Nisbets have been living in this part of southwest Scotland since the 14th century. Well documented families include Nisbet of Greenholm, remembered in family monuments in Galston Parish Church, Nisbet of Hardhill, and Nisbet of Sornhill. Nisbets played a prominent role among the Covenanters of the 1670s-80s. After the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, he attempted to impose state control over the Church. Many ministers were expelled from their churches, but continued to preach to their
congregations on the hillsides. Government repression continued,
peaking in the “killing times” of 1685. John Nisbet “The Martyr” of Hardhill (1627-85) fought on behalf of the Covenanters at battles such as the Pentland Rising (1666). In 1685 he was captured by his
distant relative, Robert Nisbet, and hung in Edinburgh. He is remembered by memorials in the kirkyard at Loudoun Church, Newmilns (left) and (formerly) at the entrance to the Martyrs Church in Glasgow. John Nisbet the younger, was executed in Kilmarnock in 1683; the spot is marked by a pavement memorial.
The churchyard contains a memorial to Nisbet (photo at top of page). In 2006 the clan chief unveiled a new memorial plaque inside the church: 'DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF MURDOCH NISBET HARDHILL FARM -NEWMILNS WHO IN 1520 TRANSLATED THE NEW
TESTAMENT INTO SCOTS, ENABLING THE WORD OF GOD TO BE HEARD FOR THE FIRST TIMEIN OUR NATIVE TONGUE'
Dick Institute, Kilmarnock
Local archive and museum rich in Nisbet resources.
Sornhill House, Ayrshire
Sornhill House is an attractive L shaped 17th. century laird’s (a laird being the owner of a large and long established estate) house with three floors and an attic. It is situated on high ground to the south of Newmilns – the ground overlooking Greenholm below. An outside tower window has an inscribed lintel with JN and MK (James Nisbet of Greenholm about 1620 - 1680 and his wife Marie Kennedy) with the date of 1660 on the lintel of the window above. James Nisbet of Greenholm and his wife are the first known Nisbet inhabitants of Sornhill. The first floor fireplace is inscribed with the date 1683 and RN & BN (Robert Nisbet of Greenholm, the son of James, about 1647 - 1736 and his wife Barbara Nisbet of Carfin). The kitchen is inscribed with AN 1799 (Archibald Nisbet of Sornhill, 1745 – 1823, previously resident in London and the great grandson of the afore mentioned James).
Handsome 1809 church, on the site of one much older, containing memorials to the Nisbets of Greenholme. Memorial to Andrew Knowe, friend of John Nisbet, in the churchyard.
Not far from Loudon Castle, the likely site of Murdoch Nisbet's farm.
Loudon Old Kirk
Built in the 12th century, and where the Nisbets of Hardhill would have worshipped. Located a short way NE of Galson. Worship moved to Newmilns in 1738. Very atmospheric place.
The site of three bloody skirmishes: William Wallace; Robert the Bruce in 1307, and the Battle of Drumclog in 1679. John Nisbet helped fight off John Graham's government forces.