years as manager of Muirkirk Ironworks . He also acquired many farms in his home parish of Auchinleck before purchasing the Glenbuck Estate in Muirkirk, where had the grand Glenbuck house built.

He raised the Glenbuck flock of blackface sheep to a national reputation and won a record twelve blue ribbons in succession at the Highland and Agricultural Society.

His interest in the Covenanters is shown in the magnificent memorial had erected to their memory at Muirkirk Cemetery.

Charles Howatson of Glenbuck is buried in Auchinleck Kirkyard.

C3. Charles Howatson (b.1814, d. 1856) & Margaret Currie (b.1806,  d. 1894)

Charles, was the third son of Charles Howatson of Craigdarroch and Cronberry. He married Margaret Currie the daughter of William Currie, farmer at Crofthead in the parish of Ochiltree and his wife Ann Train. Together they had six children, Charles (1838), William (1840), Andrew (1843), John (1845) , Margaret (1846) and James (1848).

Eldest son Charles was born at Ochiltree, presumably at Crofthead farm, and baptized at Stair Church.  Father Charles was working as clerk at Old Cumnock at that time and by the time the second son William was born the Howatson’s had moved to Glaisnock Cottage in  Cumnock, where the rest of the family was born.  Also living at the cottage was Charles’s sister, Craigdarroch born Janet.

Glaisnock Cottage, Old Cumnock

Glaisnock Cottage, Old Cumnock ‘Courtesy of Cumnock History Club’

Charles had progressed from clerk to accountant working with branch of the Ayrshire Bank on the west side of Cumnock Square. His name appears as one of the Commissioners (along with that of Matthew McKerrow, bank agent in the branch of the Bank of Scotland on the south side of the Square) in the sequestration of the estates of local businessmen, including Robert Wylie, gunmaker & innkeeper in Auchinleck (Edinburgh Gazette, 10th Sept 1843).

In 1845 the Ayrshire Bank was taken over by the Western Bank of Scotland and the premises rebuilt which in 1857, after the bank failed, were acquired by the Clydesdale Bank. [3]

However, these were desperate times for the Howatson family, sons 12 year old John and 19 year old Charles, a banker’s clerk, both died of consumption that year; their father Charles having died the previous year, aged 43 years. All three lie together in the family lair at the kirkyard in New Cumnock.

The three other sons died in the Americas – Andrew in Kingston, Jamaica; James in Berbice, British Guiana and the Honorable William Howatson in Trinidad – where he served in the Chamber of Commerce.

Margaret , the only daughter, married William McGeachin who worked as an ironmoner in his father’s business in the Square. They lived at East Elm Cottage and then later in Tower Street. Their only son, William followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and worked as a bank clerk in the Lanark branch of the Clydesdale Bank. While serving as a captain in the Highland Light Infantry he fought in the Gallipoli campaign of World War I.  [Cumnock History Group,WWI Soldiers].

Mother, Margaret Howatson continued to live at Glaisnock Cottage, before passing away in 1894 at the grand age of 88 years before being laid to rest with her husband and sons along side the wall of the Auld Kirk of New Cumnock.

Auld Kirk and Corsencon hill


[1] The Correspondence of James Boswell with James Bruce and Andrew Gibb overseers of the Auchinleck Estate (Edit by Nellie Pottle Hankins and John Strawhorn)

[2] The Scottish Jurist, Containing Reports of Cases Decided in the House of Lords, Courts of Session, Teinds, and Exchequer, and the Jury and Justiciary Courts (1830)

[3] A New History of Cumnock (1966)  , John Strawhorn



Howatson Plot at Auchinleck Kirkyard


Howatson Family plot at Auchinleck Kirkyard

Howatson Family plot at Auchinleck Kirkyard


William Howatson MD of Craigdarroch

Andrew Howatson MD of Craigdarroch

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 .

Mother of the Cameronian Dreamer

At the top wall of the Auld Kirkyard near the Kirkport entrance is the family plot of John Lammie and his wife Margaret Lammie who lived at Sunnyside farm, New Cumnock. Margaret was the mother of the celebrated poet James Hyslop. His best known work ‘The Cameronian’s Dream’ was inspired by the loss of Richard Cameron and his band of Covenanters at Airdsmoss.

Lammie Family Lair (Robert Guthrie)

 Erected by
His wife who died 20th March
1845 aged 66 years; also
Who died in Feb 1823
Also the above JOHN LAMMIE
Who died 30th Nov 1852 aged 74
years. ROBERT LAMMIE their son
who died in June 1862 aged 45 years
MARY LAMMIE their daughter
Who died 12th April 1864, aged 45 years

JOHN LAMMIE (1780-1852) and MARGARET LAMMIE (1779-1845)

This branch of the Lammie family feature in ‘The Man’s the Gowd’ by Dr. James Begg [1], a fantastic account of his forebears, including his great-grandfather Andrew Lammie, younger brother of John Lammie, and their parents Andrew Lammie and Marrion Taylor.

A search of the Old Parish records of New Cumnock [2] reveal the baptisms of four of Andrew and Marrion’s children in the parish, three at Clocklowie, William (1763), Christian (1769), Ellison (1772),  and John (1780) at nearby Lethans. Some 9 years later son Andrew was born at Dalblair [1].

Maps courtesy of National Library of Scotland
Maps courtesy of National Library of Scotland
D=Dalblair, L=Lethans, C=Clocklowie, A=Auchitinch

John Lammie later lived at Auchtitench, a few miles north-east of Lethans, on the Auchinleck side of the New Cumnock parish boundary.

Meanwhile his future wife Margaret Lammie, a second cousin [1], had given birth to a son James Hyslop at Damhead, Kirkconnel, the home of her parents George Lammie, a weaver, and Mary Thompson. The Kirkconnel Kirk Session Minutes of 17th April 1798 revealed the father –

“Margaret Lambie confessed she was with child and that the father of her child was William Hyslop in Little Carco, being further interrogated she likewise confessed that the guilt was committed in October last in the Barn of Little Carco and in the evening she being then serving there.”

Kirkconnel Kirk Session Minutes 1798

In “Poems / by James Hyslop;  ; with a sketch of his life and notes on his poems by Peter Mearns” [4],  Mearns quotes from a letter by Mr. Alexander Muir of Paisley (1841) and gives an insight to how John and Margaret Lammie met.

He says: — “A few years after the birth of the poet, Margaret Lammie, his mother, was married to Mr. John Lammie, of Auchtitinch, in the parish of Auchinleck, Ayrshire. Though the place of his (John Lammie’s) birth is in the parish of Auchinleck* , it is fully sixteen miles from the Parish Kirk, and is situated in a wild and mountainous part of the country, at the head of Glenmuir Water. Spango also flows from the same hill, and after a run of ten miles it is joined by the Wanlock, when it takes the name of the Crawick. Kirkconnel being only seven miles from Auchtitinch, the Lammies used to attend the Parish Church there; and it was in that church that John first saw the beautiful Peggy. I have no hesitation in saying that her regular attendance there made as deep an impression on the mind of John Lammie as her lovely face and bewitching smile.  A few years after John and Margaret were married, he became shepherd to David Limond, Esq., at Dalblair (on Glenmuir Water), where he has resided up till the present time. He has a family of five sons and three daughters, each of whom loved the poet like a brother. John Lammie also paid great attention to him; and, from my own knowledge, I can say that he loved him like his own son. When residing at Wellwood, Hyslop made his mother’s house at Dalblair his home, it being only four or five miles distant. There is not a happier family than Mr. Lammie’s in the whole parish in which he lives; and a couple more respected by their master and neighbours than he and his wife could not be found, I believe, in any parish. Mrs. Lammie still retains traces of that personal beauty on account of which she was much admired in her early years. I have pleasure in thus dwelling on this subject, as I once lived with this happy family, and was ‘loved as one of her own,’ as the poet’s mother expressed it”

* John Lammie was born in the parish of New Cumnock

JAMES HYSLOP (1798-1827)

James Hyslop, doubtless was well versed in the traditions of the Covenanters, perhaps at his grandfather’s George Lammie’s knee who for 65 years was an elder at Kirkconnel parish church. It was while, working as a shepherd that James would encounter the grave of Richard Cameron ‘The Lion of the Covenant” and eight of his followers that were killed on 22nd July 1680 by government troops at the Battle of Airsmoss.

Airdsmoss, Grave of Richard Cameron and eight of his followers (Robert Guthrie)

The setting inspired the young shepherd-poet’s best known work “The Cameronian’ s Dream” which he composed some years later, at which time he was a shepherd in the Crawick valley in the parish of Sanquhar, initially at Corsebank and later Carco.


In a dream of the night I was wafted away
To the moorland of mist where the martyrs lay;
Where Cameron’s sword and his Bible are seen,
Engraved on the stone where the heather grows green.

‘Twas a dream of those ages of darkness and blood,
When the minister’s home was the mountain and wood;
When in Wellwood’s dark moorlands the standard of Zion,
All bloody and torn, ‘mong the heather was lying.

It was morning; and summer’s young sun, from the east.
Lay in loving repose on the green mountain’s breast.
On Wardlaw and Cairn-Table the clear shining dew
Glistened sheen ‘mong the heath-bells and mountain flowers blue.

And far up in heaven in the white sunny cloud,
The song of the lark was melodious and loud;
And in Glenmuir’s wild solitudes, lengthened and deep,
Was the whistling of plovers and the bleating of sheep.

And Wellwood’s sweet valley breathed music and gladness;
The fresh meadow blooms hung in beauty and redness;
Its daughters were happy to hail the returning,
And drink the delights of green July’s bright morning.

But ah! there were hearts cherished far other feelings,
Illumed by the light of prophetic revealings,
Who drank from this scenery of beauty but sorrow,
For they knew that their blood would bedew it to-morrow.

‘Twas the few faithful ones who, with Cameron, were lying
Concealed ‘mong the mist, where the heath-fowl was crying;
For the horsemen of Earlshall around them were hovering,
And their bridle-reins rang through the thin misty covering.

Their faces grew pale, and their swords were unsheathed,
But the vengeance that darkened their brows was unbreathed;
With eyes raised to Heaven, in meek resignation,
They sang their last song to the God of Salvation.

The hills with the deep mournful music were ringing,
The curlew and plover in concert were singing;
But the melody died ‘midst derision and laughter,
As the hosts of ungodly rushed on to the slaughter.

Though in mist and in darkness and fire they were shrouded,
Yet the souls of the righteous stood calm and unclouded;
Their dark eyes flashed lightning, as, proud and unbending,
They stood like the rock which the thunder is rending.

The muskets were flashing; the blue swords were gleaming;
The helmets were cleft, and the red blood was streaming;
The heavens grew dark, and the thunder was rolling,
When in Wellwood’s dark moorlands the mighty were falling.

When the righteous had fallen, and the combat had ended,
A chariot of fire through the dark cloud descended.
The drivers were angels on horses of whiteness,
And its burning wheels turned upon axles of brightness.

A seraph unfolded its doors bright and shining.
All dazzling like gold of the seventh refining;
And the souls that came forth out of great tribulation
Have mounted the chariot and steeds of salvation.

On the arch of the rainbow the chariot is gliding;
Through the paths of the thunder the horsemen are riding.
Glide swiftly, bright spirits, the prize is before ye,
A crown never fading, a kingdom of glory!

While at Sanquhar, Hyslop had opened an evening school ‘for the instruction of his humble pastoral associates’ [4] marking the beginning of a career in teaching which took him to Greenock and then to Edinburgh.

James Hyslop Memorial Sanquhar (Robert Guthrie)

In 1821 he was appointed the schoolmaster on board HMS Doris (frigate) which was about to set sail for South America, returning some three years later.

After a spell teaching in London he was back to sea serving as a schoolmaster on the HMS Tweed (man-of-war) bound for the  Mediterranean and then onto the Cape of Good Hope. The ship anchored at Cape Verde and while resting on the island of St. Jago, James Hyslop, along with a number of shipmates were seized by fever, and he died on 4th November 1827, aged 29 years.

James Hyslop  was buried at sea with full military honours.

When the “Tweed” reached the Cape of Good Hope, a communication was sent to Mr. Hyslop’s mother announcing her son’s death, and intimating the high esteem in which he was held by all on board, and the faithful and affectionate manner in which he discharged his duties as tutor. Among his papers a few scraps of poetry were found, but the only complete piece was a copy of the “Scottish National Melody.” [4]


Sunnyside ruins lies behind restored outbuilding (Robert Guthrie)

John Lammie and Margaret Lammie would be at Dalblair when they received the news of the death of James Hyslop. It is unclear when the family moved to Sunnyside farm near Lanehead in the parish of New Cumnock, but it must have been some time before 1845, when Margaret passed away and was laid to rest in the Auld Kirkyard.  John,  died seven years later, now a retired farmer, aged 72 years old .

Map Courtest f National Library of Scotland
Map Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

Other members of the Lammie family

  • George died in 1832 and his name was doubtless added to the headstone in his memory at the time it was erected following his mother’s death.
  • Robert worked as a grocer and lived in the parish schoolhouse at Afton Bridgend where his sister Mary supported him as housekeeper. After Robert’s death in 1862, Mary returned to Sunnyside earning some money from hand-sewing, only to pass away two years later. Brother and sister are buried in the family lair.
  • William – born in 1802, unable to uncover any more information
  • Andrew married Agnes Campbell and was a shepherd on Dalleagles hill and may later have worked at High Polquheys
  • Marion married Robert Baird and was at Polquheys
  • John moved to Glentrool, Wigtonshire
  • David married (1)  Isabella McMichael and (2) Jane Gall. He died aged 84 years at Hillend, near Corsencon. He lies buried in the Auld Kirkyard with Isabella and Jean.
  •  Thomson took over the reins at Sunnyside and here he raised a large family with his wife Jean McKnight. The family later moved to Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire. However daughter Margaret soon returned to New Cumnock after marrying local merchant Thomas Kirkland – both lie at rest in New Cumnock Auld Kirkyard.

Margaret Lambie (Lammie) and Thomas Kirkland
Margaret Lambie (Lammie) and Thomas Kirkland  (Robert Guthrie)


[1] James Alexander Begg ‘The Man’s the Gowd” (2012) by Dr. James Begg [1],

[2] Scotland’s People  Births. Marriages, Deaths, Census Records

[3] Scotland’s People  Kirkconnel Kirk Session Minutes 1798

[4] Peter Mearns  “Poems / by James Hyslop;  ; with a sketch of his life and notes on his poems (1887)   On-line here

[5] Charles Rogers  in  “Modern Scottish Minstrel” (1855-157) On-line here

Maps reproduced by permission of National Library of Scotland https://maps.nls.uk/


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.


John Paterson – Banker

Sharing information

School Children recording details from William Hunter’s headstone

One of the headstones that we have selected for the School Discovery trail is that of William Hunter. In 1860, the City of Glasgow Bank opened a branch at Pathhead with William as its agent – the first banker in New Cumnock. But we will save William Hunter’s story for our School interactive application.

John Paterson Headstone

John Paterson’s Headstone

A walk around the kirkyard will reveal not one but two headstones to another banker, John Paterson and his family. The first is found against the kirkyard wall, close to the entrance. Named on the stone are –

  • John Paterson, latterly banker in Maryhill (d. 1915, aged 80)
  • widow Mary Howatson McKerrow (d. 1916, aged 81)
  • daughter Maggie Dickie (d. 1866, aged 13 1/2 months)
  • son John (d. 1871, aged 4 years and 3 months)
  • a son and daughter who died in infancy
  • son James (d. 1884, aged 22 years)
  • son David McKerrow (d. Brisbane, Queensland 1915, aged 52 years)

Two Paterson Headstones

Two Paterson Headstones

Further along the kirkyard a second headstone is found which names all of the above  family members and the following children who died in later years –

  • son Peter (d.1929, aged 63 years)
  • son John (d.1947, aged 73 years)
  • son Frank William (d. 1948, aged 77 years)
  • daughter Margaret Dickie (d. 1956, aged 87 years)

 From Draper to Bank Agent

John Paterson was born in 1835, the son of James Paterson, draper in Cumnock. In 1860, now also a draper based at Holmhead, Cumnock he married Mary Howatson McKerrow of Roadinghead Farm, Auchinleck. Together they had a large family as witnessed from the names above. Their son Peter appears to be the first born in New Cumnock, in 1866 at the Post Office which sat adjacent to the Crown Inn and its coach house – a staging post for the mail coaches.

Left: OS 1843-1882  Right: OS 1892_1905

Left: OS 1843-1882   – Post Office                                            Right: OS 1892_1905, St, Blanes (red circle)

The following year the Royal Bank of Scotland opened a branch at nearby St. Blanes  [1]  and in the 1871 Census, John and Mary Paterson are resident in the ‘Bank Office and House’,with John’s profession now that of general merchant. Ten years later they are still in residence there with John’s profession now recorded as ‘Royal Bank Agent and draper’. Ten more years and in the 1891 census,  John is recorded as a ‘Royal Bank Agent and Justice of the Peace’, although the branch closed two years earlier [1].

St. Blanes, 1 Castle, New Cumnock

St. Blanes, 1 Castle, New Cumnock (on front left)

From New Cumnock to Maryhill

After 25 years based in New Cumnock (where children Peter, Maggie, Frank and John all were born), John and Mary Paterson moved to Maryhill in Glasgow , where John continued to work as an agent for the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The family appear in the 1901 Census records for Maryhill , including a grand-daughter Cessie born in Queensland, Australia – presumably the daughter of David McKerrow Paterson, named in the headstone in the Auld Kirkyard. Ten years later, John (now a retired bank agent) and Mary are both in the mid 70’s and son John has progressed from bank clerk to bank agent,while sons Peter and Frank are both solicitors.

John Paterson, passed away in 1915, aged 80 years at Gartnavel Hospital and his widow Mary passed away the following year.


[1] George Sanderson ‘New Cumnock Long Ago and Faraway’

Thanks to Hamish Paterson, Australia , descendant


My Collier laddie

In 1833 a new parish church was erected to serve the growing population of New Cumnock and the original church ceased to function in that role and then quickly as the Auld Kirk it soon fell into ruin. The kirkyard continued to be the final resting place of parishioners for some considerable time after and with space at a premium, the ground within the walls of the Auld Kirk was put to good use.

Headstones within the Auld Kirk walls

Headstones within the Auld Kirk walls

One of the headstones within the ruin is that of George Brown, who in December 1846 ‘lost his life in the Mansfield Coalworks‘. Although the early coal barons had been working the coal measures across the parish of New Cumnock since the late 18th century George Brown’s death is thus far the earliest recorded mining fatality in the parish that has been found.

Three generations of the Brown Family - Thomas, George and Elizabeth

Three generations of the Brown Family – Thomas, George and Elizabeth

Fatal Accident – New Cumnock, 22d Dec 1846 –

At Mansfield Colliery, in the neighbourhood of New Cumnock, this day, one of the workmen, named George Brown, was in the act of undermining that portion of the seam he meant to take down for the day’s “dark,” when it unexpectedly gave way, and crushed the unfortunate man to eternity in a moment. The deceased was a sober, inoffensive, individual, and in the prime of life. He has left a wife and small family to lament their irreparable loss. [Dumfries and Galloway Standard 23 December 1846]

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

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

In the 1841 Census, George (30) ,his wife Margaret Millar (25) are found at Mounthope. a mile of so to the south of Mansfield Colliery with their New Cumnock born children Thomas (5), John Millar (3) & William (1).  A year later, a daughter Elizabeth was born and three years after that another daughter, Jean saw the light of day at Mounthope.

At this time George is working as a Tile Manufacturer, likely at the clay pits in the Mansfield land , along with three other young men also living at Mounthope – John Williamson, James McGilvery and George Porter.

Five years later, he is working as a carter at Mansfield when he loses his life on 22nd December 1846, his tombstone recording that he was 42 years old, indicating he was born in 1804, which differs slightly from that of 1811 as suggested by the census information. This latter date is nearer the mark for he was born on 12th July 1810 at Perth, the son of Thomas Brown , weaver and Jean Miller.

His parents moved the family to New Cumnock and in the 1841 Census Thomas (78), Jean (68) and daughter Margaret (25) are found at High Linn in the upper reaches of the Mansfield Burn, where the elderly Thomas is working as a bower. It was here in 1836 that Thomas junior had been born.

High Linn on the upper reaches of Mansfield Burn

High Linn on the upper reaches of Mansfield Burn with Corsencon Hill in the background

Thomas Brown, died on the 10th August 1846, aged 83 years and was buried within the ruins of the Auld Kirk. Four months later his son George was killed at Mansfield Colliery, aged 36 years (and not 42 years as recorded on the stone) and was laid to rest with his father, leaving behind his wife Margaret and five children aged between 1 and 10 years old. George’s daughter Elizabeth moved away from the parish and worked as a dairymaid in Hutton, Dumfriesshire. Sadly she died at the young age of 25 years old and lies here in the Auld Kirk with her father and grandfather.

Resting place of Perthshire weaver and his son an Ayrshire collier

Resting place of a Perthshire weaver and his son an Ayrshire collier

It is fitting that George Brown, the first recorded mining fatality in the parish that we know of, lies within the ruins of the Auld Kirk which  ceased to function as a church at the time New Cumnock’s transformation to a mining community took hold.

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


Auld Kirkyard Remembrance Sunday


Take a walk through the Auld Kirkyard and there you will find names of several soldiers remembered on family tombstones – alongside unforgettable names such as Somme, Gallipoli and Palestine carved into  aging stone.

As part of our project we secured funds to make repairs to five of the stones and to produce a Soldiers Trail leaflet to enhance your visit to the Auld Kirkyard.


INDIAN MUTINY (1857-1859)

Surgeon-General John Findlay Arthur (1st Madras Fusiliers)

  • Born at Crook , a cottage on the Arthur family’ lands of Wellhill.  He served as surgeon to the 1st Madras Fusiliers who entered Lucknow as part of the 1st Relief Force during the Indian Mutiny and later served in the siege and capture of Lucknow. John was awarded ‘The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India’, C.S.I. in June 1869. He died at Lochside House, 1886, aged 79 years.

BOER WAR (1899-1902)

Sergeant John Montgomerie (17th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry)

  • One time resident in the Old Mill and his father later farmed Dalhanna.  John died of his wounds at Boshof, South Africa, on 28th  March 1901, aged 33 years.

Soldiers: Collage_McKenzie_Sloan

GREAT WAR (1914-1919)

Private Douglas McKenzie (2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders)

  • His family lived at Old Coalburn. Douglas was killed in action at the Battle of Passchendaele, 25th September 1915, aged 19 years.

Private William Sloan (1/1st Ayrshire Yeomanry)

  • The Sloan family farmed at Roughside. William died of his wounds in hospital at Helles, Gallipoli on 15th November 1915, aged 21 years.

Soldiers: Collage_Murphy_Sturrock_McKerrow

Private Walter Scott Murphy (Highland Light Infantry)

  • His family lived at Bluebell Cottage (Tank) and he worked at the railway station. Walter was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, age 24 years old

Lieutenant Andrew Sturrock (3rd Royal Scots Fusiliers)

  • The family originally from Forfar lived at Castlehill and then Mossmark, where his father worked as a tailor’s cutter. Andrew was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme, 14th July 1916, age 21 years.

Private George McKerrow (9th Black Watch)

  • A champion ploughman he lived with his family at Dalrickett Cottage. George was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme, 8th September 1916, age 20 years.

Soldiers: Collage_Sloan_Mathieson

Private Alexander Sloan (49th Canadian Infantry Alberta Regiment)

Private William McKerrow Sloan (8th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry)

  • The McKerrow brothers were born at Maneight . Alexander emigrated to Canada where he served in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force and was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme, 9th October 1916, age 25 years. William was killed six months later in the Balkans campaign on 25th April 1917, age 22 years.

Private Joshua Mathieson (11th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders)

Private Thomas Mathieson (5th King’s Own Scottish Borderers)

  • The Mathieson brothers’ father worked as a cloth merchant at Pathhead before moving to Kirkconnel where the boys were born.  Joshua was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme on 15th September 1916, age 18 years. Thomas, died of infectious jaundice on 9th November 1917, age 24 years.

Soldiers: Collage_Murray_Mackenzie_Paterson

Private Robert Murray (1st / 4th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry)

  • The family lived at Connel bridge where Robert worked in his father’s shop. Robert was killed in action at Palestine on 22nd November 1917, age 24 years.

Private Archibald MacKenzie (1st and 5th Sherwood Foresters)

Born at Rottenyard farm, he enlisted while working as a ploughman at South Boig. Archibald contracted pneumonia and was brought home but died in Glenafton Sanitorium.

Sergeant Robert Paterson (29th Canadian Infantry British Columbia Regiment)

  • A farmer at Coalcreoch he emigrated to Canada and served in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. Robert died of his wounds in a casualty clearing station in France, 6th April 1918, age 39 years.

Soldiers: Collage_Ross_Galston_Dick

Private Archibald Ross (Royal Scots Fusiliers)

  • His father Hugh was a grocer and spirit dealer at Craigbank. Archibald moved to Cathcart where he enlisted. He contracted pneumonia and died at Victoria Infirmary 22nd July 1918, age 19 years.

Private James Galston (1st and 5th Royal Scots Fusiliers)

  • Son of a Glasgow clogmaker he moved to Pathhead to work in the coal mines and later married a local girl. James died of his wounds in France, 17th September 1918, age 27 years.

Private Thomas Samuel Dick (31st Machine Corps, Infantry)

  • He lived with his family at Boig Road and worked in the local mines. Thomas died at Kilmarnock Infirmary of tubercular peritonitis 19th August 1919, age 20 years.


  • Our project team are indebted to the fantastic endeavours of Mr. Richard Bain.  Please visit his remarkable research resource here