Continuing with our graveyard story at the former burial site in Fairhill, Wilma Bolton has transcribed an article from the Hamilton Advertiser dated 7/5/1887.
Sir, I am curious to know the origin and age of the small graveyard on the confines of the Fairhill property and adjoining the road from Earnock to Meikle-Earnock. Might I ask the author of the “Recollections” which frequently appear in your publication if he can find on the shelves of his memory any impress of the facts relating to it and its dismantled state? If he could also tell me the history of the ruined wall on the north side of the village of Meikle-Earnock. I should be under an increased debt of gratitude to him. QUAERO.
The following reply was printed on the 14/5/1887:
Sir, having read in Saturday’s Advertiser a letter from a correspondent seeking information about the age and origin of Meikle-Earnock Burying-Ground. I, along with a few friends, visited it on Sunday night, as I have often done in my lifetime before, and I must say that I was greatly shocked with the state in which I found it, It seems to me that in this awful race for riches the old proverb holds good, “Better a living dog than a dead lion.”
The Indians of North America put us to shame in the way they respect the sepulchres of the dead. I must inform your correspondent that according to tradition the origin of this old burying ground is lost in the mists of time Everything points to Meikle-Earnock as being a very ancient place , there being an ancient tumulus, which, though much larger at one time still measures 12 feet in diameter and 8 feet high. There have ben found several urns in it from time to time.
It appears the ancient inheritance of Fairhill and Meikle-Earnock was held by a family of the name of Strang, of which our energetic councillor is a lineal descendant. So far as I have been able to discover, when the old parish church of Hamilton (of which many of your readers of your readers will remember the portion that stood up to 1852, and was used as the burying place of the Hamilton family) was removed on 1731, the Laird Strang of that day built here a place of sepulchre like Abraham of old, in the shape of an octagon tower wherein to bury members of the family. Of course there had been Strangs’ buried here before this, as witness the inscription on two flat stones in good preservation: — “Here lies James Strang, of Meikle-Earnock, who was born July 20th. 1654, and died 31st March 1746, in the 92nd year of his age” –also “Here lies Robert Strang, younger of Meikle-Earnock, who was born 31st October, 1687 and died 6th of May 1737. The Mathers of Meikle-Earnock, who held the estate for a considerable time, came through it by marriage.
One of the Lairds of Meikle-Earnock married a Mather, and at his death the estate lapsed into that family, and was held for a time by a Mr Dick, of Glasgow, and is now the property of the much respected laird of Earnock, and I have no doubt if Mr Watson’s attention were called to the state of this old burying ground, he would perhaps hedge it round and plant a few trees in it. I more readily suggest this, knowing that few gentlemen in Scotland have done as much for the improvement and beautifying of their estates, and I have no doubt if this were done he would earn the eternal gratitude of every well-disposed Hamiltonian. With regard to the high wall at the north end of the village, so far as I am able to judge, and so far as the older inhabitants remember, it was the garden wall connected with the old mansion house. Yours, Etc. KINGSTON.
Hamilton Advertiser. 21/5/1887:
Sir, Having seen a letter in last week’s Advertiser. Signed “Kingston,” regarding the above burying ground, would you kindly grant space for one or two additional facts which he, as well as others may not be aware of. The ground in question seems to have been taken off the lands of Fairhill, perhaps from the fact of the tumulus referred to being situated as that particular spot, and which has always been supposed to belong to the Roman period. The oldest information we can get concerning it is perhaps what it reveals itself when we find one James Strang, who was born on 1654, having been buried there in 1746.
Seventeen years later, however, in 1763 when the estate of Fairhill (which then formed part of the estate of Meikle Earnock) was sold by a later James Strang. The burying ground is carefully reserved, and there referred to curiously as the “new burying place,” which does not point to a very great antiquity. Eighteen years later still, viz., 1781, we find it portioned out between four members of a family of Strangs as their respective burying places; and the present tomb was not built for nearly 20 years later still viz., about the year 1800, and not by a Strang, as Kingston tells us, but by a Mather, and who was himself the first to be laid within its walls—one or two old residenters being still alive who remember having seen his funeral.
It was built and secured by him as a burying place for members of the family bearing that name only; and from that time it has been gradually filled up by them, as each in their turn paid the debt of Natures immutable law; and at the present time there still remains one or two spaces to be occupied should the present representatives ever choose the spot as a last resting place—their father being the last Mather buried there. If they have ever given up their rights, as “Kingston’s” letter suggests, it must have been very recently. As regards the present state of the burying ground.
I knew that the year before last it was put into a state of capital repair by the present representatives—strong boarding’s being put up inside the windows, the door made thoroughly secure along with many other needful repairs. But no sooner were these done, than a gang of young ruffians (you can call them nothing else) from the town and surrounding places visited the spot—Sunday being a favourite day for the display. The boarding’s are battered down from the windows—the door is wrenched open –head stones are thrown down and broken—and the very ashes of the dead disturbed and exposed to view; and not once only but repeatedly. And try to interfere without a policeman at your back! This is our nineteenth century civilization! “Kingston,” in his letter, speaks about North American Indians, but we have a generation of Vandals growing up around us that would put to blush any dusky Indians that ever handled the tomahawk.
If they have any religious notions at all, its symbols are the tobacco pipe and a sand jig, with a clog dance thrown in by the way of variety. The police authorities have been applied to at different times, but without result; and so the vandalism is repeated. Perhaps the above may account for the condition your correspondent fount it in. How to put a stop to such savagery is another question. I have not the least doubt but if our own beautiful cemetery was not carefully watched and tended it would ultimately share the same fate. Yours W.A.
It just go’s to show that vandalism is not a modern day thing, it was even happening back in the 19th Century.