History of the parish of New Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland

© Robert Guthrie


Hew Crawford,
Minister of New Cumnock

Crawfurd of Auchinames
'This family were, from their very first descent from the family of Loudon, possessed of the twelve pound land, of old extent, of Auchinames in Renfrewshire, the fourteen pound lands of Corsby, the six pound lands of Manock and Gills, the five merk lands of Auldmuir, and the five merk lands of Whiteside, all in the shire of Ayr, being thirty-eight pounds and one merk of old extent; all of which lands were in the possession of Thomas Crawfurd of Auchinames, grandchild of Sir Ranald Crawfurd of Loudon, sheriff of Ayr.' [1]

On the 11th July 1650, the parish of Cumnock was sub-divided into the two new parishes of New Cumnock and Old Cumnock


On the 11th July 1650, the parish of Cumnock was sub-divided into the two new parishes of New Cumnock and Old Cumnock. John Cunynghame the incumbent minister of Cumnock became the first minister of the parish of Old Cumnock, with the original parish church becoming the parish church of Old Cumnock. Three years later Hew Craufurd, the youngest son of Patrick Craufurd of Auchinames, was ordained as the first minister of New Cumnock.


A new church for the parish of New Cumnock was built adjacent to the site of Cumnock Castle, the ancient seat of the Barons of Cumnock, which sat on a hill overlooking the meeting place of the River Nith and the Afton Water. At this meeting place lies the origin of the place-name Cumnock, from the Gaelic comunn achadh ‘place of the confluence’ [Guthrie]. The church was completed in 1659, a date which can still be seen on the lintel stone of the ivy clad ruins that sit at the heart of the village of New Cumnock. In that same year Oliver Cromwell died and soon afterward his Commonwealth.


Both Craufurd and Cunynghame, like 300 ministers throughout Scotland, were ‘outed’ in 1662 for refusing to conform to the Episcopalian order as demanded by Charles II. On the 14th July 1667, the Earl of Dumfries as the superior heritor and patron of the churches at New Cumnock and Old Cumnock was successful in having the decision of 1650, to create these parishes, annulled. Now, he only required to find one curate for the newly formed parish of Cumnock, to replace his two ‘outed’ ministers. The following year, Cunynghame died and Craufurd was now the only covenanted minister in the Cumnock’s, New and Old. Indeed in an instrument of that year he is designated as ‘the minister of Cumnock’, instead of ‘minister of the New Kirk at Cumnock’, an earlier appellation. The Earl of Dumfries finally secured a curate in 1670, in the shape of Samuel Nimmo. He proved to be extremely unpopular and evidently kept a low profile throughout his tenure.  In October 1684, as part of the on-going persecution of those that adhered to the Covenants, or at least refused to conform to Episcopalianism, the parishioners were subjected to interrogation by the authorities. Nimmo’s own interrogation was particularly illuminating -



' Master Samuel Nimmo, minister of Cumnock, of the age off 44 years, married being solemnly sworn and interrogate, depones that he hes bein minister at Cumnock thir fourteen years last, but durst never venture to give the communion till Aprile last’ [RPC]


Fourteen years as minister at Cumnock and yet not until April 1683 did Nimmo venture to give his first communion. The likely reason for his new found courage becomes apparent, as we discover that Hew Craufurd had only a few months before been banished from the kingdom for keeping conventicles, which came into effect on the 1st May 1683. Nimmo no longer had the imposing figure of Craufurd to contend with.


Craufurd stayed loyal to the Covenants, declining the government’s attempt to entice ministers back to their churches in the First and Second Indulgences of 1669 and 1672. He would also witness the other face of the government’s strategy when in the early months of 1678 the Highland Host, 300 soldiers from Caithness, were quartered in the district, causing damages and losses of £3,000 Scots to New and Old Cumnock. At the same time another vindictive instrument was introduced by which noblemen, barons and heritors were under the threat of heavy penalties, and were bound to prevent their ‘tenants, wives, bairns and servants’ from attending conventicles and to apprehend any who did and bring them to justice. Despite these reprisals, field-meetings and field communions continued to flourish and particularly those lead by the young field preacher Richard Cameron, who openly denounced those ministers that had accepted the Indulgences. Cameron preached at Old Cumnock on Thursday 26th December 1678 and then at New Cumnock three days later on the Lord's Day of 29th December 1678 [Grant].


The fact that Cameron preached in both parishes suggests that the Earl of Dumfries’ annulment of 1667 had failed, in at least the hearts and minds of parishioners of New Cumnock and Old Cumnock, now warming to their friendly separation. What a momentous day for the young parish if Cameron and Crawford shared the pulpit at the vacant church at New Cumnock.This heart and minds concept may go some way to explaining why two covenanting flags bearing the name Cumnock (one in the Baird Institute, Cumnock and the other in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow) still exist. Could one have been for the parish of New Cumnock and the other for Old Cumnock? These flags may well have flown side by side at the victory over Graham of Claverhouse at Drumclog, 1st June 1679 and then again at the heavy defeat at Bothwell Brig, 22nd June 1679.

The loss at Bothwell Bridge crippled the morale of the remaining remnant of the Covenanters and field conventicles were now far less common. Many joined the ever-growing majority of Presbyterians that were resigned to tolerating the Episcopalian Church as the established church of Scotland. However, on 22nd June 1680, the first anniversary of the defeat at Bothwell Bridge, Richard Cameron and twenty of his followers rode on horseback into the town of Sanquhar in Upper Nithsdale and declared war on Charles II, a ‘usurper and tyrant’. The Government’s response to this ‘Sanquhar Declaration’ was instantaneous and a price was put on the heads of the rebels,   ‘dead or alive’. One month later, on the 22nd July 1680, Richard Cameron and eight of his men were killed at the Battle of Airdsmoss. Almost a year later, Cameron’s successor, Donald Cargill was captured and executed in June 1681.With Cameron and Cargill gone, the remnant of their followers formed themselves into Societies for the worship of God. Any given Society comprised a number of like-minded families, which met every Sabbath for worship. As our story unfolds it will become apparent that such societies were established in the parish of New Cumnock.

At Edinburgh on the 31st January 1683, the King’s Privy Council finally caught up with Hew Craufurd. However, before proceeding Sir George Monro took his place on the Council, undergoing the formalities of the day.


‘ Sir George Monro, called in, did take and sign the Test as a Privy Councellor; and also did sign the oath of alledgeance, act asserting his Majesties royall prerogative and the Declaration anent the Covenant and thereupon took his place as a Privy Councellor, conforme to his majesties commission’. [RPC]

With the formalities over, the work of the day proceeded -


‘The Lords of his Majesties Privy Council ordaines a citation to be direct for charging the cautioners of Stewart of Cultness, Hamilton of Monkland, Mr John Osbourne* and Mr Hugh Crawfurd, to exhibite and produce them before the council conforme to their bond’. [RPC]

* John Osboune, Minister of Kirkoswald

When Crawford appeared before the Privy Council, he declined to live orderly and declined not to keep conventicles and he was banished from the Kingdom as of 1st May 1683 -


'Mr. Hugh Crawford, late minister of New Cumnock, being convened before the Council at the Lord Advocate's instance to answer for keeping conventicles and for other disorders and he having compeared the Lords , upon consideration of the complaint, his answers thereto, and the report of the committee of their number regarding this case did conform to the act of Parliament, ordain him either to find caution to live orderly or to find caution to leave the kingdom before 1st May next and never return without license from his Majesty or the Council, under the penalty of 5000 merks "and farder that if he should goe to Holland he shall not vent, act or do anything contrar to his Majesties government, under the foresaid penalty"; and he having chosen to leave the kingdom, he has found caution to that effect. ' [RPC]



(N.B. John Osbourne chose to remain in the kingdom and to live orderly and not to keep conventicles.)

Crawford appears to have gone to Ireland and had a charge there and may have spent some time in Riccarton, Ayrshire before his banishment [Steven]. Clearly, Crawfurd heeding the warning that if he chose to go to Holland that he was not to act against his Majesties government. Holland at this time provided a refuge for ‘outed’ ministers and other persecuted Scots. Cameron had been ordained there and so too was the Reverend James Renwick, his successor in waiting. Renwick was ordained in the same month of Crawford’s exile, and he returned to Scotland in September of that year. Fearful of Renwick rekindling the Cameronian spirit the Government turned up the heat again. On the 5th May 1684 Charles II issued a proclamation ‘for the apprehension of persons who were supposed to have been under arms, or to have harboured those that were’. Of the nineteen names that appeared under the parish of Cumnock, eleven were from Crawford’s parish of New Cumnock and the other eight from Old Cumnock [Warwick].

In October of that year, ministers and parishioners throughout Ayrshire were subjected to interrogations, forcing neighbour to inform on neighbour, regarding attendance at conventicles, having children baptized at conventicles, non-attendance at church or failing to have children baptized and so on [RPC].The interrogations precipitated Renwick’s Apologetic Declaration of November 1684, which threatened death to Government spies. The Government responded with the tyrannical Abjuration Oath, which in effect made it legal to execute without trial anyone who refused to take this oath and to disown the actions of Renwick and his followers. These measures and counter-measures set the scene for the Killing Times of December 1684 and much of 1685. On one Killing Day, seven Covenanters were executed within the boundaries of the parish of New Cumnock, after they had been captured as they returned home from a conventicle, held by Renwick.

During this volatile period, Charles II died in February 1685 to be succeeded by his son James VII & II. However, his time as monarch was relatively short-lived and in 1688 the Glorious Revolution saw his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange become joint sovereigns.

In 1688, Hew Craufurd returned to New Cumnock from exile, to find that Samuel Nimmo had translated to Colinton, Midlothian, two years before hand. His replacement curate, Francis Fordyce, was even less popular than Nimmo as ‘he proved himself most obnoxious to the people’ [Warwick]. The days of the curates were numbered. The Ayr Presbytery minutes of the 5th June 1688 stated that ‘the parish of Old Cumnock desired supply’, suggesting that not only had Fordyce left his charge , but that Craufurd was back in his charge at New Cumnock. It also suggests that the Presbytery at least recognized Old Cumnock and New Cumnock as distinct parishes at that time. 

Nevertheless, it was almost three years later on the 11th March 1691 when the parishes of New Cumnock and Old Cumnock were formally re-established. Hew Craufurd was still the first minister of the parish of New Cumnock and in the following year Hugh Kilpatrick, from Ireland, was presented as the minister of the parish of Old Cumnock.In 1692, Hew Crawford died aged sixty-four, almost forty years after he had been ordained as the first minister of the parish of New Cumnock and for thirty years he had been ‘outed’ from his new kirk that stood on the castle hill. All four ministers that followed Hew Craufurd in the parish church of New Cumnock all lay buried in the Auld Kirkyard. There are no records to suggest that Craufurd lies there too and he probably lies in the Craufurd family lair at Auchinames.


The parish of New Cumnock

The paroche of Cumnock was split in twae,

On a glorious July on the eleventh day,

And New and Old came tae be.

In sixteen hundred and fifty AD.


Alas! The New and Old were put away,

On an overcast July on the fourteenth day,

By Willie Dumfries’ selfish weavin’,

In AD sixteen hundred and sixty seven.


Hail! The New and Old were then re-born

On a refreshing March on the eleventh morn,

Hew Craufurd’s parish had finally been won,

In AD sixteen hundred and ninety-one.


His NEW kirk is now oor Auld,

Ivy crawling about its walls,

Staunin’ yet on the castle-hill,

Aboon where Nith and Afton spill,

At the COMUNN ACH, the meeting place,

New and Cumnock the gither by God’s grace!


Robert Guthrie (with due respect to Tammas Murray)


By all accounts matters in Hugh Craufurd's private life were far from peacable. Bonds and papers covering the period 1658-1665 detail 'repayments of sums of money due by George Hamilton of Garrive to Mr . Hew Craufurd  minister at new kirk of Cumnock' . Hamilton's son, William Hamilton succeeded to the lands of Garrieve, including the property of Nether Garrieve. His son, another George Hamilton, was married to Jean Crawford, sister of Hugh Crawford. In 1669, William Hamilton resigned  the '2 merk land of Nather Garrive, in favour of Mr. Hew Crawfurd (Crawford), minister at Cumnock'.

The Auld Kirk, New Cumnock with Corsencon Hill in the background


The notary's signature, a Craufurd kinsman perhaps, on the instruments pertaining to Hew Craufurd
Map: Based on Dane Love's map in 'History of Old Cumnock' reprint





















































































































































Ministers of the parish of Cumnock