HILLTOP CAIRN COMMEMORATES DOOMED YOUTH
by DEREK PARKER
HIGH above Calder Glen, on the summit of Auchenbourach Hill, is a cairn of stones surrounded by metal railings.
The mystic monument, more than 1000 feet above sea level, is adorned with a weather-beaten plaque commemorating William Arthur Cochran-Patrick, who was born on June 12, 1860, and died on January 29, 1881. He was aged just 20.
The Latin inscription translates the epitaph: 'You were loved by all.'
I unravelled the mystery with the help of Neil, Hunter of Hunterston, while working as a countryside ranger at Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park.
The Laird, who lived in Andorra in the Pyrenees at the time, told me the Cochran-Patricks owned the rolling moorlands in the vicinity of Auchenbourach Hill.
The family lived at Ladyland House – an impressive residence just off the back road between Lochwinnoch and Kilbirnie. It was built in 1815 as a wedding present for a future laird who married a local woman named Caldwell.
The ancestors of the Cochran-Patricks lived originally at Edge whose ruins still stand on the hillside overlooking the road to Muirshiel Country Park, just beyond Clovenstone Cottage.
One of the most famous owners of Ladyland House was RW Cochran-Patrick, who became Under Secretary of State for Scotland during the late 19th century.
It was RW'S son, William Arthur Cochran-Patrick, who is commemorated by the mysterious monument and inscribed plaque at Auchenbourach Hill.
According to Neil, Hunter of Hunterston, the tragic youth died from tetanus poisoning while a student at Cambridge University.
If he hadn't been taken from his family in such appalling circumstances, William Arthur would have inherited the vast Ladyland estate and much of the countryside at Woodside between Lochwinnoch and Kilbirnie. The monument was financed by the youth's friends and estate workers at Ladyland.
In the years that followed, the fortunes of the Cochran-Patricks fluctuated. William Arthur's youngest sister, Eleanora Cochran-Patrick, married Neil James Kennedy and the couple became Sir William and Lady Eleanora Cochran-Patrick. It was not unusual in these days for husbands to take their wives' surnames to preserve ancient family titles and dynasties.
But dark destiny was never far away. The couple had four children – Eleanora (Nora), twin sisters Margaret and Kathleen, and a son who perished in a flying accident in South Africa.
The younger Eleanora Cochran-Patrick inherited Hunterston estate, near West Kilbride, from Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston. She bequeathed it to her nephew, Neil Cochran-Patrick. This was the laird who provided me with the information in this article. Both changed their names to Hunter of Hunterston.
Following the construction of the nuclear power station and iron ore terminals at Hunterston, the family moved to Andorra.
But still tragedy was never far away. A young woman member of the Cochran-Patrick family was killed by a terrorist bomb, which exploded in the centre of London more than 20 years ago. A convert to Islam, she was given a Muslim funeral and mourned by friends across the world. It seemed the fame and fortune of the Cochran-Patricks was eternally destined to walk through life's pilgrimage hand in hand with grief and sorrow.
But still their memory remains in the form of the melancholic monument on the summit of Auchenbourach Hill. It will ensure the family name will live on forever in the countryside that they loved and owned.
Derek Parker was a countryside ranger at Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park from 1985 to 1999.