On Monday the 8th of May 1787, Robert Burns and Robert Ainslie left Duns and rode over to Coldstream, a town previously known as LENNEL. Coldstream is joined to England by a five-arched bridge, and on the Scottish side of this bridge there is a marriage house, which was used by eloping couples to evade the age difference between Scottish and English laws.
The Bard takes note of this bridge in his journal, where he says,
“ Glorious river Tweed clear and majestic fine bridge dine at Coldstream with Mr. Ainslie and Mr. Foreman beat Mr. Foreman in a dispute about VOLTAIRE tea at Lennel house with Mr. Brydone Mr. Brydone a man of quite ordinary natural abilities, ingenious but not deep, cheerful, but not witty, a most excellent heart, kind, joyous and benevolent, but a good deal of the French indiscriminate complaisance from his situation past and present, an admirer of everything that bears a splendid title, or possesses a large estate".
Mrs Brydone, a most elegant woman in her person and manners, the tones of her voice remarkably sweet. My reception from Mr. And Mrs. Brydone extremely flattering. Sleep at Coldstream”.
This ends the Poets notes concerning Coldstream, and some of the people he met there, but there are some anecdotes which may be of interest to the children of Coldstream, such as who were these people that he met, and what did they do?
The architect of the five-arched bridge was a man named SMEATON, and Robert Ainslie tells the story of how when he and Robert Burns crossed the Smeaton bridge and set foot in England for the first time, the Bard doffed his blue bonnet, and kneeling on the turf by the roadside, prayed, and invoked a blessing on Scotland, using the last two stanzas of his
“Cotter’s Saturday Night”.
“ O Scotia! My dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent!
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace and sweet content!
And, Oh, may Heaven their simple lives prevent
From luxury’s contagion, week and vile;
Then, howe’er crowns and coronets be rent,
A virtuous populace may rise the while,
And stand a wall of fire around our much- lov’d isle
O Thou! who pour’d the patriotic tide
That stream’d thro’ Wallace’s undaunted heart;
Who dar’d to, nobly, stem tyrannic pride,
Or nobly die, the second glorious part,
( The patriot’s God, peculiarly thou art,
His friend, inspirer, guardian, and reward! )
O never, never, Scotia’s realm desert,
But still the patriot, and the patriot-bard,
In bright succession raise, her ornament and guard! “
This story was sent to James Hogg, the “Ettrick Shepherd” in a letter dated 20th of April 1834, some 47 years after this event was supposed to have taken place, and because of the great lapse of time taken by Robert Ainslie to relate the story, and the fact that Burns makes no note or comment about it, I believe that the story is a nice one, but is only a figment of Robert Ainslie’s imagination.
Mr Foreman was a farmer in the locality of Coldstream and the dispute that Burns says he won was about the great French philosopher FRANCOIS_MARIE AROUET DE VOLTAIRE.
Mr. Patrick Brydone of Lennel house was born at Dumbarton in 1741, and was educated at Glasgow. He was the son of Robert Brydone, parish minister of Coldingham, and at one time he held the office of comptroller of the Stamp Office. He travelled to many parts of the world, and in 1773 he published two volumes entitled “A tour of Sicily and Malta” which were republished in many new editions, and were translated into French and German.
Mrs Brydone was the daughter of Dr. Robertson, the noted historian.
As Robert Ainslie, The father of Robert Ainslie (the Bard’s companion on part of his tour), was born at Darnchester, near Coldstream, it can be assumed with near certainty that he would be acquaint with Mr.and Mrs Brydone of Lennel house, as would his son Robert, and as Burns notes in his journal that he dined in the middle of the day with Mr. Foreman, the local farmer, and later had tea at Lennel house with Mr. And Mrs. Brydone, I believe that the Brydone’s would invite the two Roberts to stay over that night.
The present Lennel house was built after 1787.
Many years after the Bard’s visit to Coldstream, Sir Walter Scott visited Patrick Brydone, and in Scott’s “Marmion” he is spoken of as
“Well worth the whole bernandine brood
That e’er wore sandal, frock or hood”.