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Reminiscences of the Royal Burgh of Haddington
Bara Church and Churchyard


THE old parish of Bara (it is found spelled three different ways, viz., Bara, Baro, and Barraw) was united to Garvald, the adjoining parish, in 1702. It seems to have been the custom long ago to join parishes together, like Bara and Garvald. In East Lothian, besides the above, Gullane was joined with Dirleton, Tynningham with Whitekirk, Keith with Humbie, and Soutra with Fala; In each case remains of the old churches and churchyards exist to this day, all interesting relics of former ages.

In terms of the decreet of annexation, service was performed in Bara Church every alternate Sabbath, until 1744, when the kirk fell into complete disrepair. Mr Archibald Blair, of Garvald, was the last minister who preached in it. He was uncle of the last President Blair of the Court of Session.

In 1840 part of the walls of the church was still standing, plain, coarse rubble-work. Some years after, they were taken down by the late proprietor, Robert Hay, Esq., to build a wall round the churchyard, which was at one time much larger, but is now a small circular spot. The kirk stood in the comer of a field, on the farm of Linplum, which is called the Kirk Field to this day. Being pretty high, it commands a magnificent view of the lower part of East Lothian, North Berwick Law, the Bass, May Island, and the Fife hills. The glebe still exists on the north side of the road leading to Garvald. The manse stood where Bara smithy is now.

Mr Hay, when he enclosed the remaining part of the churchyard, planted it with trees and shrubs, which have grown tall and thick. It is a pretty quiet and sequestered place. Owls, starlings, wood pigeons, blackbirds, thrushes, &c., in large numbers find among the thick foliage a secure and quiet refuge and resting-place—a fit emblem of the peaceful grave.

There have been no interments in the churchyard for a very long period. The few old tombstones which remain are almost all flat, in the old-fashioned style of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They are above the average, and much superior in old carving and embellishments to the ordinary run of sepulchral memorials in country churchyards, and must have been wrought by master hands. They are all of the fine Garvald red freestone. Mr John M'Donald of Edinburgh, a native of Haddington, presented in the Haddingtonshire Courier all the legible inscriptions on the tombstones, and it may be interesting to preserve them here. They are as follows:—

1st. “Here lyth Patrick Dickson, who departed this life, January 7 day, 1659. And Jean Bartrem,his spous, who departed this life, March 21 day, 1689.” The stone bears a monogram of their four initials, the motto, “Memento mori,” skull and cross-bones, sand-glass, and an angel’s head and wings.

2d. “Here lyes Margrit Harla, wife to Iohn Wat in Dunkinlaw, who departed this lyfe the 28 of Maye 1667, aged 76.” This stone .carries the ordinary skull and cross-bones, and a finely executed shield, bearing in pale, a tree, with two crescents in chief, and a bar dexter with two trefoils.

3d. “Here lyes William Cockburn, who died the 17 of March 1693, aged 69. Here also lyes Patrick Cockburn, farmer in Carthre,.....(illegible), and aged 74. And his .... (illegible), aged 75. Here also lyes James Baillie, farmer in Carthre, he died the 13 day of January 1740, aged 70, and also of his children, Euphan, died in her age 18, and the other thre ar Alexander, John, and Thomas Baillie.,,

4th. “Here lyes Henry Hardie, farmer in Morham, who died April 27, 1708, his age 32.” This elegant tombstone has a border elaborately illustrated with the initials of the deceased, an angel’s head and wings, two cross-bones, two pens, two spades, and two arrows, all crossed on each other, a sand-glass, a skull, and the motto, “ Mors est ultima rerum.”

5th. “Here lyeth intered the body of Grizel Loudon, daughter to Alexander Loudon and Agnes Sinclair, fermer in Linplum, aged 9 years, died Nou. 2t, 1711; also Robt. there son, aged 15 years, dyed Octr. the 12th, 1713 years.” Accompanied by angel’s head, and motto, with a few flowers.

6th. “Here lyes lames Witherspoon, farmer in Waldin, who died the 17 of June 1714, aged 62.”

Carthre is the old name for Carfrae, and Dunkinlaw for Duncanlaw.

The parish of Bara included the farms of Bara, Linplum, Carfrae, Snawdon, Little Newton, Quarryford, and the Park, Newlands, Castlemains, Danskin, Brookside, part of Waldean, East and West Hopes. It joined with the parish of Lauder across the Lammermuir Hills.

A good story is told of Robert Neillans, cooper in Garvald, when he was selling his bickers and tubs in Lauder fair, telling his customers that he had come from the next parish, a distance of over thirty miles across the hills. Bara barracks, a large pile of buildings on the farm of Bara, were built by Government about the year 1750, to accommodate the cavalry regiments. It was the custom long ago to put cavalry horses out to graze during the summer months.

Lord Charles Hay of Linplum, who fought at the battle of Fontenoy, was a distinguished cavalry officer during the reign of George II., and was member for the county of East Lothian in 1741, and died in 1760. He is said to have planted the fine rows of trees which still grow on Linplum and Bara, in the form of the lines of that battle.


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