The Reverend William Smith was a God-fearing man. And he made it his business to install the fear of God in his congregation. He was a young man for a minister, but what he lacked in years he made up for in hellfire, his thundering sermons terrifying all and sundry.
He had not been long to his ministry in Largs when the plague struck, decimating the little parish. The kirk yard quickly filled up with corpses, and the disease was rife with no signs of slowing, so those still free from sickness fled to the glen behind the town. The Reverend, keen to make sure his parishoners didn't stray too far from the path - and none to keen to take the plague himself - went with them into the hills.
This little community quickly set themselves up not too far from Middleton Farm and attempted to go about their lives. But the disease found them even in the fresh air and greenery of the Brisbane Glen, and one by one the community succumbed to the plague. The Reverend Smith, tended to their needs and led them all in prayer as their numbers dwindled. Then, early in 1647, the minister himself took the sickness. The few folk that were left helped him on his way down to Middleton Farm, and there he died.
William Smith was buried in the Kelso Glen, and hollies planted around his tomb. It was said, that on his death bed, the Minister had foretold that so long as the hollies never touched, the plague would not return. And so, those who had been with him in his final hours, tended dutifully to the trees, as did their children, and their children's children. So it goes to this day. The hollies never embraced, and the plague was kept from ever returning to Largs.
"Buried in this tomb I lie, at the same time a youth and an old man - youn in years and old in piety. By the divine spirit I have seen divine truths, and have dispersed darkness from the mind, thundering with loud voice. There cleaved to my feelings a very horror of wickedness, and to my words reproach of wicked deeds."
Translated from the very bad latin latin inscribed on the tomb of William Smith.
"The Presbiterie laying to heart the lamentable and calamitous condition of the paroch of Larges partly by the reason of the hand of God that is lying heavy upon them, and partly by the reason of the removal of their minister by death think it expedient that Mr Wm. Lyndsay be sent to visit them and to take notice of their desires, and to enquire ane overture of themselves how they may be gotten helpit and supplied, and the said Mr William to make report of his dilligence."
Presbytery minutes 28th September 1647
Driving from Greenock, The Prophets Grave can be found on the right hand side of the Old Largs Road, just before you arrive in Largs. Well worth a wee stroll on a summer night...