History of the parish of New Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland

© Robert Guthrie


Martyrs' Moss

Marion Cameron
Margaret Dun

John Humphry
John Jamieson
James Wilson

George Corson
John Hair

New Cumnock 's
Killing Day

Martyrs' Moss



The Reverend J.M. Dryerre provides an almost identical account, stating ' Marion Cameron, sister of Richard Cameron with two others were martyred on the moss-hags near Daljig.'

It is worth noting that Simpson goes on to record that 70 years ago (circa 1800) cattle trampling over the moss disturbed the bodies of the Martyrs that had been preserved in the antiseptic peat and that a large yellow pin belonging to Marion Cameron was recovered. This relic was said to be in the possession of Mrs Gemmel of Catrine , a niece of Thomas Hutchison of Dalgig - could she also be a descendant of John Gemmel of Brydsbank, who fell with the Cameron brothers at Aird's Moss ?

Alexander Murdoch a dominie of Ochiltree gives the following account. 'David Dun was born in Closs , a small farm steading near Auchlin. When returning from a conventicle held by Renwick at Dalmellington, Dun and Simon Paterson were captured near Corsegellioch. The two were led to Cumnock and put to death with scant ceremony. The story is rendered even more tragic when it is learned that his sister , while walking from Closs to Cumnock , to make enquiry as to her brother's fate , was herself waylaid and shot.'

George Scott , an Old Cumnockian and the Honorary Secretary of the Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association (Newsletter 47, Sept 1991) considers whether Marion Cameron's martyrdom is 'Fact or Myth' and on doing so quotes and extract from 'Scottish Notes & Queries, January 1891' provided by Michael Dun a fellow member of the Association.

109 Margaret Dunn : martyred in the moors along with Marion Cameron, sister of the famous leader of the persecuted party. The bodies of the two young women were interred in the moss of Daljig and more than a century after were discovered in a good state of preservation: shot 1685. Born Glass, Cumnock.'

This key snippet provides the first clear link between Marion Cameron and Margaret Dun and also supports the Reverend Simpson's tradition of the bodies being discovered circa 1800. Whereas, Alexander Murdoch's account allows the exact location of Closs farm to be pin-pointed and by no coincidence it is situated on the Closs Burn two few miles from the Martyrs Moss.

It is my belief that Margaret Dun was martyred on this moss . She was not making her way to discover the fate of her brother - surely even this did not carry the penalty of death - but rather she was returning with her brother and her fellow Covenanters from Renwick's preaching at Dalmellington.

Included in this number would be Marion Cameron. Her ancestral home of Falkland in Fife would be a distant memory . Her two brothers Richard and Michael killed some 5 years before on Aird's Moss less than 10 miles from Cumnock. Her father Alan, imprisoned at Edinburgh at that time and described by Jock Purves as 'a prisoner, head of a broken home, the father of martyred sons and daughter!' No doubt in his mind that Marion Cameron was martyred. Where better to find a new family but with the Covenanters of the south-west where James Renwick had filled the great loss of Richie Cameron , the Lion of the Covenant.



Marion Cameron and Margaret Dun
April 1685

Marion Cameron : The Reverend Simpson names only Marion Cameron among the three individuals that were surprised by a party of dragoons, causing them to flee towards Daljig . Near here, tired and exhausted they hid in the expansive moss and were soon engaged in chanting their psalms. The dragoons could hardly fail to find this small band of Covenanters and made an empty gesture of agreeing to spare their lives if only they would burn their bibles. Martyrdom was the inevitable outcome for the saintly three, they were shot on the spot and their bodies buried in their clothes in the moss where they fell. Simpson relates that Marion Cameron was a 'pious young woman and said to be the sister of the celebrated Richard Cameron who fell with his brother Michael at the battle of Airds Moss 1680.

Margaret Dun : The Reverend Warwick records that she was the sister of the Covenanter, David Dun of Closs or Class in the parish of Ochiltree. Dun along with Simon Paterson was seized on Carsgailoch hill and taken to Old Cumnock on the same day that Wilson, Jamieson and Humphry were marytred on Carsgailoch. Dun and Paterson were executed and their bodies layed in the Gallows Knowe at Old Cumnock next to the tomb of Alexander Peden , Prophet of the Covenant. Warwick suggests that Margaret Dun was shot on her way to Cumnock to discover the fate of her brother.

No monument exists to the memory of Marion Cameron and Margaret Dun, two Heroines of the Covenant My own belief is that their bodies lie in what is known as Martyrs Moss' less than half a mile from Carsgailoch hill in the parish of New Cumnock.

The route from Dalmellington to the parishes of Ochiltree, New Cumnock, Old Cumnock and Kirkconnel would take the small band of Covenanters towards Pennyvenie and on along the base of the mighty Benbeoch where they would pick up the course of the Beoch Lane in New Cumnock. Here they would say their goodbyes and strike out for their own homes or refuges. Those heading for Closs would follow the course of the Black Water, whilst those heading for Old Cumnock and beyond would cross over the slopes of Carsgailoch hill and those with homes in New Cumnock and Kirkconnel would follow the River Nith.

Things clearly didn't go to plan and the dragoons who may have been giving chase from Dalmellington or were perhaps carrying out standing instructions to scour the well trodden routes between Galloway, Upper Nithsdale and the Ayrshire parishes were hell-bent on killing Covenaters on that Killing Day.

Margaret Dun and Marion Cameron were apprehended on suspicion of attending a conventicle, a crime punishable by death, and martyred for their adherance to their principles. David Dun and Simon Paterson were seized nearby and taken to Old Cumnock - perhaps they were subjected to some form of inquistion before their execution to gain names of those who attended the conventicles. Joseph Wilson, John Jamieson and John Humphry were martyred on the slopes of Carsgailoch , whilst George Corson and John Hair had reached the far end of the parish of New Cumnock , on the Nith valley before martyrdom fell upon them.

Martyrs Moss
Airdmoss where Richard Cameron
and his brother Michael fell
The new stone to David Dun and
Simon Paterson,Barrhill, Cumnock