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Researchers shine light on Cullen's monumental past

By Staff Reporter

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A GRAVEYARD once closed off after being deemed "contrary to decency" is the subject of a new book.

The Moray Burial Ground Research Group (MBGRG) has transcribed the monumental inscriptions on all the graves found within the historic Cullen Auld Kirk.

The publication, which also covers Deskford Church and Deskford War Memorial, is now on sale.

Group members, who carried out the research between 2012-2018, were working in surroundings vastly different to those they would have found in the mid 1800s.

For in 1867, a sheriff granted an order for the resting site's closure after a plea from the Earl of Seafield.

An aerial view of Cullen Auld Kirk and its graveyard.
An aerial view of Cullen Auld Kirk and its graveyard.

The Elgin Courant of July 12, 1867 reported bones had been found near the surface.

It read: "It is also stated by witnesses that bones have been observed fully exposed with portions of flesh upon them; the ground, in short, seems to be so mixed up with bones that it is impossible to turn a few spadefuls of earth without disclosing human remains to such an extent as to literally what the petition calls "dangerous to health, offensive and contrary to decency.

"The Sheriff, in consequence, decides that the churchyard should be closed."

Improvements were made to the churchyard in the late 1800s and researchers have found a wealth of information from the stones, as well as monuments within the historical church.

The kirk itself dates back at least eight centuries and has connections to Robert the Bruce.

His wife, Elizabeth, died in Cullen after falling from her horse.

Although her body was taken to Dunfermline Abbey, her internal organs were buried at Cullen Auld.

In 1327-1329, the King set up an endowment – now worth around £2.10 – to provide a grant to the minister to pray for her soul.

Some 1,775 names are included in the volume, which contains newspaper reports about Cullen Church and Churchyard and extracts from William Crammond’s Annals of Cullen 1888 and 1904. It also contains photographs of the graveyard, some of the more elaborate tombstones and inscriptions.

While they were working at the Auld Kirk, MBRGH members also covered the public cemetery and a second book has been released on Cullen Public Cemetery, Cullen & Deskford Public Cemetery and Cullen War Memorial. It includes some 3050 names, and a brief history of the Parish of Cullen.

Both volumes are on sale at The Cullen Paper shop, Cullen Auld Kirk, the Buckie Fisheries Museum and from mbgrg.org.

MBGRG formed in 2003 with the task of recording the inscriptions in every burial ground in Moray as well as part of the old county of Banff.

There are some 140 sites in total, but the finish is in sight with just a few sites left to complete.

The group has appealed for a volunteer willing to take photographs of some of the remaining stones to help the group complete its monumental task.

Work gets underway at Cullen New Cemetery.
Work gets underway at Cullen New Cemetery.

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