A GENERATION gap was bridged as a community came together to honour its fallen heroes.

New Cumnock Parish Church also hosted the unveiling ceremony of a plaque which commemorates two remarkable people.

Also created at the church was a display of poppy crosses ­— one for each New Cumnock soldier killed in World War I.

A cross was also added for Lt Col John McCrae, soldier, doctor and poet who wrote the iconic poem, In Flanders Fields, and also has New Cumnock roots.

Euan Petrie, one of the church's younger members and part of the Sunday Cool and BB Company was joined by Ina McHattie for the unveiling.

Mrs McHattie, one of New Cumnock Parish's longest-standing members, lost two great-uncles during the conflict.

Wording on the plaque reads: "To the Glory of God and in the memory of LCpl John Maxwell, a missionary in New Cumnock Parish Church, who fought in France and Flanders, and died in 1917 of wounds received in action.

"To the Glory of God and in memory of Lt Col John McCrae, MD, a Canadian doctor and soldier during World War I who wrote the poem, In Flanders Fields.

"John McCrae was the grandson of Jean Campbell, native of the parish of New Cumnock and great, great grandson of Ivie Campbell, who is buried in New Cumnock Auld Kirkyard"

Church Minister, Rev Helen Cuthbert, said: "Contact was made with the Campbell family who are delighted that the plaque has been unveiled and also with the museum in the Canadian town of Guelph where John McCrae was born.

"The museum staff hope to contact Mr McCrae's surviving family members about the most recent plaque unveiled in John's memory."

John Maxwell's Story

In the early years of the 1900s, the Minister and Kirk Session of New Cumnock Parish Church decided they wanted to employ a Missionary to reach people with the Gospel in as many parts of the village as possible. They found John Maxwell from further north of the country who preached and held services in different parts of the village as well as in the Parish Church itself.

When war broke out, John enlisted as a Private in the 15th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and was eventually promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal.

In February 1917, as the Cumnock Chronicle said, he 'occupied the pulpit of the Parish Church on both morning and afternoon services with large congregations attending on each occasion, preaching his farewell service before going into battle'.

In the afternoon, it seems, he referred to his departure to the front line and spoke 'with great feeling' of his association with New Cumnock and particularly of the open air services on the banks of the Afton which he used to conduct. His goodbye took the form of the words of a hymn which we will read in a few moments.

John Maxwell was wounded at the third Battle Ypres, Passchendaele and died of his injuries on August 1, 1917.

John McCrae's Story

John was a dedicated doctor and surgeon, a gifted writer, artist and poet.

Born in the town of Guelph, about 60 miles west of Toronto in Canada, he led a very consistent, fruitful life, but his crowning glory was his poem, 'In Flanders fields....', the poem which led to the poppy being adopted as a symbol of Remembrance.

He was looking after the injured at the battle of Ypres Salient in 1915. A friend of his had died and John had conducted his funeral as no chaplain could be found.

The next day, as John looked out over his friend's grave, he saw the poppies bloom and so this most famous of poems also began to flower in his heart and mind and imagination.

His grandmother, Jean Campbell, who was born at Maneight Farm, married David McCrae from Kirkcudbright and they emigrated to Canada.

And the New Cumnock roots go further back to Ivie Campbell, farmer at Dalgig. The Campbell grave is in the New Cumnock Auld Kirkyard.

John McCrae, a strong and upright stem, his poem a flower of beauty, rich in meaning and New Cumnock roots.