William Wallace and New Cumnock
The basis of William Wallace's association with New Cumnock is found in Blind Harry's 'The Wallace'. Blind Harry, Blin Hary or Henry the Minstrel as he was known, lived ca. 1440-1493. Little else is known of the man other than he left the nation an extraordinary account of the life and times of the patriot Sir William Wallace. Harry completed his epic poem 'The Actes and Deides of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace' ca. 1470-1480. The work comprises twelve books, i.e. Books I -XII, each of which contains several chapters about specific episodes of Wallace's struggle for freedom. Here are Harry's words,
During the period of the Wars of Independence, the present day parishes of Old Cumnock and New Cumnock made up the parish of Cumnock. Blind Harry's Cumno / Cunno is an early form of the place-name Cumnock which is derived from Gaelic comunn achadh 'place of the confluence', referring to the meeting place of the Afton Water with the River Nith. The most obvious location of Black Crag or Black Rok is Blackcraig hill at the head of Glen Afton, an argument reinforced by the presence nearby of a rocky outcrop known locally as Castle William. However, other commentators have suggested that Cumnock Castle (New Cumnock) was also known as Blackcraig Castle or Black Bog Castle, but this research reveals that these are invented names belonging to the 19th century. Corssencon is Corsencon hill past which ran the route (gait) through Nithsdale.
Dr. Fiona Watson in her ground breaking work 'A Report into Sir William's Wallace connections with Ayrshire' (1999), allows Blind Harry's words on Wallace and New Cumnock to be reassessed. Dr.Watson establishes that Wallace's father was a tenant of crown lands in Ayrshire but concedes that 'Unfortunately, there is no indication as to where these crown lands in Ayrshire might have been'.Perhaps, Blind Harry has held the answer all along, where these crown-lands. 'At the Black Rock, quhar he was wont to be ' ?
© Robert Guthrie
'And Wallace past in Cumno with blith will,
At the Black Rok, quhar he was wont to be,
Apon that sted a ryall hous held he.'
Apon the morn in Cumno sone thai socht,
To Laynirk syne and set a tyme of ayr;
Mysdoaris feill he gert be punyst thar.
To gud men trew he gaiff full mekill wage,
His brother sone put to his heretage.
To the Black Crag in Cunno past agayne,
His houshauld set with men of mekill mayne,
Thre monethis thar he dwellyt in gud rest.'
'In Cunno syne till hys dwellyng went he'
At Corssencon the gait was spilt that tide,
Forthi that way behovid thaim for to ride.
Corsencon Hill at
the head of Mansfield road