Margaret, Maid of Norway, born 9 April 1283 – died 26 September 1290, was a Norwegian princess who reigned as Queen of Scots from 1286 for four years. Her death in Orkney, whilst she was travelling to Scotland from Norway, sparked off a dispute of succession which led to the Wars of Scottish Independence.
Scotland had no clear heir to the throne and the English King, Edward I - 'Longshanks' - 'Long legs', desired to take Scotland.
Bruce of Annandale, Grandfather of Robert the Bruce, participated in helping Edward to take 'Over-Lord-Ship' of Scotland.
In 1286 a Great Council of State was held at Scone. Margaret’s succession to the throne was approved. As Margaret was only three years old six Guardians of the Realm were appointed. Bruce of Annandale was not chosen. Bruce and his supporters were outraged by this and so, at Turnberry, (known currently, to Golfers, as one of Mr. Trump's courses) thirty five miles to the west of New Cumnock, they signed a bond declaring that Bruce of Annandale had the right to the throne of Scotland.
When Margaret died other claimants for the throne came forward. John Balliol was one. Civil War ensued. Bruce appealed to King Edward I to resolve the situation. Edward told them that they would have to accept him as their 'Over Lord', they did so. Edward demanded that all of Scotland’s major castles were to be put under the control of Bishop Anthony Beck of Durham. By this time there were thirteen candidates for the throne. Edward chose the candidate he felt would be the most easily manipulated John Bailliol.
John Bailliol was known as Toom Tabard—Empty Coat.
For four years Edward demeaned Bailliol until, at last, Bailliot objected to being summoned, with his army, for service in England’s foreign wars.
Edward's response was extraordinarily brutal. He and his army marched upon Scotland. They stopped at Berwick Upon Tweed, then the largest town in Scotland, seventeen thousand people lived there. The people of Berwick were slaughtered, men women and their children, their corpses left laying in the streets so ‘The Stink of their dead bodies would warn all rebellious Scots that they were now ruled by Edward Long Shanks'.
Bailliol was in Strathcathro when Edward caught up with him. Balliol was humiliated, soldiers tossed his crown around and Edward told him that the Scots had a new King, him.
Edward ordered all Scottish Lords, Chiefs and Land Holders to Berwick upon Tweed, to sign a great document acknowledging him has their King. The document became known as ‘The Ragman Roll.’ This is where we derive the word ‘Rigmarole’. Worthless –nonsense run around.
Some say this was the Scots darkest hour.
Balliol was banished to France.
One of the first mentions in history of the village of New Cumnock is of Patrick Dunbar of Comenagh one of those who signed the Ragman Roll.
The man who emerged to draw Scotland up and out of this defeat was William Wallace.
Of course it is difficult to know exactly what and, how things came about from a time when few had the skill to record events.
There was one person, known as ‘Blind Harry’, who made up a poem, the poem states that William Wallace was around and about ‘Dunbar’s Castle’ or Cumno, as New Cumnock was sometime known, at least four times. It is also said that Wallace was hunted in the Glen of Afton to the south of New Cumnock. It may be that William spent his youth in the area. It is possible that Wallace had a home at Blak Crag-Blackcraig in the upper reaches of the Afton Water.
Scotland was in disarray Wallace had a vision to unite all into one Scottish Nation. Wallace fought a battle a Sterling with Edwards Army and he won. At this point, Robert the Bruce entered the story, grandson of Bruce of Annandale.
Robert the Bruce fought along side Wallace. He probably Knighted Wallace and supported Wallace’s elevation to become Guardian of Scotland.
Edward came back to Scotland again with brutal force. He was not only cross about Wallace but also he had taken the 'Stone of Scone', upon which Scottish Kings were Crowned, to London, two years before, and had then realised that the stone he had was a fake.
The true Stone of Scone was, of course, taken to the Hebrides by Angus Og, Lord of the Isles, after the Coronation of Robert the Bruce for safe keeping, that is, probably where it is now.
Wallace was betrayed by Ralph de Halliburton. Wallace was taken to London and tried as a traitor.
It may have been at this point Robert the Bruce found himself hiding in and about The Glen of Afton. Or it may have been later when Bruce came from Arran in 1307.
Bruce had been Crowned King of the Scots, it is a long story, and during this time he watched a spider trying to climb it’s web, slipping back and trying again and again. Bruce decided never to give up.
It was then that Edward 'Longshanks' ‘Hammer of the Scots Died’. Before he died Edward ordered his son to have his body boiled until the flesh was from the bones and then to take his bones to Scotland. Edward told his son that the bones should not leave his side until the Scots were prostrate at England’s feet.
Edward the II did no such thing, he took the dead Edward I back to London and had him buried.
All in all Robert the Bruce went on to win the greatest victory in Scottish History at the Battle of Bannock Burn 24 June 1314.
In 1509 Cumnock became a Burgh of Barony.
In 1659, a new Church was built near and became known as the ‘New’ Kirk of Cumnock, these days it is called the Auld 'Old' Kirk of New Cumnock.
Robert Burns, some say the worlds greatest poet, was a frequent visitor to New Cumnoch.
James Keir Hardie, great socialist, who in 1888 became a founding member of the original Scottish Labour Party. Keir was a miner and spent much of his life in the area of Cumnock. He is buried in New Cumnock.
These days the lands around New Cumnock have been transfered back to countryside. A conversation with any of the hundreds of folk, around and about, will lead you straight back to a time when mining was the main stay of the economy. In those, not far of days, opencast and deep mines dominated the area. These days only one opencast mine is still functioning. The land has been returned to beauty and hares, deer, miriad birds and other wild life roam the hills.
In 1950, thirteen people were killed in a mining disaster at the Knockshinnoch Castle Colliery, a film was made about the disaster called 'The Brave Don't Cry' and there is a memorial at the site of the disaster.
Opencast coal mining was one of the main employers in the village, the closure of the opencast works was announced in May 2013.