Gravestones – Parish History in Stone

There are few better places than a graveyard where the history of a parish and it’s inhabitants can be studied from contemporary sources. Unfortunately, through age and infirmity, the inscriptions become increasingly difficult to read.

When writing about Glencairn, John Corrie wrote, “The earliest date that can be deciphered on any of the stones is 1637. There are fragments of stones that may be older, but their history is unknown.”

1637 is the date on the elaborate memorial to Stephen Lawrie who had bought Maxwelton in 1611. On the wall of another family plot, that of the Fergussons’ of Craigdarroch and ‘Cat loch,’ 1675 is carved on the inscription panel.

The Browns’ stone is dated 1677. John Brown and his son William Brown were both ministers of Glencairn in the 16/17th centuries, rather earlier than the date and so if ML refers to Marion Laurie, wife of WB, William Brown, the lower part of the panel may have been carved later than the upper part.

The stone of Alexander McCubin in Marwhirn who died aged 100 in 1693, has a sad faced angel, an hour glass and other emblems carved on the front. His family were embroiled in covenanting events and memorials to four men killed in 1685 are preserved on replacement stones nearby.

Not all flat stones are fallen stones but flat stones from the 18th century suffer greatly from the weather. Those of the Gibsons of Glencrosh have been raised to make them look like table stones. This family lived in the parish from c.1654-1870.

Rather than struggle with the lichen on the older stones an easier way of finding out who lived where and when, is to use the Glencairn Cemetery Inventory on microfiche in the Ewart Library. Not everyone in the parish was engaged in agriculture, as can be seen from the variety of occupations sometimes carved on memorials, such as:

Baker Inn-keeper Painter

Blacksmith Jeweller Pensioner

Builder Joiner Schoolmaster

Carrier Mason Servant

Doctor/Surgeon Merchant Shepherd

Dyer Minister Shoemaker

Farmer Missionary Slater

Flesher Naval Officer Soldier

Hosier Nurse Weaver

There is also an Author, Professor of Anatomy, Student of Divinity, ‘Taylor and Feuar’, Member of Parliament, Writer to the Signet and an Ordinance Store Keeper.

There are a number of references to people who are buried far from home in such places as British Columbia, Colorado, Australia and New Zealand. The unfortunate James Austin died in 1858 in a railway carriage near Lancaster on his way home to Moniaive from California aged 31.

There are numerous farm names and it is possible to link the occupiers of a farm from several stones. For example, Robert McNae and his wife Agnes Seaton, who were both born in 1750, were living at Craigleeran when their daughter Grizel died in 1793 aged 16, and their son Robert died in 1801 aged 11.

John Hume and his wife Elizabeth Wilson were at Craigleron when their two daughters died in 1850 and 1855. Elizabeth also died there in 1876.

The first wife of David Hastings, Maggie Jane Grierson, died at Craiglearin in 1898 aged 38. He later farmed at Callside.

© A.B. Hall


Some notes on the family of Gibson of Glencrosh. T.M. Fallow 1905

The Annals of Glencairn. John Corrie 1910.

The Buildings of Scotland: Dumfries and Galloway. John Gifford 1996.

Glencairn Cemetery Inventory. M.M. Stewart

Note: Many thanks to Antony Heald for his translation of the memorial inscription to the Browns of Ingleston.