Published in the Kirkcudbrightshire Advertiser on 7th February 1913, this article examines the people of the parish through it's monumental inscriptions.

The Churchyards of The Stewartry


The parish of Carsphairn is the most northerly in the county, the second in point of area, but the smallest in regard to population. The village lies on each side of the main thoroughfare between Galloway and Ayrshire. Approaching from the southward, the visitor will find this upland path surrounded by fine scenery. The striking pinnacle of Dundeugh, towering over the river Deugh to the eastward, cannot fail to attract his attention, while the west supplies a fine mountain outline along the ridges of the Millyeas, Millfire, Corserine, and Carlin’s Cairn, and to the northwardthe isolated mass of Cairnsmuir of Carsphairn seems the object and end of the journey. Some short distance of this, however, a fine descent is made to the little oasis in which the village stands. The somewhat bleak and bare aspect, and long, visible, distances of the country round, seem less romantic than the more varied landscape further south; but compensations are afforded in the fact that these long undulations form valuable pasturage for sheep. There is good accommodation in the village, and many signs of comfort. At one time it is said that almost every cottager had a cow and convenience for its support. So well known was this that “a Carsphairn cow” seemed to form a proverbial standard, and was given as the weight of the granite bullet discharged from “Mons Meg” at the destruction of the Black Douglas’s castle at Threave.

The church stands in a level, well-kept burial ground, which contains many memorials of great interest and artistic skill. In this latter respect some small headstones, with very large letters in low relief, may be mentioned. Here, again, the martyr element is prominent, and the phrase “Persecutor perish” is found engraved in several places.

Sir Robert Grierson of Lag, and some of his ancestors, were proprietors and residents in the parish. Members of that family were, it has been said, benefactors of Carsphairn to some extent, but the actions of the individual named seem to have had similar influences here as elsewhere, and rendered his memory detestable.

An application to the General Assembly in 1638, in name of this church, states that “it lyes in a very desolate wilderness, containing five hundred communicants.” Baptisms and burials failed to receive proper attention, but the Assembly and Parliament aided. After some other incumbents, the Rev. John Semple carried out some evangelical work between 1846 and 1864. Then he was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle, his stipend sequestrated, and he was marked as a rebel. After three other incumbents, Mr Semple was indulged, at request of Viscount Kenmure, and resumed, at times under difficulties, till his death. No local memorial of him seems to exist.

Ministers of the Parish

A monument to members of the family of the Rev. John Reid, A.M., who was minister of the parish from 1694 to 1737, is in existence, but no record of his age or date of death is given. The inscriptions will, however, explain themselves. A small stone, engraved in capitals, gives initials and a somewhat defaced inscription :-

. . . REID . MIN . OF . THE
. 7 .1714. . WAS . BURIED. 15
. . . . . . . . .
AGED . 81

Another reference is made thus :- “Here lyes Janet Richardson, Relict of William Galloway of Lipnoch, and Spouse to Mr. John Reid, Minr. Of the Gospell at Carsphairn, who died Decr. 31, 1730, aged 89.”

The next records his successor, the Rev. Andrew Reid, on a small upright slab :- “Here lyes The Corpeses of the Revrd. Mr Andrew Reid, Minister of the Gospel at Carspairn, who departed this life 28 Octr. 1753, Aetatos 55. A patern of Holiness Worthy of Imitacion.  And also his son Ebenezer Reid, who died in childhood April 175....”

A comparatively modern stone, amid some further inscription, states, regarding Mr Reid’s successor:- “Rev. John Campbell, who died at Carsphairn Manse in the year 1780.”

Dr. Scott places the Rev. William Boyd between these two, with an incumbency from 1756 to 1772, but no monument appears.

Mr Campbell resided from 1773, and was followed by Rev. Samuel Smith, who translated to Borgue in 1792, and then by Rev. Robert Gordon, who went to Girthon in 1801.

The next incumbent seems to have had his name wrongly given by all the references hitherto published. It is as follows on his tombstone:- “Erected by James Curror, in memory of his brother Henry. He was born in Kinross-shire and died 9th Dec. 1825, aged 64 years, having been 24 years Minister of Carsphairn.”

Following this comes a long inscription on a wall tablet :- “Here are deposited the remains of the Revd. Thomas Cannan, who was ordained minister of New Spinie, 17th Sept., 1813, inducted to the pastoral care of the Parish of Carsphairn 7th Sept. 1816, and who departed this life universally lamented 19th December, 1832, in the 43rd year of his age and 15th of his ministry. He was endowed with enlightened piety and eminent talents, was faithful in the discharge of his pastoral duties, and endeared to his family, his friends, and his flock by the kindness of his manner and the purity of his heart. Also of Henry McConnel, his son, who died 30th May, 1833, aged one year and seven months.”

Mr Cannan was followed by the Rev David Welsh, of whom the following is recorded :- “Sacred to the memory of Rev David Welsh, born 5th July 1787, died, as Minister of Carsphairn, 22nd November, 1869, after an incumbency of 36 years.”

Mr Welsh was followed by Rev John McKay Candlish, who died at New-Galloway 5th June 1882, and is interred in Kells Churchyard, and there recorded.

The family monument of the Rev. G.F.A. MacNaughton, the present incumbent, records the death, on 6th June 1906, of Margaret Ferrier Anderson, his wife, at the age of 44 years. The stone is of beautiful workmanship, the lettering being in raised characters. The front bears, in addition to the record, “I am the Resurrection and the Life &c.,” the symbolical representation of a butterfly, and a Latin verse:-

Quod habuimus habemus
Quod eumus debemus
Quod erimus manet

And a motto in Hebrew. On the back is - “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” There are also figures of an arm wielding a spear, which pierces a dragon, symbolical of Light, or the Word, overcoming Darkness, or Evil. There are also floral embellishments on the edges of the stone, graceful in outline yet flowing under a fine restraint, the whole forming a trophy much out of the common, which cannot fail to be appreciated by the artistic eye.


No records of the full century are observed, but numerous instances of very advanced ages were frequently seen.

Quaint Memorials.

Immediately on entering the gateway of the churchyard the visitor is reminded that he is still in the region of the cruelties of the Killing Time.

A small stone with carved emblems on one side has on the other a chronical of the past as follows, not in contemporary characters, but evidently a modern renewal :- “Erected in memory of Rodger Dunn, who was born in Benwhat, in the parish of Dalmellington, 1659. He suffered much from persecution for the cause of Christ, and was killed on the night of Carsphairn Fair, June 1689, on the farm of Brockloch.” A poetic epitaph, with Pagan references, follows thus:-

“Pluck’d from Minerva’s breast here am I laid,
Which debt to cruel Atropos I’ve paid.
Resting from my clayey fabric in the dist,
Among the holy ashes of the Just.
My soul set sail for the celestial Shore,
Till the last trump the same with joy restore.”
“Also Robert Dunn of Garryhorn, died Octr. 6th, 1738.”

Another martyr record may be found in an enclosure at the north-east corner of the churchyard. This was formerly in a ruinous condition, but has within recent years been rebuilt,  and the whole is now kept under lock and key.  The monument is to Gilbert McAdam and his son James. Gilbert was an ardent Covenanter, who fought at Bothwell Brig. He was shot while attempting to escape from a window in the village of Kirkmichael, Ayrshire, where a conventicler was surprised by dragoons. A monument to Gilbert and another also exists in Kirkmichael Churchyard. The Carsphairn stone still bears, in large letters, 1682, but the partially defaced inscription has been removed to admit modern lettering. On the other side of the stone an epitaph reads as follows:-

“Reader, behold in dust so Cold
Two Waterheads here ly.
Who in our night yet gave us light
Truth’s champions in their day.
Protectors brave, lo! her yr grave
In  . . . . . . . . . . .  of day
Their souls above the . . . . . . .
With saints do sing for ay.”

The quaint Scottish fashion of naming persons by their residence may be observed, the McAdams residing at Waterhead. The middle rhyme, in first, third and fifth line strengthen the supposition that the incomplete part of the seventh line may be – “they of God’s love.” Despite the Kirkmichael stone, it is believed that the body of Gilbert McAdam is interred at Carsphairn. His son James, although not slain in defence, was a zealous Covenanter, and narrowly escaped being shot when his uncle, Roger Dun, was killed.

One of the oldest dates is given on a slab 6 feet in lengthy by 1 foot 10½ inches wide and 3 inches thick. This lies in a sloping position, and near the bottom is the following, in large letters :-


An inscription in large capitals, sometimes united, and words divided abruptly, runs thus :-

THE . 30 . OF
. . . . . . ER . 1666

A large thrugh nearby has a top – PROSECUT OR PARISH. A shield with three mullets, and a chevron bears initials IM. KM and a rhymed epitaph –

“Brokloch McMillan who did die
Under this stone his body doth ly,
His soul at heavenly work above,
With them whose faith were wrought by love,
Most useful was in’s day and station,
In defence of our Refermation.
Great proof he gave at all fit times
For them things once Cal’d highest crimes.
Nou he’s gon Wp on Jacob’s lad’r
To praise King Christ the Mediator.
Cloth’d is he nou in a white robe
With them that still sing praise of God.”
OBIIT . 28 . FEB : 1725 . ANNO . EIUS

The whole is cit un square capitals, the lines stopped at width of stone, irrespective of metre. The above is arranged to show the rhyme. The letters “U” and “W” are curiously interchanged in line 9.

A small stone, s 2 feet 6 inches high and 1 foot 9 inches wide, has a winged face on top, and the name of David McUhay, 1696, and this epitaph (the name is not well defined. It has also been read as “McIlnay”) :-


Another of the same period has the initials RD . GG – “Faithful Robert Grierson doth ly beside this stone, who in his life tyme was repute ane honest one. Religion he did awn, when few it countenanced. Eternity is come where he is high advanced.” Whi died the 11 of June, 1699, aged 50.

A curious inscription is headed “1710” and then follows :- Alexander McTurk, & his wife Margaret Ireland, frugal were, sober and just, who now do ly. Here lyes the corpse of John McTurk, who died March 8 1761.”

Nearby is a large thrugh inscribed to Alexander and William McTurk, and Margaret Ireland and Margaret Dun, “their wives.” The thrugh also bears a fine shield, with three mullets and chevron on the dexter side; and, on the sinister, three crescents and three small lozenges.

Eminent Parishioners

John Loudon McAdam, the well-known road maker, was descended from a Carsphairn family celebrated in the annals of the Covenant, of the race of Waterhead, and at one time lived at Lagwine. His history and achievements are well known, and his methods of improvement – said to be the first since the days of the Romans – are the subject of scientific discussion at the present time.

A less known individual, but a man of great abilities, was the Rev. John McCrae, who, though born at Knockreoch, in Kells, belonged to a family recorded frequently on the tombstones of Carsphairn. At one time he held a charge at Maryport, and Dr Trotter, in his East Galloway Sketches, states he was assistant to the Rev John McKnaught of Buittle – but the Rev. George Maxwell of Glenarm was assistant there for about seven years previous to the death of Mr McKnaught, at the great age of 95, in 1792. Mr McCrae was also a teacher in Edinburgh, a biblical translator, and celebrated as a linguist.

Captain Alexander William Maxwell Clark-Kennedy, a recent proprietor of Knockgray, was in many respects a most remarkable man, and his death, at the early age of 43, was universally deplored. That he was a true poet may be shown not only by his most lengthy poem “The Bruce,” but by his briefer sketches showing sympathy with everything of the wild which ran or flew or swam. He was a member of several learned societies. In ornithology especially his knowledge was of a high order, and his varied activities may be imagined when it is stated that, as a director of several public companies, he accomplished work of much practical value in large engineering works abroad, and also by judicious planting in his homeland did a deal to alter the character of the district to a sylvan aspect. He died in London in 1894, and was buried in the family tomb at Knockgray Craig.


Among 198 names, McMillan, in its variant forms, stands first with 33 instances. Ferguson and Milligan come next with 9 each to their credit, and Campbell follows with 8. No similar preponderance of one name has been shown hitherto in any of the other parishes. A list now follows :-