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GRAVES AND BURIAL RECORDS OF NORTH AYRSHIRE and ARRAN
[From articles contributed to the Largs and North Ayrshire Family History Society Magazine by Dr Bill Gibb. Permission given to reproduce these articles here by Dr Bill Gibb]
Pictures provided by Dr Bill Gibb (Arran) and Kenny Monnaghan
[Ardrossan Castlehill] [Ardrossan Parish] [Beith Auld Kirk] [Beith Boys Brigade] [Beith Cemetery] [Beith Church of our Lady] [Brodick Old Graveyard] [Brodick Cemetery] [Brodick Castle] [Cumbrae Cathedral of the Isles] [Dalry St Margaret's] [Dalry Cemetery] [Dreghorn Churchyard] [Dreghorn Cemetery] [Fairlie Burials] [Haylie Brae Cemetery] [Holy Isle] [Irvine Old Parish] [Kilbirnie Auld Kirk] [Kilbirnie Old Cemetery] [Kilbirnie New Cemetery] [Kilmory] [Kilwinning Abbey] [Kilwinning Bridgend] [Knadgerhill] [Lamlash] [Largs Old Parish Church Graveyard] [Lenimore] [Little Cumbrae] [Lochranza] [Perceton] [Pirnmill] [Prehistoric Graves] [Sannox] [Shiskin] [Shewalton] [Stevenston New Street] [Stevenston Hawkhill] [Stevenston High Kirk] [The Prophets Grave] [The Sailor's Grave] [West Kilbride]
PART 6 DREGHORN.
The small town of Dreghorn lying within the environs of Irvine is bound to the North by the River Annick and to the South by the A71 Bypass. The Main Street runs East to West to the Cross, where it continues as Townfoot. The Cross is completed by Dundonald Road coming from the South and Station Brae from the North. Dreghom Parish Church stands a little above road level on the north west comer of the Cross. It was built in 1780 and replaces an earlier church on this site. The octagonal design is unique in this area, and has suffered little alteration over the years. The ground level falls away gently towards the Annick, and to the West along Townfoot, giving the church a prominent location when viewed from those directions.
There are three burial grounds in the vicinity of the church, viz, the church yard, an adjoining public cemetery, and an extension of the later on the east side of Station Brae.
In the area between the church building, and the stone walls separating it from the two adjoining streets, the old monumental stones stand relatively close together, but the grass-clad slope at the rear of the church, has few remaining stones. There are a total of 190 stones with in the churchyard, 64 of which are now partially or totally illegible. Some carry dates in the 18th and late 17th Centuries and two in the area in front of the church are earlier. One carries the dates 1630 and 1660; the other is inscribed 1580. The churchyard gate is on Station Brae near the comer with Townfoot, and appears to be kept padlocked during the week, presumably to avoid the intrusion of vandals. However, one can easily gain access to it through an open gateway from the public cemetery that lies behind it and nearer the river.
Walking down Station Brae towards the river, one sees on the left-hand side, between the roadway and the public cemetery, an area enclosed behind a timber and high steel wire fence. It proves to be the " Dreghorn Civic Amenity Site " i.e. a council yard containing a number of skips in which the public may deposit bulky domestic waste. The entrance to the yard is at the far end, and somewhat ironically adjacent to the entrance to the cemetery.
This cemetery is extensive, well kept and contains 1200 graves. It is divided into areas by a wall with two openings. The nearer part of the cemetery is conventional with monumental stones carrying dates as far back as the 1870s, although the earliest recorded burial is for a child who died in 1846. The oldest stones appear to be in the north-west corner. The section of the cemetery beyond the dividing wall is more modern, and the monumental stones are laid flat, forming what is evidently known as a " lawn " cemetery. This gives a very open aspect to the area and brings into prominence the flowers arranged around the graves.
On the opposite side of Station Brae, about 100 metres from the Cross, there is a gateway leading to a new small cemetery with about 40 monumental stones. The earliest inscriptions carry dates in 1994. Plots are laid out to allow more graves.
The monumental inscriptions in the graveyard and cemetery were recorded in 1984, and are held in the local library. Dreghorn Library is handily placed at the comer of Main Street and Station Brae, i.e., directly opposite the Parish Church.
The Local History Department of Ardrossan Public Library has records for the churchyard. These include,
Burial Register for the Old Churchyard, Dreghorn.
This is a foolscap, notebook containing two separate registers. The first records 59 burials between, 1887 and 1902. The Second, giving less detail, runs from 1849 to 1891, and from 1934 to 1947.
List of applications for Interments in Dreghom churchyard.
In this small notebook full details of 79 applications are recorded for the period from 21st November 1901 to 1st April 1930. Fair proportions of them were refused.
There is a Burial register for the public cemetery in the Cemeteries Office, Ardrossan Road, Saltcoats. The earliest recorded burial is in 1884.
Dreghom OPR 589 does not record Deaths.
PART 7 IRVINE.
There are four burial grounds within the Irvine area, but only one of those is fully active.
The Old Parish Churchyard
The River Irvine meanders to the sea through southern parts of the town and passes the centre in a south-east to north-west direction.. The Old Parish Church stands on a low hill on the north-east bank of the river between two streets leaving the south side of Irvine High Street, viz., the Kirkgate and Kirk Vennel.
The Parish Church erected in 1803 is an imposing rectangular building with a handsome spire. Since it covered a much larger area of ground than an earlier cruciform shaped church on the same site, many early grave lairs had to be disturbed. The remains were reinterred under the passages of the new building. However, in 1866 when a new heating system was being put in place, pipe trenches were dug out in those passages, and the remains were again disturbed and reinterred in the south-east corner of the graveyard. There are several memorials within the church, both on the walls and in stain glass windows, to persons of importance to the town.
The graveyard surrounds the church on all sides and runs down to the river bank from which it is separated by a low stone wall. On its other sides the walls are higher, and those on the north and south have large memorials with protruding tops built into them. There are almost 1500 memorial stones arranged in neat rows, and shaped as obelisks, statues, tables and undraped urns. There are relatively few plain headstones. Many are carvel from sandstone and the inscriptions on a surprising few are now illegible. The graveyard is well kept with short grass and neat paths. However, no flowers were to be seen at the time of my visit.
There is a south-east extension to this graveyard, which also adjoins the river bank. The south wall of the main graveyard has been lowered at some time to make the extension seem less separate. It contains a further 337 stones, and access to it is best gained from Kirk Vennel.
It was gratifying to note that in spite of the close proximity of the town centre, and the fact that although the graveyard and its extension were closely surrounded by housing, there was no obvious evidence of vandalism on the headstones.
This cemetery lies on the east side of Ayr Road (A737), which runs southwards from Irvine town, and just a short distance north of the Three Stanes roundabout. Burial records seem to indicate that it was created in the late 1870s There is a small layby beside the gateway for visitor’s cars.
It is a relatively small rectangular burial ground, containing 683 memorial stones, and surrounded by the usual stone walls. Although neatly arranged and tidily kept it has a rather drab appearance, as there are no bushes and little evidence of flowering plants. The only added vegetation seemed to be two pollarded trees set close together near the south end of the cemetery.
It took a considerable amount of time and effort to locate this burial ground.
An early map shows it to be arranged in and around the former church, with the original Perceton House close to it.. The latter was demolished in 1770, and the present Perceton House built some distance to the south. A modern map shows the church now to be a ruin, and located on the south side of Stewarton Road (B769) at the corner with an unnumbered road running south. This junction lies between the Perceton Roundabout to the west, and the entry gate to the present Perceton House to the East. Knowing all this detail, it should have been possible to locate the graveyard; but the presence of modern housing lying between the B769 and a parallel minor road tended to cloud the issue. When passers by and residents were asked about the ruined church and graveyard none seemed to know its location. I was somewhat in despair until I saw three young boys playing on skate boards, and questioned them. I received an instant response. They knew the graveyard and offered to lead me to it. They took me back to the B769 to a point where the Annick Water ran under it.
On the south side of the road there is a bus shelter and beside it there is a path leading into the ‘undergrowth’, between massive bushes and a thick overhead carpet of tree branches. The path leads upward onto an obvious headland and to the gravestones surrounding the ruined church. However, to my dismay they in turn were totally surrounded by a modem strong steel fence about five feet high. There was a gate, but it was secured by a large padlock. Also within this compound was a small modem building and a notice board carrying the legend, ‘The Emmanuel Christian Centre’, together with the minister’s name and the times of the services. I suppose that I could have returned at a later date when the gate would have been open, but there was a pile of concrete slabs lying within the compound near the fence, and one slab had been conveniently set on its side against the fence making it easily possible for the boys to climb over. With some considerable difficulty I joined them on the other side of the fence.
There are 45 memorial stones in and around the small ruined church and more then one third of them are now illegible. The earliest legible stone commemorates deaths in 1698 and 1699.
The entrance to the ruined church also had been fitted with a modem steel gate, again padlocked. The boys offered to help me over the church wall, but perhaps fortunately that was beyond my capabilities. Their obvious facility and local knowledge indicated that this was not the first time that they had been within this compound. I was content to take some photographs, but would be interested to make a return visit This, however, would have to be during a service, since there was no address or telephone number on the notice board.
This is a large modem active cemetery, which appears to have been created in the early 1920s. One may reach it by driving north-east out of Irvine Centre along Bank Street, which in turn becomes the A736, Manson Road. This takes one to a bridge over the A78 and to a large roundabout called the ‘Stanecastle Interchange’. The first exit on the left leads to an offset crossroads where one makes a quick right and left turn into a tree-lined avenue leading to the cemetery gates.
The cemetery is set out on undulating ground and well provided with handsome trees and shrubs. At the time of my visit in late summer a number of plots with bright flowers were also evident. The area was so massive, that no attempt was made to find the number of memorial stones. The section set aside for modem graves with black marble stones of various shapes, accompanied by flowers and other colourful emblems made a very happy aspect in this place of the dead.
Burial Records The Cemeteries Office, Ardrossan Road, Saltcoats holds :-
Burial Registers from 23 November 1926 to the present date, Lair Books covering the same period.
Burial Registers from 28 February 1940 to 31 January 1994. After that date the burials were included in the Knadgerhill Register. Lair Books from 1 Dec 1880 to 17 December 1987. The Local History Dept of Ardrossan Public Library holds :-
Old Parish Churchyard.
Record of Burials from 1818 to 1840 on microfilm. A Burial Register from 1841 to 1862.
Perceton Graveyard. No records of burials appear to exist.
Irvine OPR (595) records deaths from 1783 to 1796.
PART 8 KILBIRNIE.
There are three burial grounds in the Kilbirnie/Glengarnock area, all lying approximately side by side.
The Old Parish Churchyard Kilbirnie ‘Auld Kirk’, the popular name for the Barony Parish Church, properly indicates that it is by far the most venerable church in the town. It stands on the south side of the roundabout which links Holmhead (B780) from the town centre, with Dalry Road (B780) and Kirkland Road (B777).
The associated graveyard, reached through the churchyard gates at the roundabout and contained within high stone walls, lies behind the church and is quite out of sight from the adjoining roadways.
It has a total of 149 memorials and gravestones. Many of the earliest bear only initials and dates and more than 34 are by now illegible. In recent times vandals appear to have pushed down many of the stones. It could be suggested that it would not require much effort to set them up again so that the inscriptions may be read. ‘1669’ is the earliest legible date on a stone; five others carry 17" Century dates and 25 have dates in the 18" Century. As with other similar graveyards, there are a number ef large memorials for the deceased landed gentry, sizeable stones for professionals and business people, but no evidence of the presence of the poorest members of the community
The Old Cemetery This burial ground extends south from the above graveyard, is divided from it by a stone wall with an open gateway, and is again surrounded by similar walls at Kirkland Road on the east side and Eastern Crescent on the west. There is access to it, and thus to the old graveyard, through a main gateway on Kirkland Road. The south end of the cemetery is contained and crossed at an angle by a high embankment for a former railway line.
The cemetery appears to have been created late in the 19th Century; the earliest legible gravestone is dated 1897. It contains about 1000 gravestones neatly arranged and well kept. Only a very few are now illegible. The inscriptions on many of the stones reflect the industrial past of Kilbirnie and Glengarnock.
The New Cemetery The so-called New Cemetery lies on the south side of the railway embankment that separates it from the Old Cemetery. It is confined by this embankment, by walls on its western side and by a steel fence and gateway on Kirkland Road, giving it a somewhat unusual triangular area, but easily seen from the roadway. The first internment appears to have taken place in July 1950.
The cemetery is neatly kept and the modem graves are well tended. There is an internal walkway that roughly follows the line of the boundaries. Most of the graves to date appear to be contained within the plots that lie between this walkway and the boundary walls and fence. It is noticeable that, in places, they are laid out consecutive date order.
The Cemeteries Office, Ardrossan Road, Saltcoats holds :-
For the Old Cemetery and New Cemetery, - Five Burial Register Books dating from 10 December 1887 to the present time, giving names of the deceased, and Six Lair Books for the same period.
The Local History Dept. of Ardrossan Public Library holds :-A Register of Burials in the Auld Kirk Graveyard, from 1887 to 1930. (A large number of the deceased listed have no gravestone in the churchyard.)
Kilbirnie OPR (596) records deaths from 1753 to 1846.
Part 9 Kilwinning.
Kilwinning’s two most prominent features are the ruins of its 12th Century Abbey and an associated Clock Tower. The latter was built in 1816 to replace an earlier one which formed part of the Abbey, and had collapsed two years earlier. There are two burial grounds. An old graveyard, in use from the end of the 16th century until 1872, lies around the Abbey ruins, and a public cemetery, opened in 1870, is located on the east side of the town.
The Abbey Graveyard
The Abbey grounds are most easily approached from Stevenston to the west on the A738, and by the A78 by-pass from Irvine or Ayr, joining the A738 at the Pennyburn Roundabout. Within the town, one proceeds in the direction of the Main Street until an opening into a large free car park is seen on the left. Leaving the car, one walks to the far (northeast) corner of the car park and enters the pedestrianised Main Street. Walking in the direction of the large Clock Tower seen projecting over the roof tops, one reaches,-after a short distance on the right hand side, the main entrance to the Abbey grounds. The relatively modern and simple Abbey Church stands within the ruins. In front, and to the side of it lie some of the old grave stones, most of which are still upstanding. Similar gravestones are also standing on the North side of the church. To the east, beyond the church is a large grassed area surrounded by a high stone wall. This was the main part of the graveyard, but is now nothing less than a ‘disaster area’. Virtually every gravestone that could be blown over, or more likely pushed over by vandals, is lying on its face. Thus inscriptions still may be deciphered on only a handful of stones. A row of similarly fallen stones is evident in the northwest comer of the grounds. It also was noted that a War Memorial pillar, located between the entrance to the grounds and the church, had been besmirched with childish graffiti.
It is evident that there is now little to be learned from this graveyard. Fortunately, in 1984, the location of the gravestones and the inscriptions that could read were recorded by a team of researchers, funded by the Manpower Services Commission, and managed by Cunningham District Council. At that time there was a total of 116 stones, the inscriptions on 42 of which had been partially or totally eroded by that time. The inscriptions recorded may be examined in Kilwinning Library, and in the Local History Library in Ardrossan. There is also a map showing the location of each stone at that time.
As the name suggests one has to cross the bridge over the River Garnock to reach this cemetery. If approaching from the west, as suggested above, it is necessary, when in the town, to turn on to the North Service Road that bypasses the Main Street. This slopes down to the river. On crossing the bridge, turn left on to the Auchentiber Road (A736), known locally at this point as Bridgend Lane. A few hundred yards up this road and on its left is the cemetery. It lies on slightly rising ground and is very well maintained.
There are two entries from the public highway, the main entry being the more easterly with a lodge house at the gate. The opening date of the cemetery, 1870, is carved on the gable. Parallel driveways with paths to left and right run from the entries to the far end of the site. At the far end of the main driveway lies the Eglinton Vault, within which a number of the Earls and their wives are entombed. It is not open to the public. The cemetery appears to have been extended to the rear in two stages. Thus the more modem graves are the most distant from the public highway. All are well tended.
When this cemetery was surveyed in 1984 and the monumental inscriptions transcribed, there were 2859 gravestones in place.
There are no records for the Abbey graveyard.
For Bridgend Cemetery, the Local History Dept. of Ardrossan Public Library holds :- Register of Burials for Parochial Cemetery’ 1870 -1897. It contains 3877 names and is fully indexed.
The Cemeteries Office, Ardrossan Road, Saltcoats holds :-Two Burial Registers, fully indexed, covering the period, 17 May 1897 to date. Five Lair Books, fully indexed, covering the period, 22 July 1871 to date.
Kilwinning OPR (599) records no deaths.
PART 10 LARGS
Largs has two burial grounds, the graveyard around the site of the old parish church, and the cemetery adjacent to the Haylie Brae.
This graveyard is located in the centre of the town of Largs. It is approached through an entry (Manse Close) on the North side of Main Street, a short distance from the sea front. The manse of the old parish church was a typical early 17th century town house. It stood on the north side of the Close and was demolished in 1900. The present block of flats, which replaced it, carries on its front the date 1901, together with the weathered 1606 date-stone from the manse. Within the Close, the graveyard gates may be seen between the flats on the left and the Largs Museum on the right. A flight of steps leads up to the graveyard level, about two metres above the level of the Close. A stone in the wall at the left side of the gateway carries the date 1636. Since the graveyard contains the Skelmorlie Aisle, a valuable ancient monument in the care of Historic Scotland, the gates are normally kept padlocked until keys are requested at Largs Museum. There is a secondary gate in the north wall, not used by visitors, giving access to Lade Street. The graveyard formerly contained the old parish church, demolished in 1812. There appears to have been a church on this site for a long number of years. Evidently it was referred to in a Papal Bull of 1265. Relatively small, the graveyard measures about 44 metres North-South x 50 metres East-West, with an approximately semicircular area It is surrounded by a wall of sea worn and, in places, roughly cut stones. On its north side, where it adjoins the tree-clad ‘motte’, known as Gallow Hill, there are two small walled rectangular extensions containing graves, known respectively as Caskie’s ground, and Greg’s ground.
In 1983 - 84 when monumental inscriptions were being recorded in all the North Ayrshire burial grounds; Largs Historical Society took part in survey work in the local graveyard, and arranged for drawings of all the gravestones to be made. In the finished volume a separate page has been given to each gravestone and its inscription. Copies may be studied in Largs Museum and in Ardrossan Local History Library. A total of 262 gravestones were recorded in the main area and the two extensions, and a considerable number of the inscriptions were found to be wholly or partially legible. Apart from the Skelmorlie Aisle, qv, there is also a small mausoleum for the Brisbane family and a memorial for the Boyles on a fragment of the old church wall. Although the paths and grass areas are kept neat, many of the stones have collapsed or are now covered with vegetation. However, they seem to be relatively free from the effects of vandalism
From the Old Parish Register (OPR 602/1) with a date range of 1723 - 1770, and from a book kept by the three members of the Jamieson family (the so-called Sexton’s Book), who were the gravediggers from 1823 - 1870, the Largs contribution to the National Burial Index has been prepared, and is near publication. From this work it has been possible to estimate that a total of over 3500 burials took place within this relatively small graveyard over the two time periods studied. No records have been found for the intervening 53 years, but a very conservative. estimate indicates about a further 1500 burials. The space required for those would explain why the graveyard is level, while the ground outside its wall falls naturally to the southeast, causing the difference in level at the entrance gateway.
When the manse was demolished in 1900, human remains were discovered beneath its foundations, suggesting that before the 17" Century the graveyard was somewhat larger.
The graveyard was closed in 1867. The new cemetery adjoining the Haylie Brae had been receiving some internments for about eight years prior to this.
As one, travelling south on the A78 nears the southern limit of Largs; the A760 to Kilbirnie is seen rising steeply on the left. This road is known locally as ‘The Haylie Brae’; and the cemetery, easily visible on the hillside to the left of the Brae, is entered from it By the late 1850s it was apparent that the parish graveyard could not accommodate many more bodies, so a new cemetery was opened. The first burial took place in February 1859, and by the time the old graveyard was closed in 1867, a further twenty-eight burials had taken place in the new cemetery. This cemetery has been well kept over the years. The arrangement of graves has been conditioned by the rocky nature of the ground and by the steepness of the hill. At the time of writing, I understand that the cemetery contains a total of 12,480 burials, and due to increasing lack of space, is unlikely to take many more. Accordingly, a new cemetery has been proposed in a field in the Brisbane Glen at the north end of Largs.
The book containing the monumental inscriptions recorded in 1983 - 1984 is available in the local library.
Other individual burials recorded in the vicinity of Largs include,
The Sexton’s Book records on 21st June 1839,
'Mifs Buchanan interd at Fairlie Chapell’
This grave now lies under nineteenth century structural additions to Fairlie church,
There is a local tale that there is a suicide’s grave below the low water mark on Fairlie shore. This has been shown to be false, since the person in question is recorded in the Sexton’s book. William Gow, servant to Peter Paterson, was buried in the old Largs graveyard on 15th October, 1832.
In 1644 Largs was hit by a virulent outbreak of ‘plague’, possibly typhus. In an attempt to escape from the infection many of the villagers left their homes, and set up huts on the open hillsides to the north east of the village and in the Brisbane Glen. Their young minister, William Smith, went with them and faithfully tended their needs until he too was infected, and succumbed to the disease. He died at Middleton Farm in September 1647 aged 28 years. His grave is in Brisbane Glen near the Noddle bum, about two miles from Largs, and a quarter mile from Middleton Farm. A path reaches it from the Brisbane Glen Road through an ornamental gate in the fence. There is a legend that Smith prophesised that as long as the branches of holly bushes at either end of his grave did not meet, the plague would not return to Largs. (Hence the name of the grave.) Severe pruning ensured that the bushes were kept apart The gravestone is of tabular form, suitably inscribed in Latin. Nearby there is a protective low wall carrying an inscribed plaque.
Early records mention a number of mounds or cairns on the Haylie hillside. The most notable of these was discovered in 1772 when stones for road making were taken from a cairn close to the road passing through Largs, now the A78. A prehistoric tomb containing human remains was uncovered. Most of the burial chamber has been preserved at the place where it was discovered, and may be seen within what is now the Douglas Park.
In 1906 a Bronze Age cist of the Beaker People was uncovered close to the above burial chamber. The stones of the cist were removed and are preserved in the old Largs graveyard, in the comer behind the Brisbane vault.
Further details of these prehistoric graves are provided in a leaflet entitled "Haylie Chambered Tomb", available from Largs Museum.
The Cemeteries Office, Ardrossan Road, Saltcoats holds: -
Cemetery records, late 1870 to date
Register of Lair sales, 1860 to date
Register of Lair proprietors, 1884 - 1889
Register of Burials, 1946 to date
Largs OPR (602) records deaths from 1723 t0 1820 and from 1823 to 1854.
The Local History Dept of Ardrossan Public Library holds: - Register of Burials for Haylie Brae Cemetery, 1862 - 1946
Transcript copy of Sexton’s Book; burials 1823 - 1867.
The original Sexton’s Book is in the Scottish National Archives, Prince’s Street, Edinburgh at CH2/923/7 and the index at CH2/923/22. There is a later burial record book (1978 - 1902) at CH2/923/8
This Family History Society, together with transcript copies, holds a microfilm copy of the Sexton’s Book. There is a further transcript copy in Largs Museum.
PART 11 WEST KILBRIDE
There are two graveyards in West Kilbride, one on both sides of the old parish church on Main Street, and the other at the northeast corner of the village.
The Old Parish Church Graveyard
The narrow and relatively short Main Street of West Kilbride runs approximately south to north and rises to a high point on the west side of the Kilbride Burn close to the east side of the Street at its highest point stands the Barony Church. It was formerly the Parish church, but ceased to serve that purpose in 1973, when the minister retired and the remnant of the congregation was merged with that of the nearby St Bride’s Church, which was thereafter renamed, St Andrews.
Although the Barony Church building, now owned by West Kilbride Community Initiative Ltd, dates from 1873, there was evidently a church building on this site from earlier times. Gravestones stand in the grass plots on both sides of the building. When the monumental inscriptions were recorded in 1983, there were 124 gravestones, the earliest decipherable one carrying the date 1671. Two locally important families, Boyd of Kilmarnock and Hunter of Hunterston were reputed to have burial vaults, but they could not be found.
When this graveyard was visited recently, not more than about sixty stones were still standing. The remainder were stacked at the back of the church and around the southeast wall of the graveyard. Many of the latter were covered by moss and garden debris. When one considers the age of the site, there must be a considerable number of unmarked graves on the vicinity. At the back of the church, the ground level slopes down to the Kilbride Burn. An early map records the slope as a garden. A large 19th Century dwelling house has been built directly behind the church leaving a relatively narrow path between them. It is possible that in earlier limes this slope formed part of the graveyard, and the graves now lie under the dwelling house.
This graveyard was closed in 1860 and a new publicly owned cemetery provided on a hillside at the northeast corner of the village. The reaction of the local newspaper of the time is of interest, when one views the present state of the old graveyard
From the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald, 4 February 1860.
Closing of the Old Burial Ground -What has been much spoken of, and looked for, has come at last. The old burial ground is now fairly closed, and no further internment can be made there. Last week a notice was affixed to the church door, containing orders of her Majesty in Council, under the Burial Ground (Scotland) Act, 1855, intimating that from and after the 31st of January, burials be discontinued in the burial ground West Kilbride, in the County of Ayr.
We cannot pass over these remarks without stating that, while we admire the neatness and order displayed in the new cemetery, still we would not wish to see the old burial ground, where so many of our dear friends and relations lie entombed, turned into a pasture field, or allowed to become a desolate waste. Certainly, it cannot in the smallest degree effect the inmates of the grave, though either of these states should happen to be the lot of the old burial ground; but such is not the case with the surviving relatives. To them that ground is sacred as containing the remains of some dear one, a place by them often visited to view the last resting place of the dead, and to pay the tributary tear; in lonely solitude, over the grassy mounds, to the memory of the departed. .Let it be turned to any other purpose than it is at present, and to the afflicted you add sorrow to their grief and render their calamity more grevious to be borne, by rudely disturbing the ashes of those they would wish to be respected and to lie unmolested and undisturbed in their narrow graves.
Situated on a hillside at the edge of the village, the site, opened as a cemetery in 1858, provides excellent views over the Clyde to the Isle of Arran. The entrance is at the corner where Avondale Road meets Drummilling Road. The cemetery is surrounded by a high stone wall and has a rectangular arrangement with the plots separated by parallel paths. It is neatly laid out, well kept and substantially filled with graves. In 1983, when the monumental inscriptions were recorded, there were 1248 stones arranged in three main plots. In the plot nearest the entrance, a 50 feet high monument commemorates the works of the academic mathematician, Robert Simson, who was Professor of Mathematics at Glasgow University from 1711 to 1761, and who was a native of West Kilbride. A Mr Fullarton of Overton evidently provided the funds for its creation and upkeep.
Robert D Simson was born 1687 at Kirktonhall, West Kilbride. There is a story that his grandparents had been poor farm workers, until their daughter found a buried treasure that made it possible for them to buy the estate of Kirktonhall in 1660, and build a mansion Robert’s parents were John Simson and Agnes Simpson, daughter of the Rev. Robert Simpson of Renfrew.
Kirktonhall House still stands with its back to Main Street at the comer with Glen Road, and is currently utilised by North Ayrshire Council as a set of local administration offices. A stone on the back of the building is carved with the initials of Simson’s grandparents, R.S. and M.W., and the date 1660. Although the building was altered and extended in 1791 and again in 1868, the room in which Simson was born still exists. When viewed from the front it is the ground floor room at the right hand end. It is unlikely that it now contains any record of the birth.
There is a sundial in the front garden that was apparently designed by Robert Simson and which carries the initials of his father and mother, J.S. and A.S.
He was the eldest of seventeen children, only six of whom (all sons) survived to adult life. A brother, Thomas, became Professor of Medicine at St Andrews University. It is not known how they received their primary education, but Robert at the age of 14 years entered the University of Glasgow to study classics, oriental languages and botany. In all of these he distinguished himself, before taking up theology, as it was intended that he should enter the church. However, he soon became dissatisfied with the speculative nature of the subject and the inconclusive nature of the arguments, so turned to mathematics as a subject where statements could be proved to be true or false. He took up the new subject with great enthusiasm, but received no assistance from others in the University. The existing Professor of Mathematics, Robert Sinclair, gave no lectures.
When Sinclair retired in 1710, Simson was offered the chair. He refused to accept it at once, and asked to be allowed to spend a year in London, meeting and conferring with a number of leading mathematicians. The Glasgow Faculty nominated him for the chair in March 1711 and he returned to Glasgow to undertake their examination of his knowledge of the subject and teaching abilities. These he handled to their satisfaction and was duly admitted to the chair on 19th November 1711.
Simson was principally interested in geometry, as he considered it to be the best vehicle for presenting a mathematical argument. He studied the works of Euclid in the original Greek, and published Euclid’s Elements in a form ideal for general use. The books ran through many editions and their content served for many years as a standard for school text books in geometry. He lectured in the University in all mathematical subjects to his two classes five days per week. He was tall, good looking and sociable, but never married. It is reported that on Friday evenings he played whist with friends in a local tavern, and on Saturdays walked the half-mile to the village of Anderston to meet friends and visitors to Glasgow who he had invited to join him for dinner. Simson retired from the Chair of Mathematics in 1761 and died seven years later at the age of 81. He was buried in the Glasgow Blackfriars graveyard, located behind the Glasgow University building in High Street; and a marble stone with a Latin inscription erected over his grave. Unfortunately, this graveyard was demolished in 1875, and built over.
The tall monument (right) in West Kilbride cemetery bears the inscription,
To Robert D Simson of the University of Glasgow.
The Restorer of the Grecian Gemetry (sic), and by his Works
the great Promotion of its study in the Schools
and Buried Learning now Redeemed to a new Mom.
The Cemeteries Office, Ardrossan Road, Saltcoats holds:-
Cemetery records late 1870 to date,
Register of internments 1922 to date,
Register of sales of lairs and burials 1863 to date.
The Local History Dept. of Ardrossan Public Library holds:-
Register of burials 1858 to 1923
Register of lairs 1973 to 1975
Register of internments 1973 to 1975
Monumental Inscriptions for both the Barony graveyard and for the Cemetery were recorded in 1883-84. Copies are available in both the above Library and in the West Kilbride Public Library.
West Kilbride OPR (620) records deaths from 1693 to 1819.