Nith Bridge

Nith Bridge , New Cumnock Village


‘CONTRACTORS WANTED: To BUILD a BRIDGE of THREE ARCHES over the Water of Nith, near New Cumnock on the road from Ayr by Cumnock and New Cumnock to Dumfriesshire. Mr Campbell, Road Surveyor [1] will attend at the Nith Bridge on MONDAY, the 27th current, at 11 o’clock and show the Plans, Sections, and Specifications for the works. Sealed estimates to be lodged by Mr McMurtie Clerk to the Road Trustees, Ayr on or before THURSDAY, 30th current. The Road Trustees do not bind themselves to accept the lowest, or any of the Offers. Security will be required for the due performance of the works. Ayr, 17th April, 1863.’

Nith Bridge towards the Castle with footbridge on right


On Thursday the foundation stone of a new bridge over the river Nith was laid with masonic honours. The day was observed as a holiday, being quite a gala day in the parish; and the weather was exceedingly favourable.


About one o’clock the procession started from the “Castle” in the following order –


The procession having arrived at the place where the foundation stone was to be laid the ceremony began with the playing of the “Queen’s Anthem” and the “Mason’s Anthem” after which the Rev. Robert Murray [2], Provincial Grand Chaplain offered up the following prayer :–


 “Lord God Almighty, there is no God like Thee in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before Thee, with all their heart. Maker and Ruler of all worlds, deign from thy celestial temple from realms of light and glory, to bless us in all the purposes of our present assembly. We humbly invoke Thee to give us at this time and all times, wisdom in all our doings, strength of mind in all our difficulties, and the beauty of all our harmony in all our communications. Almighty Architect of the universe, who has disposed all things according to the excellency of Thy will, who has made the heavens for Thy majesty, the sun and stars for Thy glory and our comfort, and the earth as a place for the exercise of our obedience to Thy laws, look down upon us Master Masons, now endeavouring to build a bridge, according to the rules of charity in the bond of love. May this bridge, of which are about to lay the foundation stone may be of great service to the community, and may all who pass over it remember that the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him. May this community possess in rich abundance that righteousness which exalteth a nation, – may this be a happy and holy people whose God is the Lord. May the work done here prosper, – may the workmen be comforted, – may no strife, brawling or unseemly words be heard amongst them, – may the master love the brethren, and the brethren honour and obey the master – for it is good and pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity; it is as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. May our lives be spent in Thy fear and favour, – may our baskets be filled with plenteousness, and the voice of joy and thanksgiving abound, – may there be no mourning nor sorrow of heart and may the wayfaring man find comfort in his journey to his home when he passes over this bridge. O, Lord prosper Thou our work, prosper Thou our handiwork and teach us at all times, and in all places, to build up in the beauty of holiness that temple of our souls which Thou has given us to adorn with all good works, till we pass over the river of death, and arrive at that glorious mansion in the skies, where all things are perfect, and there is no more labour, but all is peace, and happiness, and rest for ever and ever. Lord, hear in thy dwelling place, these our supplications and forgive all our iniquity, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.”

Nith Bridge with Afton Hotel on left and original Free Church and Manse on Castlehill


The Treasurer then deposited in the cavity of the stone a bottle which contained newspapers of the day, and current coins of the day. The P.G. Secretary then deposited above the jar a brass plate, on which was the following inscription

New Cumnock – The foundation stone of the bridge was laid by brother Hugh Conn, P.D.G. Master for Ayrshire , 6th day of August, 1863, and year of light 5863”.

 After the stone had been lowered the usual forms were gone through, at the conclusion of which cheers were given and “Rule Britannia” played by the bands.

Nith Bridge with Arthur Memorial UF Church on Castlehill


The Depute Grand-Master then addressed the assemblage. He said in the absence of Sir James Ferguson, the P.G. Master for Ayrshire, it has devolved upon me to preside, in my masonic capacity, upon this auspicious occasion. I have no doubt that many here regret his absence, but I for one do not. (Laughter). Twenty-eight years ago the Mother Lodge visited this place to consecrate the Lodge St. John’s, New Cumnock; and I assure you we have much pleasure in coming back again to lay the foundation stone of the noble bridge which is to span the classic Nith. Well I might call it classic, for on the banks often wandered the greatest poet, this or any other country produced. It was at Ellisland, on the Nith that Bums composed his “Tam O’Shanter,” and verses to “Mary in Heaven” and many other of his finest verses. Burns by his writings has raised Scotland to rank amongst the nations which never held before; and Scotchmen, wherever the English language was spoken, are hailed as “brave and free”. (Cheers). In proof of this I may mention that Lord Gough himself told me, that the Scotch infantry were the best soldiers in the world, for they need only to be properly commanded, and they would go through fire and water. (Cheers.) He concluded by thanking the multitude for their orderly conduct; the masters, wardens, and brethren for their numerous attendance at this solemn ceremony; and said, so convinced was he of the goodness of the principal of masonry, that he wished to God only he had it in his power to extend it to the whole human race. (Cheers).

Nith Bridge towards Railway Station with footbridge on the left

Sir James Menteath [3] replied. He was happy as a mason to meet his brethren on such an occasion, though not dressed in the insignia of the order, to which he was proud to belong. He concurred on his Brother’s eulogy of Burns who had immortalized this district, and whose writings had done so much to elevate Scotland and Scotsmen. They had been most fortunate as regards the weather; and he was glad so many ladies and gentleman had assembled to witness the ceremony, which had been so admirably conducted by his friend, the acting Grand Master. He hoped the bridge now founded would be of great benefit to the district, and in consonance with the spirit of the prayer of the chaplain, that those who crossed it in after days would remember that without the smile of Providence they had not the elements of happiness – unless the “Lord bless the work, the labour of the workman was in vain”. (Cheers.) New Cumnock was highly honoured in seeing so many of the masonic fraternity, to whom the community were deeply indebted for the display they had witnessed. (Cheers.)


Mr Charles Menteath [4] next made a few well-chosen remarks, suitable to the occasion, after which the procession formed into inverted order, and marched through the town, followed by a long concourse of people dressed in holiday attire. About eighty of the brethren sat down to a substantial dinner in “the Castle”, presided over by Brother William Craig, Esq. of Craigvilla [5] , the R.W. Master of the Lodge, New Cumnock.

Nith Bridge (east elevation)

THE AYRSHIRE EXPRESS, November 14, 1863

Ayr Road Trust: The report on the Nith Bridge was read. Provost Campbell made a thorough survey of the work, and found it most substantially executed. The committee had authorised payment of the contract prices. Authority had also been given to Mr Campbell, surveyor [1], to valuate several pieces of which obstructed the approaches to the bridge, with a view to their purchase. The committee reported that the total outlay was £1475, or less by £125 than the sum of £1600 which by the minutes they were authorized to expend.’

Footbridge over River Nith


The New Cumnock names appearing in the newspaper articles are as follows

[1] Mr Campbell, Road Surveyor : James Campbell of Dalhanna who lived in Ayr with hsi family and was the road surveyor for Ayr Roads Trust. He is buried in the family plot in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock. ( more here )

[2 ] Reverend Robert Murray: Parish minister of New Cumnock (1843-1893).He is buried in the Auld Kirkyard.

[3] Sir James Menteath: Sir James Stuart-Menteath , 2nd Baronet of Closeburn and Mansfield

[4] Charles Menteath: Charles Granville Stuart Menteath, brother of Sir James

[5] William Craig:  One of the extensive Craig family in New Cumnock that owned Polquheys farm and then later Craigdarroch & Monthraw. William lived at Craigvilla just off the Mansfield road with his wife Jane Sloan from nearby Gatehead farm. The family plot is the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock.


  • The Ayrshire Express