The History of Leith

April 18, 2008

Haunted kirk gets a makeover

First Minister Alex Salmond today enlisted Tam O’Shanter to help persuade Scots around the world to hasten home in 2009.

The First Minister officially re-opened the Alloway Auld Kirk and Graveyard, which features in the famous Burns poem, following completion of extensive conservation and repair work.

As an important part of Scotland’s literary heritage the site is a key visitor attraction in South Ayrshire, and is also the resting place of William Burnes, Robert Burns’ father.

The opening comes ahead of Scotland’s Year of Homecoming 2009, which also marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Nation’s Bard – Robert Burns.

First Minister Alex Salmond said:

“The story of Tam O’Shanter is a reminder to every Scot of the wisdom of hurrying home. It is here at Alloway’s auld, haunted kirk that Tam came to appreciate that wisdom. That’s why I’m so pleased to see the kirk and graveyard restored in time for the Year of Homecoming, for all to enjoy.

“Robert Burns is an integral part of our cultural heritage, the nation’s Bard, and loved across the world. Here in South Ayrshire we come closest to connecting with that heritage, with the kirk and graveyard adding to a historical landscape that includes the Burns National Heritage Park and Burns Cottage Museum. Burns’ poetry has breathed eternal life into these attractions.

“The year of Homecoming 2009 will make sure that Burns’ history, and the cultural jewels on display in South Ayrshire, are as much about Scotland’s future as its past. It is an opportunity to showcase our distinctive assets and to forge direct links between Scotland and the world. The Alloway Auld Kirk and graveyard are just one example of Scotland’s pulling-power, acting as a literary touchstone among the tombstones.

“I’m proud to officially re-open this historic site and hope that Scots around the world will join in my excitement as one more cultural connection brings imagination to life. Mind you, I hope that for those thousands who return to Scotland in 2009 the journey will be less traumatic than was Tam O’Shanter’s!”

South Ayrshire Provost Winifred Sloan said:

“I am particularly pleased that the restoration and repairs have been completed. The work has been carried out in a very sympathetic manner with 68 headstones being stabilised or repaired and vegetation that was damaging or covering headstones removed. During excavation a considerable number of bones were uncovered which had obviously been disturbed over the centuries. These were catalogued by archaeologists and reintered at the end of the project.”

In 2007 £244,000 funding was secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund, South Ayrshire Council, Historic Scotland and Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire to allow the conservation and repair work to be carried out. Work began last July.

Various conservation and repair work was carried out including:

Removing vegetation from the wall heads of the Kirk and making sure they are safe
Stabilising movement cracks within the Auld Kirk and providing secure access to each of the chambers of the building
Refurbishing the entrance area to the graveyard to provide safer access
Stabilising a number of unsafe headstones
Cleaning and regilding of the headstone of William Burns, Robert Burns’ father
Stabilising the boundary wall to secure its long-term stability
Homecoming Scotland 2009 is an initiative to encourage members of the Scots diaspora, and those who simply love Scotland, to come home. An inspirational programme of events is being developed by EventScotland, around five themes: Burns, Whisky, Golf, the Enlightenment and Innovation and Ancestry.

The Scottish Government has also set up a website aimed at anyone interested in Burns, whether exploring his works or celebrating Burns Night on 25th January.

source-Scottish Parliament

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