Friday, 7 September 2012

Kinkell Kirkyard

Grey Granite found Kinkell Kirkyard quite by accident, noticing the Historic Scotland sign on the way to Inverurie from Keith Hall where Rufus was at the dog groomer's being spruced up.
The ruined kirk is situated in a tranquil setting close to the west bank of  the Don, adjacent to a farm which seems to specialise in growing turf. Jervise (1875) records that 'a ferry boat has long plied upon the Don, opposite the old kirk'. Today the location is dominated by the huge paper mill on the far bank of the Don,  the graves of several generations of the Tait family,  who founded the paper mills and ran them  for 137 years, are in the kirkyard.

At first sight the kirkyard,  in which  very few  gravestones remain, and the rather long and narrow rectangular kirk ruins seem unpromising. First impressions, however, are deceptive.The church was rebuilt from an older church around 1520 and was dedicated to St Michael the Archangel. It remained in use until 1771 when the parish was restructured and the church was partly demolished to enable the stone to be used to build a new church at Keithall. The church had a 'great window' in the east end, only the carved stonework of  the north side of this remain.  A collection of carved masonry stones is laid out at the west end of the chancel.
Within the ruins is this extraordinary recycled gravestone, considered by Douglas  Simpson  to be the only authentic, contemporary memorial of the Battle of Harlow. Originally the slab commemorated at Knight, Gilbert de Greenlaw, who was slain at Harlow on 24 July 1411 and whose image, wearing highly detailed armour, is  incised  in the yellowish sandstone. The knight is cut off at the knees. This truncation probably occurred in 1592 when the stone was re-used by  John Forbes of Ardmurdo whose memorial inscription in Latin runs round the margins of the reverse side of the stone.

The carving on the reverse side of the Greenlaw stone includes the three boars heads and a hawk of the Forbes  of Ardmurdo crest. The inscription round the edge reads 'Here lies, bright with honor, and adorned with saintly piety of character, John Forbes of Ardmurdo, fourth successor of his name (?) who died 8th July 1592, in the 66th year of his age.' Beneath the arms is a text in Greek  (Philippians 1 verse 21)

A replica of a bronze panel depicting the crucifixion, the original dating from 1525  having been lost. This is on the wall of the church close to the Greenlaw stone, the initials AG occurring in several places on the panel are those of Canon Alexander Galloway, rector of the church in the 1500s. His initials also occur on some of the fragments of carved building stones on display at the west end of the ruin. Jervise suggests that the frequency with which this eminent clergy man's initials occur indicate that the church may have been intended as a memorial to him. At the time of his death in 1552 Galloway was a professor at Kings College in Aberdeen in addition to being rector of Kinkell. He is said to have written an account of the natural history of the Hebrides in which he described Claik Geese and the trees on which they grow.

The sacrament house at the east end of the interior of the kirk is protected from the elements by a modern perspex canopy, it too has Canon Galloway's initials in several places and is flanked by what Jervise describes as 'two graceful scrolls' . Grey Granite thinks that these, being unmatched give an unbalanced cobbled together  appearance to the cross.

A slab in the east gable of the church commemorating Dame Mary Gordon, wife of George Skene, minister who died 1st August 1712 aged 32.

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