The New Cumnock Mural , at the Mary Morrison Memorial Garden
History of the Parish
of New Cumnock
by Robert Guthrie
.........

NEW CUMNOCK
In the summer of 1937, Alexander G. McLeod and a number of his associates excavated two bronze age burial sites
in the parish of New Cumnock. The first was discovered close to the side of the New Cumnock to Dalmellington
road, across from the Beoch road-end, and has since been referred to as the Beoch Cairn. The second was found on
Rig Hill, near to Nith Lodge farm, and has since been referred to as the Nith Lodge Cairn. All the relics discovered
during the excavation were presented to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland and are now in the care of
the Trustees of the of the National Museums of Scotland (NMS). The Trustees have kindly given me permission to
use photographs of these relics on www.new-cumnock.co.uk.
EXCAVATION OF TWO BRONZE AGE BURIAL SITES IN AYRSHIRE.
BY ALEXANDER G. McLEOD, M.A., F.S.A. SCOT.
Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 72, 1937-1938,241-247

Continued from the Beoch Cairn...

'While the excavation of the base of the Beoch cairn was in progress, another enclosure bounded by standing stones
was brought to our notice. These stones were situated near the summit of the log ridge of Rig Hill on the other side of
the road 1 mile to the north-east, on Waterhead estate, on ground belonging to Nith Lodge sheep-farm. Mr John
Smith, the tenant of the farm, had observed these upright stones and willingly acceded to our request for permission to
excavate the site. Permission was also obtained from the proprietor of the estate the late Mr Cathcart Christie, through
the factor, Mr John Graham, solicitor, Cumnock, who took a keen interest in our work throughout. Accordingly the
party proceeded along an old footpath which had once been a cart track, up Rig Hill - a wedge of high ground
separating the valley of the Beoch Lane from the upper valley of the Nith - and inspected the site at an altitude of 1097
feet, half a mile north-west of the Nith Lodge. From this point of vantage a noble prospect is commanded on a clear
day. Towards the south-west the grey hill rise ridge upon ridge, with the cone of Windy Standard towering over all.
Northwards the High Mount of Corsgailoch with its two circular plantations fills the foreground, while far away on the
north-western skyline loom the serried peaks of distant Arran.'
'Rig Hill is composed of an intrusive mass of granite which crops out frequently above ground in lines of weathered
jointed blocks, resembling heavy dry masonry. An outcrop of granite rises to the surface at the north-western kerb of
the irregular ellipse formed by the standing stones, and another, larger outcrop rises above the surface only 6 feet
distant from south-eastern kerb. Between the kerb and this outcrop there is a distinct cart track. Another cart track
passes west of the enclosure along the crest of the ridge , and can be followed down to the road and in the opposite
direction over the summit to the roofless ruin of the farmhouse. The deep ruts of the track alongside the standing
stones were probably made by a cart heavily laden with boulders. East of the enclosed burial-ground extends a peat
moss, while the bare moorland stretches away on the other side down the long slope, which once was covered by
trees. The enclosed area is 30 feet by 15 feet, the long axis of the ellipse being parallel to the direction of the
outcrops, which doubtless determined the abnormal shape.Most of the fifteen stones face towards the centre. The
largest, numbered 1 on the plan, is a massive prostrate slab, measuring 3 feet 6 inches by 2 feet 9 inches, and 9
inches thick. Stones 2,3,and 11 are also prostrate, while numbers 10 and 13 have fallen inwards. Of the upright
stones the tallest stands only 2 feet above turf-level. Long grass is growing luxuriantly in the enclosed area, which is
uniformly depressed towards the centre. Sheep are in the habit of congregating and sheltering here in stormy weather
and at night, which accounts for the fertility of the soil.

The upper soil is dark and peaty; but the subsoil consists of reddish clay, grading downwards into the layers of stiff,
compact, grey boulder clay intermingled with stones. The subsoil is deepest in the south-western half of the
enclosure. Along the western half of the minor axis of the ellipse an outcrop of bed-rock rises abruptly to less than a
foot below turf-level. In most the of the north-eastern half, only a shallow layer of clayey soil rests on the bed-rock,
save for three circular depressions on the eastern side. Each of these circular pits contained a cremation burial,
covered over with hard packed clay. The bed-rock rises towards the northern end, where many large boulders were
encountered beneath the turf, and on the north-eastern side of two large stones were exposed, which probably had
been standing erect originally.
Figure 6:
Nith Lodge Circle,
New Cumnock, Ayrshire
Figure 7:
Incense Cup-Urn,
from stone-circle
Nith Lodge, New Cumnock
Incense cup
Axe-hammer
Incense cup
fragment
'A trial section was opened first from the central minor axis south-westwards. At the depth of 1 foot 9 inches, black
earth, mingled with many small pieces of burnt bones, was reached, and large fragments of a broken urn of "incense-
cup" type were found near the centre at the spot marked + a. The urn (Figure 7) is made of a light reddish-coloured
clay, and measures 3 1/8 inches in height, 3 1/8 inches in external diameter at the mouth, 4 1/2 inches at the shoulder,
and 1 inch across the base, which is cupped. The lower part of the vessel is globose and divided from the upper
portion, which slopes steeply inwards at an angle of about 60 deg., by a raised moulding. The lip is bevelled sharply
towards the interior, being 3/8 inch in breadth and decorated with incised oblique lines. There are three zones of
ornamentation on the body, one above the shoulder and two below, divided one from the other by incised lines. All
contain reversed triangles, plain and hatched alternately. Immediately below the raised moulding the urn has been
pierced by two holes 2 inches apart.'

Afterwards the whole of the enclosed area was examined, and, in all, eight cremation burial-pits were exposed, as
shown by dotted circles on the plan. All but one were found at a uniform depth of 2 feet, occupying circular hollows
from 18 to 20 inches in diameter. The heap of burnt bones in all cases but one was surrounded by a ring of black
earth mixed with charcoal, and all were covered over with packed clay. Two of these circular pits were found at the
bases of stones 4 and 5. Further exploration of the pit, b, beneath stone 11, revealed fragments of another 'incense
cup'. Nearly half of the vessel remains (Figure 9).It has been bi-conical in shape and is made of a light red-coloured
clay. It has measured 3 1/4 inches in height, 3 5/8 inches in external diameter at the mouth, 5 1/8 inches at the widest
part of the body, and 3 1/8 inches at the base. The lip, 1/2 inch in breadth, is slightly bevelled inwards and is
decorated at intervals with single radial lines between which are double and triple horizontal lines. The upper part of
the urn contains two rows of inverted triangle alternately plain and hatched, and a raised moulding or shoulder all
bordered by incised lines. The moulding is ornamented by lines sloping obliquely from left to right and has been
perforated by two holes.
Two months later the trial section was extended. At the base of stone number 11, at a depth of 2 feet, was found a pit of
cremated bones, surrounded by black earth, charcoal (willow), and red ashes, covered by packed clay and protected
above by three flat stones. At the point marked d, at a depth of 9 inches, lying near the edge of the granite outcrop, was
found a perfectly shaped polished axe-hammer of dolerite (Figure 8). It measures 4 29/32 inches in length, 1 5/8 inch in
thickness opposite of the perforation, and 2 3/32 inches by 1 5/16 inch at the butt. From the cutting edge, which is 2 19/32
inches in breadth, and from the butt the axe contracts evenly to the centre of the perforation, where it is 1 3/16 inch in
width. The extreme end of the butt is circular and flattened, being 1 inch diameter. The hole, which has been bored from
both sides, is equidistant from either end and measure 7/8 inch in diameter externally, but tapering to 1/2 inch in the centre
of its interior.
Figure 8:
Axe-hammer
from stone circle,
Nith Lodge, New Cumnock
Figure 9:
Incense Cup-urn
from stone circle,
Nith Lodge, New Cumnock
The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland
(Please See Copyright Notes below)
Nith Lodge Cairn : Cinerary Urn, Incense Vessels and Stone-axe
Incense Cup fragment (left) : Nearly half of the vessel remains (Figure 9). It has been bi-conical in
shape and is made of a light red-coloured clay. It has measured 3
1/4 inches in height, 3 5/8 inches in
external diameter at the mouth, 5
1/8 inches at the widest part of the body, and 3 1/8 inches at the base.
The moulding is ornamented by lines sloping obliquely from left to right and has been perforated by two
holes.
Incense Cup (right) : Made of a light reddish-coloured clay, and measures 3 1/8 inches in height, 3 1/8
inches in external diameter at the mouth, 4 1/2 inches at the shoulder, and 1 inch across the base, which
is cupped. Immediately below the raised moulding the urn has been pierced by two holes 2 inches apart.

Cinerary Urn (middle top) : An inverted urn was found in a pit of 18 inches diameter. The urn was
completely covered with packed clay. When removed, it was found to be full of incinerated bones. The
vessel (Figure 10) is made of a reddish-brown coloured clay, with an overhanging rim and constricted
neck immediately below. It measures 6
5/8 inches in height, 5 7/8 inches in external diameter at the mouth,
6 1/2 inches at the bulge, and 3
1/2 inches at the base. The lip is bevelled downwards towards the interior,
and the overhanging rim is decorated with oblique lines made by the impression of a twisted cord, the
remainder of the body being plain
Alexander G. McLeod's account of the excavation of the Beoch
Bronze Age burial cairn, is presented in the
Proceedings of the
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and is reproduced here with
due acknowledgement.
At the base of pillar-stone number 7, 3 feet below turf-level, an inverted urn was found at the spot marked c on the
plan. The pit in which the cinerary urn was found measured 18 inches diameter. The urn was completely covered with
packed clay. When removed, it was found to be full of incinerated bones. The vessel (Figure 10) is made of a reddish-
brown coloured clay, with an overhanging rim and constricted neck immediately below. It measures 6 5/8 inches in
height, 5 7/8 inches in external diameter at the mouth, 6 1/2 inches at the bulge, and 3 1/2 inches at the base. The lip is
bevelled downwards towards the interior, and the overhanging rim is decorated with oblique lines made by the
impression of a twisted cord, the remainder of the body being plain.

Finally the kerb of packed boulders outside the irregular ellipse was also uncovered in three sections and found to
extend beyond the standing stones for an average distance of 3 feet. The low burial-cairn, which would be required to
protect the bones from wild beasts, must have been entirely removed with the exception of the kerb.

About half-way between the highest point of Rig Hill and the main road, on a level spur of the hill on its south-eastern
slope, there is a small circle of eight stones, 9 feet in diameter, the stones projecting less than a foot above the turf.
Within this circle on the eastern side is a large rectangular stone, 3 feet 6 inches deep, with smooth vertical sides. This
slab formed one wall of an empty cist 2 feet 9 inches square, surrounded on the other three sided by stones placed
close together and containing a considerable quantity of black earth, but neither burnt bones nor pottery. Rig Hill and
its continuation as high ground across the road had evidently been selected as a burial-ground, probably on account of
the dry nature of the soil as contrasted with the marshy, mossy, undrained valleys on either side, and also because of
the windswept ridge would likely be bare of all save stunted shrubs, whereas the valleys would be well wooded. The
site seems to be a family burial-ground of the Bronze Age, exhibiting standing stones around the periphery. Some of
the standing stones are clearly associated with the burials.

Neither flint artifacts nor cores were found, nor were any weapons or personal ornaments of bronze discovered.
Neither was the site of the actual cremation.

The excavating party desire to place on record their grateful thanks to Mr Andrew Hamilton, Mr John Smith, and Mr
John Graham for their helpful advice and friendly interest in the work of the excavation and to Mrs Christie (Waterhead
estate - Nith Lodge Cairn) and Mr Hamilton (Maneight - Beoch Cairn) for kindly presenting all the relics discovered
to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland.


No trace of this site was found during a thorough perambulation of the area indicated.
Visited by OS (JFC) 16 July 1954

Mr McLeod could not recollect the location of this structure.
Visited by OS (JLD) 1 December 1959

The area was perambulated once again but the feature could not be identified. The most likely site is located in the
enclosed area centred at NS 53050930 but this has now been deep ploughed and afforested. The hillslope to the
NE is covered by moorland reed and rough pasture.

There is nothing significant on APs (106G/Scot/UK90:4159/60, flown 1946) Visited by OS (MJF) 17 September
1980
Location
Map reference: NS 530 097
Parish: New Cumnock
Council: East Ayrshire
Archaeology Notes
NS50NW 3 530 097.
RIG HILL
Type of Site: Cairn (possible)
NMRS Number: NS50NW 3
Subsequent visits to the Beoch Bronze Age Site have been recorded by the
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
(RCAHMS) and are reproduced here with due acknowlegement .
The Ridge of Drumkalladyr

Rig Hill appears as the grand sounding 'The Ridge of Drumkalladyr' in Johan Blaeu's Coila Provincia,
Atlus Novus, 1654 (from Timothy Pont's Manuscript Kyle ca. 1590).

W.J. Watson (The Celtic Placenames of Scotland) explains that the place-name element kalladyr is a
survival of an early British caleto-dubron 'hard water'. The source of the River Nith is a few miles
upstream from this point. The river is still relatively shallow and stones and boulders of the hard river-
bed match the description of 'hard water' perfectly. The name is one of the oldest place-names in the
parish a fitting site for the Bronze Age Nith Lodge Burial Cairn , or cremation cemetery.

SOURCES and ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Dr Alison Sheridan, Department of Archaeology, National Museums of Scotland
Many thanks to Dr. Sheridan for taking the time to showing me the Beoch relics at the NMS, for sharing her expert
views and for her encouragement.

Helen Nicoll, Picture Librarian, National Museums of Scotland
Many thanks to Helen Nicoll for providing such high quality images and for her support and guidance.

The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland
For permission to reproduce the image of the Beoch Cairn relics The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland

Any form of reproduction , transmission, performance, display, rental, lending or storage in any retrieval system without
the written consent of the copyright holders is prohibited.

Downloading of images for use by third parties and End Users is srtictly prohibited, except for private study.
Downloading of images for commercial purposes will be treated as a serious breach of copyright and strong legal action
will be taken by NMS.

The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Acknowledgment for reproducing the article from the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

Alexander G. McLeod 'Excavation of two Bronze Age Burial Sites in Ayrshire'
Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 72, 1937-1938,241-247

M.B. Fenton 'The Nature of the Source and the Manufacture of Scottish Battle-axes and Axe-Hammers'
Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 50, 1984, pp. 217-243

P.J.Cashmore 'Neolithic and Bronze Age Scotland'
Historic Scotland (1996)

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS)
From which the following sources are also cited

Clough and Cummins, T H McK and W A (1988 )
'Lists of identifications',
Clough, T H McK and Cummins, W A, Stone axe studies, volume 2: the petrology of prehistoric stone implements
from the British Isles, Council for British Archaeology research report no. 67, London, p. 233, no. AYR 21,

Morrison, A (1968 )
'Cinerary urns and pygmy vessels in South-West Scotland',
Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc, 3rd Ser, 45, 1967-8, 108-9, nos.45-7,

Roe, F E S (1966 )
'The battle-axe series in Britain',
Proc Prehist Soc, New Ser, 32, 1966, 241, no.371,

Roe, F E S (1967 )
'The battle-axes, mace-heads and axe-hammers from south-west Scotland',
Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc, 3rd ser, 44, 1967, 74, no.20,
Cinerary urn
Figure 10:
Cinerary Urn
from stone circle,
Nith Lodge, New Cumnock
Stone battle-axe (top) : Although the Nith Lodge Cairn is typical of Early Bronze Age c.2000
BC - c.1600BC, the polished battle-axe is possibly of greater antiquity, probably from c.3000
BC - c.2500 BC . This phenomenon is known from several Bronze Age sites. It may have been
part of the family regalia, marking out the grave of someone of relatively high status. . It measures
4
29/32 inches in length, 1 5/8 inch in thickness opposite of the perforation, and 2 3/32 inches by 1
5/16 inch at the butt. From the cutting edge, which is 2 19/32 inches in breadth, and from the butt
the axe contracts evenly to the centre of the perforation, where it is 1
3/16 inch in width. The
extreme end of the butt is circular and flattened, being 1 inch diameter. The hole, which has been
bored from both sides, is equidistant from either end and measure
7/8 inch in diameter externally,
but tapering to
1/2 inch in the centre of its interior.It has been petrologically attributed to group
XXIX (Essexite from central Ayrshire)
Location
Map reference: NS 530 097
Parish: New Cumnock
Council: East Ayrshire
Archaeology Notes
NS50NW 2 5306 0977.
RIG HILL, NITH LODGE
Type of Site: Cairn, (Possible); Battle-Axe
NMRS Number: NS50NW 2
Subsequent visits to the Beoch Bronze Age Site have been recorded by the
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
(RCAHMS) and are reproduced here with due acknowlegement .
Excavations in 1937 revealed eight cremation burial-pits. Two (a, b on plan) were accompanied by pygmy vessels; a
collared cinerary urn was inverted over burial 'c', and a Scotsburn group battle-axe was found at 'c'. Around the
outside of the enclosure was a kerb of packed boulders. McLeod concludes that this must have been the site of a cairn,
otherwise completely removed, (but he is writing before enclosed cremation cemeteries were recognised as such). All
the finds are in the NMAS (Acc Nos: EP 56-59).
A G McLeod 1938; A Morrison 1968; F E S Roe 1967

This enclosure could not be located. There are two standing stones at NS 53090980 and although their location does
not tally with McLeod's, the description of the site does. Mr McLeod is now unable to recollect the precise location of
this feature. Visited by OS (JLD) 1 December 1959

The area has been deep ploughed and afforested. The undulating summit of Rig Hill (NS 53070975) comprises turf-
covered granite outcrops with a scatter of earthfast boulders, many of which have been uprooted by the forestry
plough. The site cannot now be positively identified but the description and ground inspection suggests that it was
20.0m N of the highest point of the hill at NS 53070977 where there is an amorphous spread of boulders and
outcropping rock.

APs (106G/Scot/UK90: 4159/60, flown 1946) revealed nothing significant. Visited by OS (MJF) 22 September 1980

The battle-axe is of the Intermediate-Developed variant and is held in the Royal Museum of Scotland under accession
number NMS EP 57. It has been petrologically attributed to group XXIX (Essexite from central Ayrshire).
F E S Roe; T H McK Clough and W A Cummins 1988.

Rig Hill
The heavily wooded Rig Hill from the Beoch Road