The Glencairn Aisle Preservation Project — Phase II
by Sheryl Cunningham and David Pickens
The Glencairn Aisle is the earliest known burial site of one of our clan chiefs. It became the final resting place of James Cunningham, the 7th Earl of Glencairn, his wife and children, and other relatives. Completed in 1600, the Aisle has stood the test of time. The Aisle underwent several restorations and repairs between 1793 and 1888. Clan Cunningham International (CCI) started a project in 2014 to restore the 4 missing stained glass windows, and those windows were installed in the summer of 2019. During our July 2019 tour and triennial meeting, we held a ceremony at St. Maur’s Glencairn Church to commemorate the completion of this important project. CCI now hopes to continue raising funds needed for further restoration and tender loving care so that the Aisle can be enjoyed by Cunninghams for generations to come. The stained glass windows were jointly designed in 2014 by Susan Bradbury of the Stained Glass Partnership in Kilmaurs, Rose-Ann Cuninghame, and David Pickens. For the project, Susan replicated the type of glass that would have been used in 1600. When Susan was producing the windows, she made a couple of extra shakefork panes and presented one to David Pickens, who initiated the Glencairn Aisle Windows Project, and to two others who played an important role in the project. At the 2019 Triennial Gathering at Caprington Castle, CCI decided to hold the extra pane to be auctioned off at some future date to benefit the Glencairn Aisle’s preservation efforts. During the installation of the windows in the Glencairn Aisle in 2019, Susan Bradbury noticed sand on the floor of the Aisle, which was flaking off from the beautiful monument honoring James Cunningham and his family. Susan contacted an Edinburgh company she had worked with when doing conservation work at St. Giles Cathedral and obtained a comprehensive evaluation of the Aisle and its monument. The evaluation revealed the immediate need for action on several problem areas in the 420-year-old Aisle, including sandstone stabilization of the monument, structural repairs needed to secure Lady Cunningham’s head, and the removal of concrete that had been used to make various repairs to the monument and are only adding to the sandstone deterioration. In partnership between members of CCI’s Governing Council and individuals in Kilmaurs, a committee has been established and has met several times and discussed how to proceed with this preservation project, from scheduling the work to raising funds. The CCI Governing Council is well represented on this committee and adopted the project at the September council meeting. CCI will solicit donations as well as start fundraising by auctioning off of the shakefork window pane. This is only the beginning of CCI’s fundraising efforts.
Cunninghams and the Glencairn Aisle
The town was made a burgh of barony in 1527 by the Earl of that date. Robert Burns’s patron, James Cunningham the fourteenth earl of Glencairn, upon whose death the poet wrote his touching “Lament”, sold the Kilmaurs estate in 1786 to the Marchioness of Titchfield, later the family held the title of Duke of Portland.
Kilmaurs has strong links with the Cunningham family who are associated with the town of Lambroughton for a significant period during their rise to power. The Cunningham Chiefs had a weaker connection with the Barony of Kilmaurs after 1484 when Finlaystone became the family seat; Sir William Cunningham of Kilmaurs had married Margaret Denniston, sole heir to Sir Robert Denniston in 1405, and the dowry included the baronies of Denniston and Finlaystone in Renfrewshire, the lands of Kilmaronock in Dumbartonshire, and the barony of Glencairn in Dumfrieshire. James, the fourteenth Earl of Glencairn, broke the centuries-old connection of the Cunnigham family with the area by selling the Barony and Estate of Kilmaurs, including Kilmaurs place, in 1786 to the Marchioness of Titchfield.
Kilmaurs Church and village
Metcalfe, William M. (1905). A History of the County of Renfrew from the Earliest Times. Paisley : Alexander Gardner. p. 121
Robertson, William (1908). Ayrshire. Its History and Historic Families. Vol. 2. Grimsay Press (2005). ISBN 1-84530-026-2. P. 326.
There are many inscriptions on the monuments and on the stone floor, some legible and some almost indistinguishable. However, one inscription that is very legible and very appropriate to us all is: “Anno 1600. Nothing surer than death, be therefore sober and with in prayer.”
Kilmaurs Parish & Burg by Duncan McNaught
Kilmaurs Past and Present by Robert Beattie, 1993
Cuninghame topographized by Timothy Pont, A.M. 1604-1608
Information from Jim Gray, Session Clerk of St. Maurs-Glencairn Church—information obtained in November 2005
External protection with steel meshes: 520.00
Value Added Tax at 20%: 416.40
Design, making in handmade glass, and installation: 1820.00
Total cost: £4318.40