Logan of Knockshinnoch and Laight
Thomas Logan (1647-1720) acquired several lands in Ayrshire including those of Knockshinnoch in New Cumnock through marriage in 1708 to Jean Thompson , the widow of Willam Campbell of Wellwood, Muirkirk. Together they had six children, including their eldest son James Logan (born 1708) and Agnes Logan (born 1713) – she would later marry Hugh Campbell of Whitehill, and their son Thomas Campbell of Pencloe would make a big impression on Robert Burns.
James Logan (1708-1790) inherited Knockshinnoch in 1720 on his father’s death. It is unclear when he moved into the property of Knockshinnoch, other than some time before 1743. James married Margaret Begg of Dornel, Auchinleck and together they had several children including their eldest son John Logan.
John Logan (1746-1816) was born 2 months after his Jacobite father mourned the defeat at Culloden. Like his grandfather before him, John married into the McAdam family of Waterhead, Dalmellington. (Thomas Logan’s first wife was Margaret McAdam, daughter of Quentin McAdam of Craigengillan – a branch of the Waterhead family). John’s marriage to Martha McAdam was not without controversy for it was conducted by an Episcopalian minister outwith the authority of the Established Church.
Martha McAdam was the daughter of Captain Gilbert McAdam or Gilbert of Merkland as he was also known. The Captain could trace his lineage back to Andrew McAdam and his spouse Janet Campbell in ‘the land of Overgrief in Cumnock in 1512‘, that is Over Garrieve (now the lands of Mansfield) in the parish of New Cumnock. Gilbert too would hold property in the parish including Laight, Carcow and Ashmark, a cluster of farms on the west bank of the Afton Water, in the lower reaches of Glen Afton. However, he fell on hard times and John Logan acquired all these properties in 1781 and moved his wife and his young family from Knockshinnoch to the newly built house at Laight.
Following his father’s death in 1790, John Logan became Logan of Knockshinnoch, but he and his family remained at Laight, eventually relinquishing Knockshinnoch and closing the short but eventful chapter of the ‘Logans of Knockshinnoch’.
John Logan and his wife Martha McAdam and their two sons moved from their house at nearby Knockshinnoch to Laight in 1782, where seven other children would be born over the next fifteen years. It was during the early years at Laight that Logan would first make his acquaintance with Robert Burns, although where and when this happened ‘remains a mystery’. (CJ Rollie).
Logan played his part in gathering subscriptions for the ‘Kilmarnock Edition’ of Scotch Poems, and Burns thanks him from ‘promoting my subscription’ in a letter to Logan dated 10th August 1786. Two years later in 1788, Burns would visit Laight to meet with the Logans. New Cumnock had become a convenient stopping-off point for Burns as he travelled back and forth between Mauchline and Ellisland, where he was working to set up a the family home. There is no record of Burns staying overnight during his visits to Laight, preferring local Inn-life perhaps to imposing on the Logans and their crowded-house.
One local tradition suggests that following a visit to Laight he headed straight to his room in the local Inn and composed ‘Sweet Afton’. He may never have stayed at Laight but he did leave his mark on one of the windows where he inscribed the initials ‘J.L’ and the name ‘S.Logan’ in honour of John Logan and his young daughter Susan perhaps.
A year later and Burns and his family were settled in their new home at Ellisland. No more need for regular trips back to Mauchline and therefore less opportunity to pass through New Cumnock. However, the Bard continued to correspond with his friend Logan and in a letter to him dated 7th August 1789 alerted Logan of his intentions ‘ I am going to intrude on your time with a long Ballad. – I have, as you will shortly see, finished ‘The KIRK’S ALARM‘.
In his letter, Burns also expressed his wish to keep this work from the public domain. Little wonder since it was a fearsome satirical attack on the Calvinistic attitude that prevailed at that time and lampooned a number of Ayrshire’s clergy, including the Reverend James Young of New Cumnock. There was no love lost between Burns and the Kirk and even less so between Logan and Young , the minister having refused to baptise his sister’s child. ( See Auld Kirkyard). Burns’s rewarded John Logan’s trust and friendship with one of the two presentation stanzas that now accompany ‘The Kirk’s Alarm’ which thankfully has long since ‘get into the Publick’ and acclaims Logan as ‘Afton’s Laird’.
‘Afton’s Laird ! Afton’s Laird when your pen can be spared,
A copy of this I bequeath,
On the same sicker score as I mention’d before,
To that trusty auld worthy, Clackeith,
Afton’s Laird! To that trust auld worthy, Clackleith.’