Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday--Peter Gemmell, Fenwick Covenanter

     Back in 2005, while my husband, brother and I were traveling around the lowlands of Scotland, we stayed a day or two in Fenwick, Scotland near the town of Kilmarnock.  A large portion of the trip was spent looking for anything Gemmell--not in my surname line, but belonging to a friend of my brother.

     The second day of our stay in a wonderful B & B in Fenwick (pronounced Fenick), I saw a pamphlet in the lounge area for the Fenwick Old Parish Kirk.  AND, a Gemmell was buried there.  Suddenly, we were all in the rental car and heading for Low Fenwick and the Kirk.  As I remember, it was a dark and dreary afternoon--the perfect setting for a wander in an old cemetery.

     What an exciting find this turned out to be.  Firstly, I had either forgotten or never knew about the history of the Scottish Covenanters and shame on me as a life long Presbyterian!  The kirkyard was full of them....8 to be exact, which is more than in any other Scottish burial ground. 

    I found a useful site called Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association, which defined covenanter, "Simply stated, the Covenanters were those people in Scotland who signed the National Covenant in 1638. They signed this Covenant to confirm their opposition to the interference by the Stuart kings in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland."

     Second, I don't know what I was thinking....maybe my mind was washed out by the rain....but I only photographed the one tombstone we were in search of...again, shame on me! 

     Finally, had I been able to do a little research on the Old Parish Kirk, I would have known ahead of time that the church faces east/west and is an odd angle within its boundary.  The kirk was built in 1643 in the shape of a Greek cross.  The guard posts at the gates that were built so that families could protect their dead from the resurrectionists.

The Peter Gemmell tombstone reads:

"Here lyes the corpse of Peter Gemmell,
who was shot by Nisbet and his party,
anno 1685, for bearing his faithful testimony to the cause of Christ.
Aged 21 years.
‘This man, like holy anchorites of old,
For conscience sake was thrust from house and hold;
Bloodthirsty red-coats cut his prayers short,
And even his dying groans were made their sport.
Ah, Scotland! breach of solemn vow repent,
Or bloody crimes will bring thy punishment.’"

     Electric Scotland on line has Ramble Round Kilmarnock, by Archibald R. Adamson.  There are two excellent chapters on the Fenwick Old Parish Kirk, Chapter VII and Chapter VIII.

I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. All comments are welcome; however, if they are inappropriate, they will not be published.   

PLEASE post your e-mail in the comment section if you would like to network about a particular surname or topic. I will capture it for my use only and not include it when I publish your comment.
© 2012, copyright Linda Hughes Hiser


  1. Hi i know this is a bit late, but my dad and his father and mother before him were Gemmells and were from Fenwick.

  2. I have re-published Archibald R. Adamson's book, "Rambles Through The Land of Burns" with a Forward, end note additions, and an accolade as it was reprinted in the Western Nebraskian (originally in the Kilmarnock Standard 1881). Is there any way you would consider a link from your site to the Amazon e-book and print edition?

  3. My late father visited Fenwick in the 70's and did a grave rubbing of Peter's stone. It still hangs on my sister's wall in New Hampshire. Thank you so much for recording and preserving this amazing history. Mark G. Minneapolis.