Welcome to the gravestone spotter's guide to the Old Churchyard
Discover the stories of the rebellious, resilient and resourceful people of Auchinleck.
The Auchinleck Notables’ monument celebrates, among others, the Covenanter Rev Alexander Peden, famed for wearing a disguise to escape the King’s soldiers and William Murdoch inventor of gas lighting. An ingenious woodworker, Murdoch also created a proto-bicycle to ride to school and a hat so finely lathed it won him a position at the prestigious firm of Watt (inventor of the ‘ steam engine) & Boulton.
The monument was erected by John Gibson (M), builder and the minister Dr Chrystal (K) composed its inscriptions.1 of 46
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The chequerboard tiles, and star, square and compass are symbols used by the Freemasons. Carvings of skulls, crossed bones, hourglasses and coffins signify that death will come to us all.4 of 46
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Erected James Barr To the memory of father David from Australia 27.11.1886 72, mother Sarah 17.3.1887 65 (black and white tiles in front)
Carvings of skulls, crossed bones, hourglasses and coffins signify that death will come to us all.
Coats of arms display ancestry. These Wallaces appears to claim kinship with Sir William Wallace. Just below their coat of arms is an instrument which, according to legend, Wallace used in 1297 to seal the Barns of Ayr before setting it on fire to kill the English soldiers camped inside.7 of 46
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This stone was erected by Robert Wallace, fr, Orchard his spouse… Mary… 1797.
This coat of arms belongs to the Boswell family.11 of 46
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The Boswell Mausoleum was enlarged in 1754 by biographer James Boswell’s father, Lord Auchinleck, for his family to rest privately in peace together. There is no public access to the mausoleum today.
Winged faces represent souls and the belief in a Heaveny afterlife. Potted tulips symbolise Andrew Bruce’s job as gardener and overseer of the Auchinleck Estate.14 of 46
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The burial place of Andrew Bruce. He was gardner at Auchinleck for 30 years died 8.4.1741 aged 50 years. Carvings – winged soul, pillars, 2 thistles in pots.
These tools show James Samson was able to build and repair, as well as run, his mill.17 of 46
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Erected John Samson, Knockroon, In memory of father James 7.9.1821 aged 55, mother Jane Smith 27.6.1834 aged 79, sister Margaret 7.2.1862 aged 53.
The Rev John Shaw’s gravestone of 1643, which is fixed to the church.20 of 46
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In memory of the Rev John Shaw who was minister of this parish. He died AD 1643.
(In wall. Renewed in 1865…) the righteous of life… son is wise… of truth… His the…
Auchinleck’s last box-maker William Johnstone died in 1892. He worked with his son and granddaughter.23 of 46
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Erected William Johnstone, boxmaker, 2.7.1892 79, In memory of son Thomas 11.4.1847 1 yr & 2 months, father Thomas 15.7.1847 70, mother Agnes Pearson 25.8.1850 73, brother James 25.1.1830 20, brother David 26.8.1841 20, brother John 24.2.1850 35, son John 15.11.1857 2 yrs & 2 months, fa-i-l William Herbert 4.1.1868 79, mo-i-l Agnes Blackwood 25.4.1875 84; wife Agnes Herbert 24.8.1878 65, son Thomas 17.11.1896 44.
Matthew Tait was reportedly 123 when he died, having lived through the reigns of seven different monarchs. He married twice. One wife made him happy, the other sad – both are shown on his stone! Reputedly a teller of fortunes, who at the age of 100 could drink a cup of tea with his heels around his neck.26 of 46
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Erected In memory of Matthew Tait who was born in the reign of Charles II. He served as a private soldier at the taking of Gibraltar in 1704 and died at Auchinleck Village 10.3.1792 aged 123 years.
The crown above the blacksmith’s tools indicate that he was a member of the Incorporation of Hammermen.29 of 46
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Carving of a man holding a hammer and horseshoe, above his head is a crown, and there are a number of other tools, including plyers and tongs. (Reverse side) – Here lyes the corpse of Alex Peden who departed this life Ma-, Jas… his s… 175-…
Auchinleck’s minister for 68 years. James Chrystal’s golden anniversary as minister was marked with portraits of him and his wife, painted by W H Johnston, son of the box-maker William Johnston. His diamond anniversary was marked by building a new church tower.32 of 46
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In Loving Memory of James Chrystal LLD Min of this parish 1833 — 1901, Moderator of the Central Assembly 1879, born Glasgow 16.1.1807, died Auchinleck Manse 6.2.1901, wife Sophia 18.1.1805 — 21.7.1890 (fa Ptk Playfair, Dalmarnock). ‘Heirs together of the grace of life.’ 1 Peter III 7.
In 1831, George Baird aged 15, the son of a local famer, overwhelmed by curiosity went down a new coalpit. He was overcome by gas and James Murdoch, aged 25, was the first to try to rescue him. Both died and were buried in the churchyard.
James has no gravestone and left a widow, Mary, and six children to fend for themselves. Life proved hard and eventually most of James’ family emigrated to America as Mormon ‘handcart pioneers’. Their journey was arduous without horses and sadly Mary died to be buried alongside the wagon trail.35 of 46
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Erected Robert Baird, Dalfad In memory of son George XX Oct MDCCCXXXI XV years.
As part of the churchyard improvements overseen by Lady Boswell, John Gibson re-cut inscriptions to ‘renew’ many old gravestones, which the minister deciphered. These included Rev John Shaw’s 1643 stone which is fixed onto the church.38 of 46
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Erected John Gibson, builder, In memory of children John 12.4.1853 1 yr & 3 months, Janet Morton died Dalmellington Ironworks 26.8.1861 16, Isabella McGeachin died Dalmellington 10.8.1876 18, Jeanie died Dalmellington 29.3.1890 29. (Side) – John Gibson died Dalmellington 27.8.1894 82, (wife Jean Wilson died Dalmellington 12.10.1901 77). Obelisk
Stationmaster, Joseph Irvin dedicated himself to improving life in Auchinleck.
He helped create a town hall, public library, choral society, and a literary and debating club, as well as bringing gas lighting to the town. The whole community celebrated Joseph’s golden wedding in 1893, revealing their affection for him but also how at this time only 1:1000 marriages endured so long.41 of 46
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Erected Joseph Irvin, station master, Auch., died Langside, Glasgow 24.1.1905 80 In memory of son George 23.6.1875 23, wife Janet Thomson 15.3.1895 73. Abv Joseph Irvin was station master at Auch. station from 1858 to 1896 and pregentor in the parish church from 1861 to 1895.
The first public structure in Scotland to celebrate James Boswell (1740-1795) the great biographer, traveller, diarist, advocate, laird and celebrity interviewer, is inspired by an eighteenth century quill leaning against its ink pot. Words running down the Quill describe Boswell’s first meeting with Samuel Johnson on 16 May 1763, one of the most important in British literary history.44 of 46
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The Boswell Quill by sculptor Harry Gray is the first public structure in Scotland to celebrate the life of the ground-breaking biographer, travel writer, diarist, advocate, laird and celebrity interviewer, James Boswell (1740 – 1795). The Boswell Quill, inspired by an eighteenth-century quill leaning against its inkpot, can be seen in the churchyard in line with the War Memorial. Words running down the Quill describe Boswell’s first meeting with Samuel Johnson on 16 May 1763, one of the most important in Britsh literary history.
A parish since medieval times, Lord Auchinleck,
8th Laird of Auchinleck, father of James Boswell, created Auchinleck as a planned village in the mid-18th century.
By 1791, the parish contained 720 people whose lives focused on the land ‘E’ and traditional trades. (F & J)
By the early 19th century, decorative wooden box making took off (H) after local craftsmen discovered the secret of making a hidden hinge. Coal mining and iron-working also brought rapid growth but, as accidents show, this could be at huge personal cost. (L)
Although many people left to make new lives beyond Scotland (B & L), by 1881 Auchinleck’s population had increased to 6,681.
Auchinleck Old Churchyard Today
(D) The Boswell Quill by sculptor Harry Gray: the first public structure in Scotland to celebrate James Boswell (1740-1795) the great biographer, traveller, diarist, advocate, laird and celebrity interviewer, is inspired by an eighteenth century quill leaning against its inkpot.
Words running down the Quill describe Boswell’s first meeting with Samuel Johnson on 16 May 1763, one of the most important in British literary history.
The Churchyard Garden: Designed by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan
New landscaping, planting and sweeps of seasonal bulbs create a place of contemplation and beauty.
Note: letters in brackets refer to location markers on the churchyard map above.