17. John Gemmell

John Gemmell of North Boig

 The lands of Boig lie in the west of the parish and were formerly known as Boigcurroch (or some equivalent) and comprised of the two steadings Nether Boig (later North Boig) and Over Boig (later South Boig).

NB – North Boig, SB South – Boig

I. Robert Gemmell (b.? d. 13.6.1822) and Agnes Brown (b. 1753 d.1816)

In the 1803 Land Tax Rolls Robert Gemmell is recorded as the proprietor of the lands of North Boig. He married Agnes Brown and together they had a son John Gemmell.

A search of the Old Parish Records reveals that a Robert Gemmell and his spouse Agnes Brown in Nether Barbeth, Straiton had a son John baptised on 8th August 1785 , which is probably the family of interest. [A later Census Record reveals John’s sister Mary was born in Straiton].

Speculating further the same records also show that an Agnes Brown was baptised in New Cumnock on 20th Sept 1753, daughter of Thomas Brown of Polquhirter and his wife Margaret White and perhaps it is through marriage to daughter of a heritor in New Cumnock that Robert Gemmell became a heritor in the parish.

Robert Gemell of Nether Boig and his spouse Agnes Brown

Their son and heir John (see below) died in 1817 some five years before Robert Gemmel and it was his son that would inherit the lands of North Boig.  Robert Gemmell of Nether Boig passed away on 13th June 1822 and his testament identifies James Gemmell, Wellwood (presumably parish of Muirkirk), James Thomson in Glenimm (parish of Sanquhar and presumably a relative of Mary Thomson, his daughter-in-law) and James Campbell, Merchant in New Cumnock, as ‘Tutors and Curators‘ or guardians of his grandson John Gemmell, who would have been five years old at that time.

Robert and his wife lie together in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock.

II. John Gemmell (b. 1786 d. 1817)  and Mary Thomson (b. 1792 d.1870)

John Gemmell the son of Robert Gemmell of North Boig and Agnes Brown married Mary Thomson the daughter of Thomas Thomson in Glenimm , Sanquhar and Janet Lorimer. Together they had three daughters Jennet (b.1811), Margaret (b. 1813) and Mary (b.1815).

In the 1816 Cess Roll of Ayrshire John Gemmell Esquire is recorded as the proprietor of North Boig with John Baird identified as responsible for making the payments (probably as  a tenant, his name also appears in the testament of Robert Gemmell). It would appear that Robert Gemmell had passed the ownership of North Boig over to his son John at some point in the period between 1803-1816.

John Gemmell died on 29th April 1817, aged 31 years old , two months before his wife Agnes gave birth to their son John Gemmill on the 18th June 1817 at North Boig. Tragedy struck the widowed Agnes some years later when daughters Mary and Margaret died in 1834, within six months of one another.

John Gemmell Esq. of North Boig and his spouse Mary Thomson

By this time Mary’s other daughter, Jessie Thomson Gemmell had married John Dick, a stationer in Ayr, in 1831 at Boig. Mary and her son dissappear from view in the 1841 UK Census Records while James Hastings is the tenant farmer at Boig

Mary resurfaces in the 1851 Census Records and onwards living with her daughter Jessie and her family at Barns Street, Ayr (across from Wellington Square) and then later at Coreen House, with her now widowed daughter and it was here that Mary passed away in 1870, aged 81 years old. She was laid to rest alongside her husband and daughters in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock.

But what of her son John Gemmell?

III. John Gemmell (b.1817-d.1867) and Marie Laura Whittington (b.1828 – d.1900)

As already noted John was only five years old when he inherited the lands of North Boig from his grandfather Robert and would have been a month shy of his 16th birthday on the opening day of New Cumnock Parish Church in May 1833. It is pleasing to think that the young landed proprietor attended the church that day with his widowed mother and his three elder daughters.

North Boig in the distance

Life on the farm was not for him and he studied medicine, perhaps here in Scotland, before he started a new life in Australia. It was here in 1848 that the trail of John Gemmell resurfaces when he married Marie Laura Whittington at Parmatta in New South Wales. His new wife was born in Lambeth, Surrey the daughter of John Myles Whittington and Jane Nash.

Dr John Gemmell

It may be the case that John Gemmell’s mother Mary Gemmell travelled to Australia with her son before returning to Scotland to live with her daughter and son-in-law. John Gemmell also returned to Scotland for a spell to visit his mother and sister at Barns Street, Ayr. It was here in November 1855 that his wife gave birth to a daughter Laura Mary Gemmell. The birth certificate reveals that this was the couple’s third child, with two boys born previously, one of which had died.

Maria Laura Whittington Gemmell and daughter Laura Mary

The Gemmell family returned to Australia and on 18th November 1867, Dr John Gemmell passed away, aged 49 years old,  at Woorajay, Beechwood, Victoria and was buried at the family property of Fairlawn.

John Gemmell , Auld Kirkyard , New Cumnock

John Gemmell of North Boig is also remembered on his father and mother’s headstone on the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock. John widow’s Laura married again and passed away in February, 1900 aged 71 years old.

North Boig
  • Proprietor Robert Gemmell / Land Tax Rolls 1803:  North Boig
  • Proprietor John Gemmell (I) / Cess Rolls 1816:  North Boig


The headstones of the Gemmell family sit close to the corner of the Auld Kirkyard.

Robert Gemmell headstone with a broken fragment of another lying on top. The tall upright stone is that of Gavin Gemmell who died at Garpel , Muirkirk 1789. To the left is the headstone of John Kerr, farmer at High Park and his wife Elizabeth Gemmell.  It is not clear if Gavin and Elizabeth are members of the same family as Robert.
The table headstone of John Gemmell and Mary Thomson and in memory of their children including John Gemmell who died in Australia

James Ballantine, Distiller in Greenock

James Ballantine, distiller in Greenock acquired the lands of North Boig some time before or during 1855 and the property remained in that family’s hands for over 60 years. North Boig was later purchased by the Hastings family who had been tenant farmers there for many years.


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