History of the Parish
of New Cumnock
by Robert Guthrie
On 22nd August 2003, Frances Macdonald posted this message on the New Cumnock Forum,
I and my family now live in Knockshinnoch Farm and as we were white washing the old
byre we discovered a date plaque from 1691 with the initials HD and MC, a heart with what
appears to be a dagger in it, a small star and a stags head. We would love to know more
about the place and have already discovered a few things mostly from this wonderful site.
We wonder does anyone have any info they might be able to share with us?
Frances and Derek Macdonald
There are no references to the Knockshinnoch date-stones in any of the historical accounts of the
parish of New Cumnock. Of course previous tenants in the recent past may well have been
aware of them but it is only through the discovery of Frances and Derek that these date-stones
can now find their place in the history of New Cumnock.
Only last year I took photos of Knockshinnoch and the outbuildings for my web-pages on Robert
Burns and his association with John Logan of Knockshinnoch . Little did I know the secret of the
foremost byre, as I walked up the brae and onto the Laight farm.
Before considering the significance of the date of 1691 it is worth heeding the words of James Brown (Baltersan
web-site). 'Date-stones on historic buildings are notoriously unreliable. For example, the lintel of the entrance
to Greenan, the sea-side villa of John Kennedy of Baltersan (formerly of Pennyglen), is engraved JK 1603 F
.MD. Since he was married to Florence M'Dowell by 1595, the stone commemorates neither their marriage
nor when they took possession of this tower. But it was the year that James VI, King of Scots, became James
I of England'
My initial thought that 1691 may reflect the marriage date of Hugh and Margaret can now be discounted.
He is listed as one of the heritors in the parish of Cumnock in 1684, and like many other parishioners was subjected
to government interrogation about Covenanting activity 'Hew Douglas of Garrallane, present upon oath, of the
age of 36 yeirs or therby, maried'. Hugh Douglas then was born circa. 1648 and was married on or before 1684.
Perhaps, Hugh and Margaret were married in 1676, the year that he succeeded his father in Garallane and was
granted a precept of clare constat, of the lands of Knockshinnoch. The properties being part of a marriage contract in
the same way that his great-grandfather Hugh Campbell had acquired Boigcurroch?
A Brief History of Knockshinnoch
The place-name Knockshinnoch is Gaelic cnoc sionnaich 'fox hill' and originally would have been applied to the
insignificant hillock to the east of the modern-day farm of Knockshinnoch. Gaelic speaking farmers may have
settled in the lands of New Cumnock as early as the beginning of the 11th century giving names to their fields
such as Auchincross and Auchingee. Gaelic started to decline as a language in this part of the world by the 14th
century, but thankfully many of the Gaelic place-names, including Knockshinnoch endured.
Dunbar of Knockshinnoch
A detailed account of the Dunbars of Knockshinnoch is given in the web-pages 'Historic Families'. The family was
an offshoot of the Dunbars of Cumnock, the barons of Cumnock who had their baronial seat at Cumnock Castle
less than a mile to the north-east of Knockshinnoch. The first we meet of the family is John Dunbar, born about
1490. He died in 1551 and his will specified that he 'is to be buried at St Conval's, Cumnock', i.e. at Cumnock
Kirk the burial place of his kinsmen the Barons of Cumnock. John was followed in Knockshinnoch by his son
Patrick Dunbar (~1515~1581) and then by another John Dunbar (~1540~1600), more of whom later.
The Dunbars of Knockshinnoch had a tower house, said to
be situated on the lower west shoulder of Knockshinnoch
hill, above the site of the modern-day farm. Little is known
of the tower other than the account given by the RCAHMS
. 'There are no remains of this building, which was of
two storeys with walls of great thickness and appeared
to have been a stronghold. It was occupied by farmers
for a considerable time, and was removed for building
purposes.' When the tower was built is unknown. It it does
not appear on Blaeu's map Coila Provincia (Atlus Novus
1654), which was based on Timothy Pont's manuscript map
of Kyle, ca. 1590. This of course cannot be taken as proof
that the tower did not exist at that time.
In Knockshinnoch at Pont's time was George Dunbar (~1565 ~1628) 'heir of John Dunbar of Knockschynoch,
patris, in 20 solidatis terrarum de Knokschynnoch antiqui extentus in baronia de Cumnock'. He was
succeeded by his son John Dunbar (~1590 ~1655) and then by Hugh Dunbar (~ 1614~1686) the last of the
Dunbars of Knockshinnoch. In 1676 Hugh Dunbar 'granted a precept of clare constat, with consent of Lord
Crichton, to Hugh Douglas of Garrallane, of these lands.' Precept of clare constat is an old Scots term and is
'a writ granted by a subject superior for entering in a property an heir, whose right clearly appears (clare
constat) from documents'. So who was Hugh Douglas of Garallane ?
Douglas of Garallane
The story of Douglas of Garallane begins, like many other Ayrshire stories with the Campbells. Through marriage
to the Craufurd heiress of Loudon in the 14th century, the Campbells many lands throughout the sheriffdom,
including what was then the parish of Cumnock (Old and New). One of the Campbell properties was Boigcurroch
(now Boig in New Cumnock), a stones' throw from Knockshinnoch and in 1556 it was held by Hugh Campbell. In
1562, Hugh Campbell was granted a charter of the lands of Garallane by Sir Matthew Campbell of Loudon, a
property a few miles to the north east of Boigcurroch. His eldest son, Hugh Campbell married Elizabeth Dunbar,
daughter of John Dunbar of Barmuir (and later of Knockshinnoch) in 1588. As part of the marriage contract the
young Hugh acquired the lands of Boigcurroch and following the death of his father in 1605, he succeeded to
Garallane. Hugh and Elizabeth had two sons. Their eldest son Hugh married Sarah Campbell of Horscluegh but he
died without issue. Their youngest son John Campbell married Margaret Campbell and they had a son and
daughter. John died before his father and in 1648 his daughter Margaret Campbell succeeded to the property of
Margaret Campbell married George Douglas, son of George Douglas of Waterside (a property next to the Lugar
Water near the modern-day Tanyard in Cumnock). Together they had three children, Hugh , Robert and
Margaret. The eldest son Hugh Douglas succeeded to Garallane in 1676.
To understand the history of the Knockshinnoch stones it is necessary to understand the history of
Knockshinnoch and the families that lived there 300 years before the new tenants Frances and Derek.
However, the story starts hundreds of years before in the 11th century.
Site of Knockshinnoch Tower
Ordnance Survey 2nd Edition 1897
Hugh Douglas of Garallan married Margaret Craufurd, only child of Captain John Craufurd of Camlarg, a large estate
in the neighbouring parish of Dalmellington. Together they had three sons, John the eldest who died at Darien, Hugh
who succeeded his father in Garallane in 1719 and youngest Alexander.
The initials and the armorial bearings on the Knockshinnoch 1691 date-stone can now be explained .
HD are those of Hugh Douglas and MC those of his wife Margaret Craufurd.
'The old arms of the family, before Douglas became a surname, were azure,
three stars argent, two and one. Some say, azure, three stars in chief; which
were carried by all the by all the ancient branches of that family, long before that
family became a surname to all the descendants. The ancient arms of the
Douglases were altered after the Good Sir James Douglas carried King Robert
the Bruce's heart to Jerusalem, thus, argent, a man's heart gules, on a chief
azure, three stars of the first, by some called mullets.' (Alexander Nisbet, System
'King David I commonly called the Saint, being a-hunting on Holyrood-day near to
Edinburgh, there appeared a hart or a stag with a cross betwixt his horns, which run
at the king so furiously, and dismounted him from his horse, that he was in hazard of
being killed, if one of his attendants, Sir Gregan Craufurd, had not interposed. The
armorial figures of Sir Gregan Craufurd, and all his descendants , who carry argent, a
stag's head erased with a cross croslet between his attires gules, to perpetuate the
happy event in Sir Gregan delivering King David; so that he and his posterity laid
aside their paternal bearing gules, a fesse ermine, carried by another branch of the
Crawfurd of Comlarg carries argent, a stag's head erased sable, attired or,
distilling drops of blood; crest, a dexter hand issuing out of a cloud, grasping a hart by
the horns, and bearing him to the ground, all proper; with the motto. Tutum te
robore reddam'(Alexander Nisbet, System of Heraldry)
Crawford Arms with
stag's head and fesse ermine
The heart and star or mullet (star of a spur) on the
Knockshinnoch stone are from the arms of Hugh
Douglas and the stag or hart's head is form the arms of
Craufurd of Camlarg. Is there some heraldic pun
intended with the heart to hart ?
Dane Love explains that there are five date-stones, some with arms, to be found on Garrallan House, with dates of
1660, 1676, 1856, 1868 and 1874. Like Greenan, the first Garrallan date-stone may recall an event of national
significance, in this case the restoration of Charles II, in 1660 . The second date-stone corresponds to the year Hugh
Douglas succeeded to Garallan. Early in the 19th century, the Garallan heiress married a Boswell and the three later
date stones are likely to be associated with this family, perhaps reflecting 19th century additions to the grand house.
The Knockshinnoch 1691 date-stone does not appear to reflect any event of national importance, no new monarch
acceded to the throne in that year, for example. Locally, it was a very significant year. The original parish of Cumnock
had been sub-divided into the two new parishes of Old Cumnock and New Cumnock. The Earl of Dumfries had this
decision annulled in 1667, only for this to be overturned in 1691. Knockshinnoch's post-code changes from Cumnock
to New Cumnock in 1691 ! An historic date indeed but probably not the motivation behind the Knockshinnoch stone.
The dearth of date-stones on Garrallan House between Hugh Douglas succeeding to Garallan in 1676 and the
Boswells acquiring the property through marriage in the 19th century may be of some significance. If Hugh and
Margaret wished to commemorate an event in 1691 why does this stone not appear at their property in Garallan ?
The most obvious reason is that the couple had taken up residence at the Tower of Knockshinnoch, some time
between 1676 and 1691. Indeed 1691 may reflect the year they moved into that property leaving the Garrallan lands
to their eldest son and heir John Douglas. No doubt the date-stone would have been placed in a position of
prominence in the Tower, joining perhaps those of Hugh's ancestors, the Dunbars of Knockshinnoch.
Sadly John Douglas would not succeed his father for he was one of the many ill-prepared sons of Scottish lairds that
never survived the ill-fated Darien scheme (1698-1700) and he died on the Panama isthmus. The second son Hugh
Douglas succeeded to Garallane in 1719, presumably on the death of his father. The property of Knockshinnoch had
changed hands before that time and again it was through a Campbell connection.
Garrallan House with a date-stone visible above the front entrance
(Michael C. Davis 'The Lost Mansions of Ayrshire)
Logans of Knockshinnoch
Jean Thompson the widow of William Campbell of Wellwood married Thomas Logan, himself a widower having
previously being married to Margaret McAdam, daughter of Quentin McAdam of Craigengillan in the parish of
Dalmellington. Together they acquired the property of Knockshinnoch in 1708. However, it appears the couple chose
to live at one of their other Ayrshire properties for some time. Their eldest son James Logan succeeded to the property
in 1720. Later he would marry Margaret Begg of Dornal, Auchinleck and together they had several children, including
their eldest son John Logan. Like his grandfather John also married a McAdam, Martha the daughter of Captain Gilbert
McAdam. The captain fell on hard times, and John Logan bought up many of his New Cumnock properties including
Laight, Ashmark and Carcow. In 1781, John settled with his young family at the newly built house at Laight. His father
James Logan died in 1790 and although John became Logan of Knockshinnoch he and his family remained at Laight,
where he would play host to his associate and friend Robert Burns.
D.S. Buchanan of Knockshinnoch
Knockshinnoch was acquired by D. Snodgrass Buchanan Esquire soon after James Logan's death and some time
before 1794, for he is listed as one of the major landowner sin the parish by the Rev. James Young in his statistical
account of the parish, compiled in 1793. Armstrong's 1775 Map of Ayrshire depicts a house at Knockshinnoch, the
Logan's home rather than a two-storey tower. The Knockshinnoch 1794 date-stone may mark some new building
work carried out by the new tenant on what is now Knockshinnoch farm house. The inverted V is unlikely to be a
heraldic symbol (Buchanan clan has a black lion rampant), but is possibly a mason's mark. Perhaps it stood over the
door of a small entry hall at the front of the house which has since been replaced with a more recent front porch.
Armstrong's Map of Ayrshire 1775
Boig, Knockshinnoch & Laight
Knockshinnoch Date-stone 1794
How both date-stones became embedded in the gable-end of one of the many outbuildings to the rear of
Knockshinnoch farm remains a mystery. We can only be grateful that someone had the foresight to preserve
these treasure from our past spanning one hundred years in the life of Knockshinnoch.
Many thanks to Francis and Derek for sharing their discovery and adding a new page to the history of
the parish of New Cumnock. Thanks too for their warm welcome and allowing me to take photos of
the date-stones and for using the photographs on the web-site . The Campbells may have a long
indirect association with Knockshinnoch but the Macdonalds have now arrived.
Good luck with all your plans and a belated welcome to New Cumnock!
20 RG 03
James Paterson 'History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton'
Alexander Nisbet 'System of Heraldry'
Dane Love 'Pictorial History of Cumnock'
James Brown 'Baltersan' http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/Baltersan
Chris Rollie ' Robert Burns and New Cumnock'
Rev. James Young 'Statistical Account of parish of New Cumnock, 1793'
Michael C. Davis 'The Lost Mansions of Ayrshire'
Register of the Privy Council 1684, p. 546
Ordnance Survey 2nd Edition 1897
Captain Armstrong Map of Ayrshire 1775
Johan Blaeu Coila Provincia , Atlus Novus 1654
(from Timotht Pont Manuscript Kyle ca. 1590)
Johan Blaeu Coila Provincia, Atlus Novus 1654
N.Boigcurroch, O.Boigcurroch, Knockshinnoch
Johan Blaeu Coila Provincia, Atlus Novus 1654
Garrallan, N.Boigcurroch, O.Boigcurroch,
Armstrong's Map of Ayrshire, 1775