The AULD KIRK OF AYR has a lot to thank Oliver Cromwell for. If it had not been for Ayr’s value as a strategic point in Cromwell’s subjugation of the Scots during the time of the Civil War, the Auld Kirk of Ayr would not have existed in the form we know it so well to day. It was that value that brought Cromwell’s army to Ayr to requisition the parish church of St. John the Baptist in the area we now know as the Fort. Taking in the church, graveyard and surrounding land of approximately 11 acres, it was taken possession of by the military authorities in 1652. You can still see part of the Citadel wall and walk around the area that it would have taken in. It is also interesting to note that some of Cromwell’s soldiers decided to stay and marry into local families.
That same year the Town Council agreed to accept 1000 merks to help towards the cost of erection of a new church. It was agreed that the site of the old Grey Friars “be bocht, and that toun be stented for als muche as to outred the samyn what is deficient of the money to be had from the English”. (“BE BOUGHT AND THAT THE TOWN VALUE AND TAX ALL TOGETHER THE LANDS AND PAY WHAT WAS DEFICIENT AFTER WHAT THE ENGLISH WERE HANDING OVER”) Four years later, the churchyard was leveled, and the “saittis and pewis” were distributed in the building since known as the Old Parish Church of Ayr – later the AULD KIRK OF AYR (ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST).
Today you can see the letter in the church that Colonel Alured, Commanding Officer of the Garrison of Ayr wrote announcing that the 1000 merks be given to the town for the building of a new church.
THE DEED OF GIFT
“I do hereby testify that Major General Deane did promise unto ye Burrough of Ayre the soume of one thousand markes sterlinge money towards ye buildinge of a church in that Towne, by reason that theire former church was employed for ye publique, and did give me order to pay 200 lib upon laying the foundacon one foote above ground, and 200 lib when it was halfe built, and the remaynder when it was finished. In testimony whereof I have here unto sett my hand this first day of August 1654.
I have perused the promise and doe know and agrea to accept of ye same to be true.
A little snippet about Cromwell himself. He was born at Huntingdon on 25th April 1599 and baptized four days later in the local church called St. John the Baptist.