Kilmarnock - Town

KILMARNOCK is recorded as Kelmernoke in a document dated 1299, but the origin of the name remains uncertain. It is prefixed by the Gaelic Cill  'church, churchyard' and, as with Kilwinning, the remainder commemorates a saint. In Arran Gaelic Cill Mhearnáig  (Kilmarnock) commemorates Mo-Ernóc, a 6th century disciple of St.Colomba. The Gaelic prefix Mo 'my' is a personal dedication, and the suffix is the diminutive oc 'little'. Twenty-two saints were called Mo-Ernóc through diminutive translation eg. Ernán, Ernín, Erníne. The Aberdeen Martyrology gives Mernoc of Kilmernoch's day as the 25th October, which suggests that the saint commemorated is Ernáin of Midluachair (died c.625).

Apart from this popular theory of the saintly origin of the name Kilmarnock, in 'Proud Kilmarnock'  F.Beattie writes that an alternative possibility was mentioned in the Kilmarnock Standard Annual of 1965. Here, J.Irving argued that the component parts Kil-mar-nock are Kil (burial ground, rather than a church), mor (big or great), knock (a hill), so giving us 'the hill of the great grave' and the possibility that the name relates to local geography.

The inclusion of 'marnock' in a place name is not necessarily an association with the saint; Dalmarnock Road in Glasgow was written as Dalmurnech in 1174 - which is purely Celtic, from two words dael and muranach - meaning a meadow or moorland.

This saint's name is also given to the verdant island of Inchmarnock, the wintering ground of greylag geese one mile west of Bute Island, on which is found the excavated remains of St.Marnoc's chapel. NB. a greylag goose rising is the crest of the Baron of Kilmarnock.

The first charter erecting Kilmarnock into a burgh of barony was granted to Thomas, Lord Boyd in 1591 by charter of James VI. A second charter was granted by Charles II in 1792. The town of Kilmarnock, nominated by the Reform Act of 1832, became a Parliamentary Burgh in 1833.

For the election of Members to serve in Parliament, the proposed boundary of the Burgh of Kilmarnock was mapped for the Boundary Commission Report of 1832. The hand-coloured map (6" = 1mile) engraved by J.Gardner, London, may be viewed here. From the Report, the boundary is: 'From the point (1) on the South of the Town, at which Kilmarnock Water joins the River Irvine, in a straight line to a point (2) on the Irvine Road, which is distant 350 yards (measured along the Irvine Road) to the West of the point at which the same leaves Grange Street; thence in a straight line to the point (3) at which the Road to Hill Head leaves the Kilmaurs Road; thence in a straight line through the summit of the Bonfire Knowe to the Kilmarnock Water (4); thence in a straight line to the Bridge (5) over the Mill Burn on the Mauchline Road; thence down the Mill Burn to the point (6) at which the same joins the River Irvine; thence in a straight line to the Bell's Land Bridge (7), on the Road from Riccarton to Galston; thence in a straight line to the point (8) called Witch Knowe, at which two Roads meet; thence in a straight line to the Bridge (9) over the Maxholm Burn on the Ayr Road; thence down the Maxholm Burn to the point (10) at which the same joins the River Irvine; thence down the River Irvine to the point first described.'

Such was the Burgh of Kilmarnock in 1832.

Every Scottish feudal barony was created by a Royal Charter.  A barony is not an estate of land, but is a jurisdiction over land, and is therefore described in dispositions and legal documents as 'the lands and barony of '.  A feudal Lordship such as Kilmarnock is a larger territory than a barony (formed by a unification of several baronies) whereas an Earldom is larger. The Earldom of Arran is held by our friend and neighbour, the Much Honoured W.E. Sturzenegger of Arran.

History under the Register of the Great Seal of Scotland records the name as 'the Lordship and Barony' of Kilmarnock in Vols.II, III, IV, VIII, from 29 December 1491 to 29 March 1621. In The Scots Peerage Vol 5 we see that Alexander, second son of the first Lord Boyd (and de jure third Lord Boyd), was witness to a sasine granting the Lordship of Kilmarnock to Queen Margaret (Tudor) dated 19 April 1504.

The inventory of writs and Charter documents associated with the Lordship & Barony of Kilmarnock is voluminous and it includes a Crown Charter copy (in Latin) in favour of Robert Boyd dated 6 September 1545 (shown on photograph page).

The following page (THE BOYDS) gives the earliest history of the Lordship & Barony of Kilmarnock, and the subsequent page (DEAN CASTLE) gives an account of when James, Lord Boyd, sold the lands, Lordship & Barony of Kilmarnock to William Cunningham, the 13th Earl of Glencairn in 1748.  Following the later period of ownership by the Lords de Walden, in 2002 all and whole the lands, Lordship & Barony of Kilmarnock was disponed to David Ayre, a retired engineer living in the Orkney Islands of Scotland.


Kilmarnock Town ArmsShown left is the non-matriculated arms formerly used by the town of Kilmarnock, being the arms of the Boyd family, the Earls of Kilmarnock. The image is a 1918 embroidered silk cigarette card by Godfrey Phillips (UK).
Azure, a fess chequy gules and argent. Crest: Upon a wreath of the colours, a dexter hand erect and apaumée, couped at the wrist, the third and fourth fingers folded down proper. Supporters: on either side a squirrel sejant proper.

When the Burgh of Kilmarnock became a Parliamentary Burgh under the 1832 Reform Act, the Burgh arms were based on the arms of Boyd, Earl of Kilmarnock, as used on the Burgh seal. (Lyon Register, XXVIII, 51. 18 September, 1929).

Burgh of Kilmarnock Arms, restored by BoK, 2006The Burgh arms shown lower left were matriculated on the 18th September, 1929.

The Extract of Matriculation states that the Burgh of Kilmarnock was erected into a Burgh of Barony on 12th January, 1591, by virtue of a Charter and infeftment by James VI, King of Scotland, in favour of Thomas, Lord Boyd . . . . . that the said Charter and infeftment was ratified in the Scottish Parliament on 5th June, 1592; that in 1672 a second Charter conferring further rights and privileges on the town was granted by Charles II in favour of William, the first Earl of Kilmarnock; that in 1832 the Burgh of Kilmarnock was created a Parliamentary Burgh by virtue of the Reform Act of that year etc. etc.

Blazon: Purpure, a fess chequy Or and Vert. Above the shield is placed a coronet suitable to a Burgh and thereon a helmet befitting their degree, with a Mantling purpure doubled Or, and on a Wreath of their Liveries is set for Crest etc.

There were changes in colour; the field changed from blue to purple, and the fess chequy was been changed from red/silver to gold/green. An early motto used by the Boyds was "Goldberry", to commemorate the victory by Robert Boyd over the Norsemen at Goldberry Hill (near Largs) in 1263. R.M.Urquhart asserts "It is fairly certain, however, that the gold and green colours in the fess, which were a local suggestion, are intended as a direct allusion to the name 'Goldberry' ".


Ayrshire Arms of 1931The Ayrshire arms of 1890 (top left of page) are based on the arms of Bruce, Lord of Annandale. The paschal lamb is from the arms of Ayr, and the two lyres signify the musical and artistic heritage of the county of Ayrshire. They were replaced by a new grant of arms in 1931, shown right. This quartered shield shows a castle from the arms of Ayr, the red chevron of the district of Carrick, the shakefork of the district of Cunninghame, and the blue/silver chequy on gold of Kyle.

Ayrshire was the largest shire in southern Scotland before the reorganisation into the Strathclyde region in 1975. In the early years it was divided by two rivers, the Irvine in the north and the Doon in the south, and formed the three provinces - Cunninghame, Kyle, and Carrick. Click here for a pop-up map of old Ayrshire which shows these divisions clearly. The Lordship & Barony of Kilmarnock is in Cunninghame (Cuningham). An 1895 map by Alexander Fullarton (Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland) showing all of the parishes of Ayrshire may be seen here.

East Ayrshire Council ArmsThe present East Ayrshire Council was formed in 1995, consisting of the Kilmarnock, Loudoun, Cumnock and Doon Valley District Councils, and Strathclyde Regional Council. The elements of the Council's Ensigns Armorial (1996) shown left are:
The top section of the shield contains a black diamond representing coal, a pine tree (fructed) representing forestry, and an engineering cog representing industry. The middle section, from the Arms of the Boyds of Kilmarnock, is bordered at the top and bottom with wavy blue lines that signify East Ayrshire's two river valleys - the Irvine Valley and the Doon Valley. The bottom section is from the Arms of the Campbells of Loudoun.
The red squirrel supporter is from the original Kilmarnock Coat of Arms, and the lion rampant (in original colouring) supporter is from the Cumnock Coat of Arms.


Kilmarnock has in the region of 44,000 residents and is the largest town in East Ayrshire. Politically it has been a Labour stronghold for over 60 years, but the constituency is now considered a 'marginal' seat due to the increasing popularity of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) . The Labour administration is presently at an all-time low.



1 -   A scarce book   'The History of Kilmarnock' by Archibald McKay, 2nd Edition, revised and enlarged, 1858, has been digitised by Google, and it can be read on-line or downloaded as a 8.7Mb .pdf document here.

2 -   A scarce book   'History of the County of Ayr' by James Paterson, Vol.II, 1852, has been digitised by Google, and it can be read on-line or downloaded as a (huge) 53.0Mb .pdf document here.



Kilmarnock Football Club - 1869
Kilmarnock Football Club, founded in 1869, is the oldest professional football club in Scotland. The image (left) is from a postcard dated 1971, shown in the original colours.

According to the nationwide electoral roll information published in the Daily Mail in July 1999, Kilmarnock was the most popular location of persons with the surname WILSON (173,961), 
and Wilson was the 7th most common name in the UK.



Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland. Part of the West of Scotland