Auld Simon is the clock tower at the foot of Johnshill, Lochwinnoch.
It is all that remains of the Kirk dedicated to St John and sits within an historic graveyard where reside the graves and memorials of many prominent families of the area.
The Kirk of St John, and the previous chapels and religious buildings, are the genesis of the village. There is evidence of religious settlement on this site going back to the 11th century.
The existing building was added to the Kirk to repair a weathered gable end and most likely constructed to accommodate a ‘Laird’s Chamber’ and a gallery so that William McDowall, then owner of the Semple Estate, did not require to sit with the local residents. There is evidence of fireplaces which would have allowed him to retreat into warmth during any lengthy and cold winter services.
The bell in the tower which the clock mechanism strikes was dedicated to McDowall’s wife, Mary, who died of smallpox only a few months after arriving in Glasgow from their sugar plantations in the St Kitts and Nevis islands of the Caribbean – the profits from which paid for the purchase and development of the Semple Estate and the expansion of industry in growing Lochwinnoch. The McDowall family were strong proponents of the Slave Trade and in later years, William’s heirs fought against the abolition of slavery.
During a recent renovation of the clock, some school students of Lochwinnoch Primary School were chosen by raffle, and wrote their names on the back of the clock hands.
Take a closer look at the Auld Simon clock tower with the video below!