THE valley of the
Stinchar, like the valley of the Yarrow, has an air of pastoral
melancholy about it. Here and there are clumps of trees, but the green
sod is the prevailing sight. Arable land is mostly confined to the
haughs bordering the river, while the wide expanse of hill and moor
stretch out on either side.
Upon the west side of the
valley, high above the river, about five miles from Ballantrae,
stretches, like a white ribbon on the green hill side, the village of
Colmonell. The village is named after the Saint to whom the church was
dedicated in Roman Catholic times. What the early Parish Churches were
like we do not know; but the present church, as may be seen by ihe
drawing, is handsome enough, and forms an outset to a village which is
not deficient in charms of its own There is a Free Church here as well,
and a very handsome Public Hall, while right across the valley stands,
on its limestone rock, the sturdy old keep of Craigfieil, and the ruined
walls of Kirkhill Castle keep guard at the entrance.
The new church has the
good taste to record the story of its predecessors. For we see on an old
stone, built into the east wall, these words engraved:—"Heir is ane hous
bult to serve God, 1591." This stone belonged probably to the first
Protestant Church, reared on the foundations of the old Roman Catholic
one. Below this stone is another with the date 1772 on it, which points
to the erection of a second church; and below that again is the date of
the erection of the present one—1849.
The churchyard around has
the usual "Ministers' corner," and tombs of the parish lairds, besides
the graves of the many undistinguished. But one or two claim a word of
notice. On one is inscribed the words—"In memory of John Lusk, farmer,
Pinmore Mains, who died Oct., 1828." This man's son, Andrew, who is
still living, was elected Lord Mayor of London a number of years ago.
Another stone tells of William M'Adam of Ballochmorrie, who died 1836.
"He was the son of John Loudon M'Adam (the celebrated road-maker) who
lies buried at Moffat." But the most noteworthy of all the tombstones is
an old-fashioned thruchsiane on the east side of the enclosure, and
recently rehewn at the expense of two of the parishioners, which records
the following;—"Heir Is buried Andro Snell, Smith, died March 10, 1663,
aged 72. By Mr Johne Snell, onely son to the forenamed, in testimonie of
his filial respect to the memory of his parents, was this gravestone
erected. Oct, 20, 1664."
This John Snell was the
celebrated donor of the Snell Exhibition Bursaries, which have enabled
so many of our Scottish youths to study at Balliol College, Oxford.
Although his father was only a country blacksmith, he had sent his son
to Glasgow University, whence he had made his way to England, and became
a famous lawyer in his day.