© Robert Guthrie
28th April 1685
For two reasons, R obert Mitchell is often overlooked when considering New Cumnock and the Covenanters. Firstly he lies buried in Glencairn Kirkyard, Moniave and secondly he is usually referred to as Robert Mitchell of Cumnock. This latter designation is reference to the original parish of Cumnock, which had been divided into the two new parishes of Old Cumnock and New Cumnock in 1650. The Earl of Dumfries had this decision annulled, only for the new parishes to be reinstated it 1691. Therefore the parish of Cumnock was effectively still in place during the period 1650 to 1691 - at the height of the Covenanting period.
However George Sanderson writing in 'New Cumnock Far and Away' is in little doubt that Robert Mitchell was a farmer in New Cumnock and explains that the Mitchell family were peasant farmers throughout the parish at Knockburnie, Waterhead , Over Polwheys and two properties at Garrieve - no doubt neighbours of the Covenanting minister Hugh Crawford.
There were also Mitchells in Cumnock Mill which was situated near the current Old Mill at New Cumnock. In 1684, John Mitchell in the Millne of Cumnock appears in the records of the interrogations of the parishioners of Old Cumnock and New Cumnock and was said to have 'ane childe unbaptised'. However, intriguingly Robert Mitchell, 56 of Laimehead (Lanehead) also appears in these same records - could he possibly be the martyr's father.
The circumstances leading to Robert Mitchell's death were steeped in tragedy . Mitchell was one of a party of Covenanters that met late in 1684 to protest to Peter Pierson the Curate of Carsphairn about his intolerable behaviour towards the local people on matters of religious beliefs.The situation soon got out of hand and 'Black' James McMichael one of the protesting party shot the curate dead.
A few months later they were betrayed and five Covenanters Robert Mitchell, Robert Edgar, John Gibson, James Bennoch and Robert Grierson were cornered in a cave near Moniave. They were shot on the spot and all apart from Grierson were later buried in Glencairn kirkyard. Grierson is buried in Balmaclellan Kirkyard.
'HERE LYES ROBERT EDGAR AND ROBERT MITCHELL MARTYRS SHOT TO DEATH BY COL DUGLAS AND LIVINGSTONS DRAGOONS AT ENGLISTON FOR ADHERING TO THE WORD OF GOD CHRISTS JINGLY GOVERNMENT IN HIS HOUSE AND THE COVENANTED WORK OF REFORMATION AGAINST TYRANY PERJURY APRYL
28 1685 REV-12-11'
Above: The Dalgarnoc Cross to 'The Nithsdale Martyrs'. The names of all those shot at Glencairn appear on the cross.