Kilmarnock Kirk


"The lands belonging to the church of Kilmarnock passed into lay hands after the Reformation. In 1691, Archbishop Spottiswoode, Commendator of Kilwinning, transferred the patronage of the church, with the tithes of Kilmarnock, to Robert, Lord Boyd, proprietor of the Lordship of Kilmarnock. In the 18th century, the patronage passed from the Earl of Kilmarnock to the Earl of Glencairn, from whom it was purchased about the year 1790 by Miss Scott, afterwards Duchess of Portland. The induction of the Rev. William Lindsay to the second charge of this church, in 1764, is referred to by Burns in his poem of 'The Ordination'. When the Rev. James M'kinlay, D.D., was inducted to the same charge in 1782, a serious accident happened by the falling of some plaster from the ceiling of the church. This circumstance created a panic, and a cry was raised that the building was falling. In the rush that immediately followed, about thirty persons were crushed or trampled to death and eighty injured. The church contains the burial place of the Mures of Rowallan, and that of the Boyds of Kilmarnock."

"In the churchyard lie the remains of the celebrated Tam Samson, whose name has been immortalised by the genius of Burns:"

"Tarn Samson's weel-worn clay here lyes,
Ye canting zealots, spare him,
If honest worth to heaven rise,
Ye'll mend or ye win near him."

"The remains of the two divines mentioned with Samson in the first verse of the 'Elegy', occupy a spot near to the 'weel-worn clay' of the worthy Sportsman. In this cemetery are erected a few tablets to the memory of the martyred Covenanters. One of those is commemorative of John Nisbet, younger, of the Glen, in Loudoun Parish. This martyr was executed on 14th April 1683, at the Cross of Kilmarnock. The place where the gallows was erected is still marked by the initials of his name, within a circle formed of white pebbles, inter-wrought with the causeway stones. When he was ascending the ladder to the scaffold, he remarked that he considered every step of his ascent a step nearer heaven. His body was interred in the Low Churchyard, but was afterwards raised by order of his persecutors, and removed to unhallowed ground. The tablet, which was renewed by subscription in 1823, bears the following rhyme:"

"Come, reader, see, here pleasant Nisbet lies,
Whose blood doth pierce the pure and lofty skies;
Kilmarnock did his latter hour perceive,
And Christ his soul to heaven did receive
Yet bloody Torrance did his body raise,
And buried it into another place,
Saying 'Shall rebels lye in graves with me
We'll bury him where evil doers be'."

"In the churchyard there is also a stone erected in memory of six natives of Kilmarnock parish, who, in 1697, were sentenced to transportation for life, on account of their having taken a part in the rising of Pentland. Their names are Thomas Findlay, John Cuthbertson, William Brown, Patrick Watt, Robert Anderson and James Anderson. The transport vessel encountered a fierce storm and was wrecked near the Orkney Islands, Patrick Watt being the only prisoner who survived the accident. John Findlay's name is also inscribed on the Martyr's Stone. He was executed at the Grassmarket, Edinburgh, on 15th December 1682. Another martyr's stone is in memory of John Ross, a native of Mauchline, who suffered at Edinburgh with John Shields, December 17th 1666."

"Ayrshire Nights Entertainment: A Descriptive Guide to the History, Traditions, Antiquities of the County of Ayr" by John MacIntosh of Galston, Ayrshire, published in 1894, by John Menzies & Co. Of Kilmarnock, Dunlop and Drennan.