Moffat’s Old Cemetery

The town of Moffat in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, hosts an old cemetery at the south end of the High Street with gravestones almost solely created from local red sandstone extracted from the River Annan basin.


It includes the remains of the gable end of a Pre-Reformation church
gable pre reformation church

John Graham, of Claverhouse, was sent to Scotland with orders to enforce conformity to the Established Church. In 1685, Claverhouse stood in the churchyard and ordered the people of Moffat to take the Test Oath (swearing loyalty to the English king.) Anyone refusing was labelled a “Covenanter” and was likely to be persecuted, tortured and banished. It was through his relentless repression of the Covenanters that Claverhouse earned the name “Bluidy Clavers.”

In 1747 the original graveyard was covered over with four feet of soil to accommodate future burials. It contains several famed occupants including:

  • Francis Moffat the Clan Chief of the Moffats was buried in 1992
  • The graves of two postmen who perished in the snow near the Beeftub (a deep, dramatic hollow in the hills north of the Scottish town of Moffat) when they were attempting to deliver mail in treacherous conditions.
  • John Loudon Mcadam inventor of tarmacadam (a smooth road surface)

In Memory / Of / John Loudon Mcadam / Born At Ayr 21st September 1756 / Died At Moffat 26th November 1836 / In The 81st Year Of His Age./ Son Of / James Mcadam Of Waterhead / Who Lies Buried At Straiton / And Of Anne Charlotte Delancey / Second Wife Of The Above John Loudon Mcadam / Born At Bath 17th September 1786 Died At / Hoddesdon Hertfordshire 29th May 1852 / 1836

The headstone above is engraved with flowers, a rose represents love and purity and the brevity of life on earth. Life, like a blooming flower, is never meant to be permanent.

In Memory Of / Mr. / Samuel Billing / Who Died Suddenly / By Falling From A / Bridge Into The / River On The 21st Of / Decr. 1785 / In The 80 / Year Of His Age. / Ye Living Men / Come View The Ground / Where You / Will Someday Lie
The effigy with wings represents the soul in flight. The crown represents the glory of life after death.

Near This Spot / Is / Interred The Remains / Of / John Pagan / Late Cattle Salesman / Liverpool / And Tenant Of Breconside / In This Parish: / Who Died At Inverness / 16th July 1851 / Aged 60 Years / This Monument / Is Erected / By His Numerous Friends / In Testimony / Of Their High Respect / For His Public / And Private Character.
The rose represents love and purity and the brevity of life on earth. Life, like a blooming flower, is never meant to be permanent.

In Memory Of / James Proudfoot / Who Died At Ashmount / 22nd Feb 1858 Aged 88 Years / His Wife Janet Fyfe / Who Died At Ashmount, 27th April 1908 / Aged illegible Years / Their Daughter / Mary Maxwell / Who Died 21st May illegible Aged 13 Years

Sacred / To The Memory Of/ William Johnstone, Who Died / At Achtrictan Glenco, / 4th Novr / 1790, Aged 62 Years. / Also Thomas Johnstone His Son / Who Died 21st May 1793 Aged 16 Years / Also Helen Little, Spouse To The / Above William Johnstone, Who Died / The 3rd April 1813. Aged 70 Years / Also Margaret Johnstone Their / Daughter, Who Died 7th Sepr 1842. / Aged 62 Years/ And Jane Also Their Daughter/ Who Died The 24th June 1856, Aged 76
The grave is terminated with an urn, one of the most common of monuments representing the body as a vessel of the soul and its return to dust while the spirit of the departed eternally rests with God.

Also / Sacred To The Memory Of / Paul Robert Forrester / The Beloved Husband Of / Margaret Johnstone, Who Died 30th March 1854 / Aged 32 Years / And His Beloved Wife / Margaret Johnstone / Who Died 6th Nov 1904 / Aged 84 Years / Also Their Beloved Son / Robert Paul Alexander / Who Died 22nd July 1897 / Aged 45 Years / Also / Margaret Elizabeth / Forrester / Daughter Of The Above, Who Went / Home To Her Blessed Saviour / 11th December 1932 / Aged 83 Years

In / Memory Of / William Brown / Builder In Moffat / Who Died At Glasgow 15th June 1865 / Aged 63 Years / And His Sons / James, Who Died 5th April 1831 / Aged 13 Months / And / Adam, Who Died 16th Feby 1874 / Aged illegible Years / Also / Jane Kennedy, His Spouse Who / Died At Moffat July 27 1874 Aged / 74 Years, And John, Their Son / Who Died May 13, 1875 Aged 39 Years / Their Daughters / Isabella, Who Died Oct 2 1875 / Aged 17 And Agnes, Oct 6 1875 / Aged 4? Years / Are Interred In The Burying / Ground illegible Their Uncle / Alex Kennedy

7 thoughts on “Moffat’s Old Cemetery”

  1. I’d never heard of a cemetery being built up to accommodate new graves. Was this commonplace? Do you know anything about what kind of records were kept of the lower graves?

    1. My guess is that there will be few to no records of lower graves. There was little respect shown for the bodies of the dead unless you were of notable reputation. Bodies were buried directly into the ground, and as they decayed the vacant space was reused, creating a stack of bodies. Although medieval graves in Scotland were dug haphazardly with no organized formation leaving little space between graves, they were all positioned east to west so that on the Day of Resurrection the dead would rise to face Christ. A rise in the population created a need for larger cemeteries, and graveyards were sometimes cleared (creating a clean slate).

      1. Wow! A genealogist’s nightmare. I wonder what started our current inclination to preserve the remains. Not that that works!

  2. Hello do you know if there are burial transcription of both the old and new cemetry online?…interest in the name Adam Turnbull

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