The Mary McLellan Memorial in Kirkpatrick-Durham Churchyard
Feature Article by Sally Bijl
The memorial dates to around 1697, with the following relief carving on the tabletop portion of the structure:
LYES THE EMI-
NENTLY GODLY MARY
Mc LELLAN LADY OF
CORSOCK WHO DIED
SEP 28 1697 WHOS
HUSBAND JOHN NEIL-
SONE LAIRD OF COR-
SOCK FOR APPEARING
FOR THE COVENANTS
AT PENTLAND SUF-
AT EDR* DECR* 14 1666
AND IS BURIED THERE
AND JOHN NEILSONE OF CORSOCK
SPOUSE TO ANNA GORDOUN WHO
DIED THE 24 DCMR* 1706 WHO WAS
PIOUSLY DEVOTED WITH HER-
OICK COURAGE TO MANTINE* THE
WORK OF REFORMATION AS
WAS HIS PROGENITOR’
The top of the tabletop gravestone and surrounding carvings are shown on the images below for reference.
Neilsone, as an active member of the Covenanters in the Stewartry has no
registered memorial. He died
without renouncing his beliefs.
significance of this memorial is unique, since it provides a link between the
McLellan/Neilsone family and the Act of Indemnity 1662.
John Neilsone, Laird of Corsock, was one of the leaders in the 1662-1666
Covenanter uprising in the
structure shows the close link Kirkpatrick-Durham and the Stewartry had to
national events in the 17th century.
There are plenty of contemporary and later documents on the overall
history but not much research on the local area.
Nationally 17th century gravestones are a rarity, which makes close investigation and preservation of unusually carved structures essential. This gravestone has clear relief carving on the top and sides of the tabletop: a skull on the west end, crossed bones on the east end, both “…emblems of mortality or death” (Guide To Gravestone Carvings, website, see bibliography); and a winged angel’s head symbolising “…resurrection and the metamorphosis of the soul…” (The Church Monuments Society website, see bibliography) plus a heart pierced by Death’s arrow on the southern side. These carvings are in excellent condition, and were used on gravestones predominantly in the 17th century. The common inscriptions of this period were concerned with mortality, and warning the observer of their inevitable fate, not in memory of the deeds of the Neilsone family. Again, the text sets the tabletop grave significantly apart from the rest of the churchyard burials. Unfortunately, there is one area of deterioration on the relief carvings on top due to weathering. The lower part of the inscription from: “…AND JOHN NEILSONE OF CORSOCK…” until the end of the inscription (lines 15 – 21 of the inscription), but the care and work of the inscription is still very clear.
the social value of this memorial is exceptional.
In using of the phrase: “…
JOHN NEILSONE LAIRD OF CORSOCK FOR APPEARING FOR THE COVENANTS…” (lines 6
– 9 of the inscription) a connection to a historical document was made.
One of the beliefs of the Presbyter
Dick (1924), Highways
& Byways in Galloway & Carrick
Macmillan & Company, pp 444, 482, 484.
Kaye (12/06/1995), The
Post 14 Curriculum, The Scottish Government http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Education/Schools/curriculum/post14/Q/forceupdate/on
The Church Monuments Society, http://www.churchmonumentssociety.org/newfile21.htm#SCALES
To Gravestone Carvings
Australia ICOMOS (1988) Guidelines to the Burra Charter: