Black Aggie’s Tomb

(Bonnyhill)

Black Aggie’s Tomb lies on the northern side of the small picturesque Rowantree Burn (at NS 8392 7862) 450m south-west of Bonnyhill Farm.

The walled compound has been fitted into an existing enclosure and so is not square, the north wall being 4.06m long internally, whilst its southern partner is 4.24m.  Likewise, the west wall is 5.82m and the east one 5.56m (externally it is 5.15 x 6.7m).  The latter contains the doorway which is 1.04m wide and has a 0.03m external rebate.  Iron pivots occur on the south side.  The walls are of random rubble with dressed sandstone margins and quoins and have been given a cement render scored with lines to imitate ashlar.  At the western corners it stands to an external height of 1.8-1.9m, though elsewhere it is much decayed.  The coping stones are 0.61m wide and 0.10m thick.

Illus: The inner Enclosure on the right with the outer Enclosure Wall just visible in the distance.

.

This walled enclosure sits eccentrically within an outer tree-planted enclosure bounded by a low dyke which contains traces of mortar.  The outer enclosure is 18.5m N/S by 14.7m W/E with a curved south-eastern corner.  The western side is formed from the current field boundary.  It has an access point, 1.3m wide, in its northern side, that being the direction of approach from Bonnyhill Farm.

On the south side of the main enclosure is a simple chamfered arched headstone (1.13m high) of local sandstone set on a moulded plinth (0.64m tall).  The inscription reads: “SACRED/ TO/ THE/ MEMORY OF/ THE REV JOHN REID/ MINISTER OF RP CHURCH/ LAURIESTON/ ANNABELLA STARK HIS WIFE/ JOHN AND JAMES ALEXANDER THEIR SONS/ MARGARET AND ELIZABETH HELEN. THEIR DAUGHTERS./ ALSO/ MARY STARK REID/ AND/ ANNEBELLA STARK REID/ THEIR DAUGHTERS.”

Rev. John Reid was the first minister of Laurieston Reformed Presbyterian Church where he settled in 1788.  On 1 June 1797 Reid married Annabella Helen Stark whose father, John Stark, owned Bonnyhill Farm, Bonnybridge (Love 1910).  The burial records of Falkirk Parish show that on 18 November 1819 their children, John and Margaret Reid, were buried at Bonnyhill, and were followed on the 25th of that month by James Alexander Reid. They probably died from some epidemic, and it would therefore have been considered wise to place them in a separate burial ground.  Rev. John Reid died on 4 December 1820 at Bridgend, Linlithgow, as a consequence of a fall from his horse.  He was in the 67th year of his age and the 33rd of his ministry.

There is a tradition that the Rev. John Reid and his wife had a coloured maid at their manse in Laurieston whose name was Aggie.  Annabella’s sister, Helen Stark, had followed Archibald Currie to America where they married on 14 December 1788 in the Third Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia.  They resided in Richmond and after her husband’s death Helen Currie returned to Scotland.  It is highly likely that it was she who brought her coloured slave back from America.  When Aggie died she was buried at Bonnyhill, and it was from her that the tomb came to bear the traditional name of “Black Aggie’s Grave.”  Helen Currie died in August 1852.  A Bonnybridge man, who worked for the Council, told Rev. Waugh that if anyone ran around the tomb three times ‘Black Aggie’ would appear! (Waugh 1981, 17).

Black Aggie’s Grave    SMR 532         NS 8392 7862

G.B. Bailey, 2021