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 is the crest of the Baron of Kilmarnock.

A map Plan of the Town of Kilmarnock in 1783 showing Kilmarnock House is here.

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).

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.

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.

An interesting large scale map of Ayrshire in 1839 can be seen here.

The Kilmarnock Arms Matriculation of 1929 may be seen (with large image link) here.

The field was changed from blue to purple, and the fess chequy 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' ".   NB. This gold/green chequy fess is blazoned on the Baron's Arms.


There are no roadside landmarks in Ayrshire to indicate the territory of the feudal Lordship & Barony of Kilmarnock. The Lordship was included in the Strathclyde region of Scotland from 1973 to 1996, and now in the unitary Council area of East Ayrshire (red lined above). Feudal territory boundaries may be established from accounts of Riding the Marches, very early maps and books, and perhaps some conveyancing documents.

McKay's History of Kilmarnock in 1858 records a Minute of Council of 1710 (below) about Riding the Marches, but we learn nothing at all of the route, nor of the activity.

Important reference books include:

1 - Sketches of old Kilmarnock by Thomas Smellie (Kilmarnock, 1898). This was a limited edition of 250 copies and is very scarce.
2 - CUNINGHAME, Topographised by Timothy Pont (Glasgow, 1876).


1 -   'The History of Kilmarnock' by Archibald McKay, 2nd Edition, revised and enlarged, 1858, has been digitised by Google, and can be read on-line or downloaded as a 8.7Mb .pdf document here.
2 -   '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.
3 -   'History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton' by James Paterson, Vol.III, Part I, 1866, has been digitised by Google, and it can be read on-line or downloaded here.
4 -   A 33-page book preview of  'Medieval Scotland' by Andrew D. M. Barrell, a one-volume history of medieval Scotland concentrating on the period between the middle of the eleventh century and the Reformation can be read on-line here.