ST Ninians Kirkyard

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Probably the earliest place of burial in the parish, containing over 400 visible headstones. The old kirk was dedicated to St.Ninian in the 9th century, though earlier timber built churches may have been present on this site. All that remains toady is the gable end of a pre-reformation church and it’s bell tower .

One of the memorials here is to a martyr of the Battle of Drumclog, covenanter James Thomson of Tanhill. He was killed by Bloody Graham of Claverhouse during the skirmish in 1679. This memorial stone is known locally as the Bloodstone or ‘Bloodstane’. This comes from the myth that if you insert your finger into the skull’s mouth on the memorial, it would run with blood when you withdraw your finger. The Bloodstone superstition can be explained by the red ochre seam that runs through the grey sandstone, but that doesn’t stop many a schoolchild being scared out of their wits.
The church probably fell into disrepair in the latter half of the seventeenth century and a new church was opened in New Street in 1772 in the centre of the village. The new larger building was situated adjacent to Stonehouse Cross.

The Heritage Group have over the past few years carried out important work recently, raising and cleaning many of the stones which had been pushed over , broken and neglected. The stones which can be read have had their inscriptions recorded and these can be accessed via the members only section of the web site. MEMBERS ONLY

In January 2002, Stonehouse historian , John R.Young launched his 3rd book. It gives an in-depth review of St.Ninian’s and wishes to make local people aware of it’s great historical significance. John hopes it will give young people a better understanding and appreciation of the cemetery’s heritage value to the local community.
Whilst carrying out his project John had to map out the existing stones and create stone reference numbers for them. A copy of this plan is included in the following link. St-NiniansGravePlan 

The stone numbering follows this plan as no other plan was available from the local authority although the group does have an index of lair owners  however the source of this is information is unclear and the lair numbers don’t match the St Ninians grave plan.

Following on from previous projects involving St.Ninian’s auld kirkyard, work was carried out in conjunction with Archaeology Scotland, CAVLP,
Northlight Heritage and Dr Susan Buckham –Kirkyard Consulting in 2018/19. The project focused on celebrating the auld kirkyards  history.  A leaflet  was produced that provides further information in addition a new interpretation sign was installed at the graveyard a direct result of the project.
The history of the church may date as far back as the 5th century, as the first ‘Stone House’. Research has found that the auld kirk was dedicated to St. Ninian in the 9th century. However, it is possible that an earlier structure may have been present on the site. A burial cist dating to around 2000BC was found within the footprint of the auld kirk, at the site prior to 1937, as detailed in History of Lanarkshire by J. A. Wilson. This
may suggest that the site may have been an early place of
Christian worship.
The gable end of the bell tower is all that remains of the 16th century pre-reformation church. In 1560, an Act of parliament approved a protestant faith in Scotland. Patrick Hamilton of Kincavil (Near Linlithgow), who is believed to have been born at or near the place known locally as
Patrickholm in the parish in 1504. He was one of the first to emerge and preach the new faith. He was burned at the stake in St Andrew’s in 1528, because of his beliefs, which did not go along with the catholic teachings of the reigning monarch (Henry VIII).
The last restoration to the Auld Kirk was in 1734, later replaced by a new Parish Church, in New Street in 1772.
The cemetery also contains carved gravestones and Rare Habitats
The graveyard is a time capsule of historic records and a home to rare habitats which are found no where else in Scotland. Within the graveyard there are 425 memorials.
These grave markers include:
• A possible 11th or 12th century coped medieval stone
• ‘The Bloodstone’ – Memorial to John Thomson (Convenanter), who was killed at the battle of Drumclog in 1679. If you place your finger in the skull at the top of the stone, the stone will give off a redish tinge, which
comes from a red ochre seam within the stone;
• The oldest legible stone is a cope stone for James Hamilton 1651 and Andrew Hamilton 1663. The stone also has a skull and cross bones carving. This coped stone is like a  table top, with sloped edges to allow water to run off 
• Crosses of a Celtic design became popular in the 19th
century, there are several within the graveyard;
• Occupations were once used to decorate gravestones, before written text became more common place. This is a way of identifying older grave markers. Occupations include, weavers, merchants, waulk-millers and gardeners.
The graveyard has 119 recorded lichens and one lichen parasite as identified by Lichenologist, John Douglass.
This is a good number for a Scottish churchyard and is due its age, geographical position, variety of stone types and sympathetic management.
Over the years lichens have been used for many purposes including cloth dye; medicines and emergency food. One of Franklin’s Arctic expedition groups ate only boiled lichens for eleven days. Examples of lichens within the graveyard include:
• Crotal
– Found on the gravestones, this lichen was used to dye clothing a pale to dark brown. This lichen has antibiotic properties and was powdered and used in stockings to protect feet from inflammation during long
journeys.
• Xanthoria parietina – In medieval times it was believed
that God had marked plants to treat various ailments.
This yellow lichen was used to treat jaundice. It was also
used for dying cloth a corn yellow.

 Gravestone Inscriptions

The group has a record of all the gravestone inscriptions that are readable and has created a searchable data set which allows members to search for a main name or associated name and can view any recorded inscription.  this information is located in the  members only area.

Other Information

John Young has written another booklet on St Ninian and funding for this book was provided by the heritage group. The group has also partnered with a local model maker and a scale model of the perceived layout of the church is available to purchase from the group or direct from the model maker who can be contacted via his web site http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/stuartfellows

If you are interested in recording gravestones or understanding the symbols used on stones then the attached document. Gravestone recording.[]