History of the parish of New Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland

© Robert Guthrie


The Gemmill Covenanters

The Gemmill Covenanters







Gemmill 'The Old One': The family name Gemmill is well served by genealogical researchers and some excellent family histories can be found on the world-wide-web. offers a Scandinavian or Middle English origin for the name, i.e. gammal 'the old one' as recorded by Black [Surnames of Scotland]. However, another researcher goes further back in time to reveal 'the third letter of the Greek alphabet is gamma and that of the Hebrew is gimel, both of which mean camel. An observation that leads that researcher to conclude that the names of Gemmill and Campbell share the same origin' . The local New Cumnockian pronunciation of the name Campbell, (i.e. Cah-mull) certainly would not provide any reason to dispute this assumption.

New Cumnock - A Gemmill Stronghold Black [Surnames of Scotland] suggests that the name Gemmell was common in the southern counties of Scotland with Ayrshire a particular stronghold. A view reinforced through the appearance of the name Gamel in a 12th century charter of William the Lion. For it was this king William that gave his name to that ancient district of Ayrshire known as King's Kyle. It is of course in this part of Ayrshire that New Cumnock is found, and so too the Gemmills.

The name Gemmill features regularly in the pages of the history of New Cumnock and in various guises, including Gemmill, Gemmell, Gemmeil, Gamill . James Paterson [History of the County of Ayr], in his footnote on the Gemmels of Garrive gives a brief insight into the antiquity of that family. 'Tradition says that the ancestors of the Gemmels came from Rome with a number of followers, at an early Christian period' . The Gemmills were still going strong in parish of New Cumnock in the 17th Century. (see Gemmill Map).

New Cumnock was not the only Gemmill stronghold in Ayrshire at the time of the Covenanters. There were of course Gemmills in the neighbouring parish of Old Cumnock and the name was also common in and around the Kilmarnock area and in particular in the parish of Fenwick some 20 miles to north-west of New Cumnock. It comes as no surprise therefore, that the three Gemmills killed as Covenanters are all associated with Ayrshire.

o John Gemil out of the parish of Cumnock was drowned off Orkney
(10th December 1679).

o John Gemmel was killed at the Battle of Airdsmoss, Ayrshire
(22nd July 1680).

o Peter Gemmill one of the Midland Martyrs killed near Fenwick 
(November 1685)

My own research suggests that the parish of New Cumnock may be able to stake a claim to each of these Covenanting Gemmills. Ironically, the weakest claim is that for John Gemill drowned at Orkney, since it is appears he may be a native of Old Cumnock. John Gemmel that fell at Airdsmoss was from St.Brydsbank in New Cumnock. Patrick Gemmill of Cumnock-maines (New Cumnock) was killed at Midland Farm and lies buried in Fenwick Kirkyard, under the tombstone wrongly attributed to Peter Gemmell, of Fenwick. Patrick Gemmill may also be the son of John Gemmill of St.Brydsbank.


Johm Gemil

John Gemmel

Patrick Gemmill


Sources & Acknowledgements

The Covenanters
Home Page

The Gemmill Covenanters