Kirk Alloway still remains
very much as Burns knew it. The kirk, which dates to the 16th century,
has the date 1516 over a door lintel on the south side. It was built
probably on the site of a much older church.
Burns father, mother, and sister are buried here.
On the back of his mother
and father's gravestone Robert had the following poem written:
O ye whose cheek the tear of pity stains,
Draw near with pious reverence and attend,
Here lie the loving husband's dear remains,
The tender father and the generous friend:
The pitying heart that felt for human woe!
The dauntless heart that fear'd no human
The friend of man, to vice alone a foe,
"For e'en his failings lean'd to virtue's
In the 18th and 19th centuries there were insufficient corpses for the
teaching of anatomy in medical schools since, by law, only the corpses
of convicted criminals could be used. As a result grave-robbing was
rife with 'resurrectionists' being paid good money to dig up freshly
buried bodies and deliver them to the medical schools. Different
methods were employed to try and thwart the grave-robbers including
metal locked coffins and metal grills. Inside the Kirk are examples of
the grave security systems called 'mortsafes' or 'watch boxes'. They
were used in Scotland during the 18th century and were the most common
method for the well off. This was an iron grid or cage either placed
over the coffin or set in mortar above ground to cover the whole area
of the grave. Those who couldn't afford a mortsafe sometimes used
communal mortsafes or placed huge coffin-shaped pieces of stone or
metal on new graves (called jankers).