Churchyard is not so picturesque as Kirkmichael churchyard, but has its own
share of quiet beauty too. The church itself is very old, having served the
parish for ages; but in 1777 a new church was built on higher ground. It was in
this church (August, 1562) old Abbot Kennedy preached those sermons against the
Reformation which brought John Knox down upon him, and led to the famous Debate
at Maybole. And it was in this church, too, Robert Burns worshipped under the
Rev. Matthew Biggar, while attending Hugh Rodger's school, in the summer of
1776. Some years afterwards, the first Marquess of Ailsa built a Tomb in the old
ruins for himself and his family, but it has never been used.
There are three tombstones here connected with Burns, and all standing close
together. The first is the one to the extreme left in the engraving, which is
the family memorial of the Browns, from whom Burns' mother came. This stone was
rapidly mouldering away when the late Dr Charles Rogers of Edinburgh, in 1883,
raised a sum of money to preserve it, which has been done suitably. The
tombstone standing next to the Browns' is that of Douglas Graham of Shanter (the
immortal Tam), with some highly evangelical
lines written on the back of it. And the next in order is that of Hugh Rodger,
who taught Burns what little mathematics he knew, and which came in opportunely
to qualify him for the post of gauger at Dumfries.
Grouped round the east end of the church are the graves of the former ministers
of the parish, including William Cupples, who edited John Stevenson the Covenanter's
memoir, with several members of the family of Wodrow the Church historian, who
died here. Against the west wall of the churchyard, but not seen in the
engraving, are two curious rhyming epitaphs, which run to the following effect
Tuys born, one mahit, often a mother,
Folluing the gospel I cam hither,
Uith him that was my match from Fyf,
Near forty years his weded wyf,
Exspeeting til the trumpet give
The last alarum, rise and live.
died 7 Feb. 1651.
Tuys born, tuys maeht, and tys a mother,
From Inglaad I was carried hither,
By force of wadloek and renoun,
My husband being for the crown,
Bot heir a real eroun of glori
Hes ended both my lyf and stori.
Died 8 Aug. 1652, aged 22.
epitaph recording the names of Burns' mother's relations runs thus: "Here
lyes the corps of John Brown in Littletown, who died March 3, 1724, aged 50 (the
grandfather), and Janet M'Grean, his spouse, who died March 28, 1738, aged 60;
and Agnes Renie, who died May, 1742, aged 34 (the mother), and Margaret Blair,
who died June, 1751, aged 36, spouses to Gilbert Brown in Craigenton, and Agnes
Stivn, who died 1748; also James Brown in Riddlestown, who died June 29, 1780,
aged 65 years." On the top, but now concealed by the new stone
Brown, died 31 Oct., 1774, aged 66" (the father). On the back, "Erected by John and Gilbert Browns and
Robert, and John, and Samuel, and William, and John
Browns in Roan, and Janet Banahtin, his spouse."
From this somewhat confused account, we gather that the poet's mother's father
was thrice married. She was the eldest child by the first wife, Agnes Renie. A
touching remark of hers on her death-bed is recorded: "Are you not sorry to
leave your husband and children ?" "No; I leave my children to the
care of God, and Gilbert will soon get another wife "-which he did, two of
them. Agnes Brown had little education, and never could sign her own name, but
she was a good, kindly woman, a notable willing worker, and above all, she was
the mother of Burns. All honour to her, and the parish that produced her!
Kirkoswald Kirkyard Monumental Inscriptions