INFORMATION RELATING TO THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN ROBERT BURNS, THOMAS PAINE, FRANCE, AMERICA AND CUTTY SARK WHISKY.
In 1987 and living in Kelso, I received a letter from Mister Andrew Dundas who was the Marketing Manager of “Cutty Sark” Whisky, in Glasgow. Mister Dundas informed me that his firm were about to launch an important series of exhibitions about their product and they were looking for some connections between “Cutty Sark” whisky, Robert Burns, Thomas Pain, Britain, France, and America. I was involved at this time in organising a weekend visit for some hundreds of members of the Burns Federation, which involved finding them transport, rooms, and feeding, so I was not looking for an extra involvement at this time. Mr Dundas’s letter went on to say that he was talking to George Anderson, a Past President of The Burns Federation regarding “Cutty Sark” whisky sponsoring the Burns Federation’s visit to the Glasgow Garden Festival. I knew the story of Thomas Paine and some of the comparisons between him and Burns, and how both these men suffered for their principles in Britain and France and a little of their connections with America I decided to try to do what Mr. Dundas wished. The following pages were sent to Mr. Dundas, and his kind reply.
From Kelso June 5th 1987
Dear Mr. Dundas,
Further to your phone call I enclose a short resume’ of the points you raised. I hope that my remarks on Burns, Paine, France, America, and “Cutty Sark” will be suitable for your purpose, and if there are points which I have not remarked on, or perhaps have not touched on, please write and I will attempt to oblige. I mentioned that my colleague George Anderson had written to you regarding a possible participation by your company in the Glasgow Flower Festival which opens in May 1988 and runs till October of that year. We are both active in the organisation of a “Burnsian weekend” when our members from the U.K. and overseas will be in Glasgow on the 9th, 10th & 11th of September 1988, and the Lord Provost of Glasgow will receive them on Friday the 9th at a Civic Reception. On Saturday the 10th a ball will be held for our guests in Queen Margaret Hall, of Glasgow University. It would be this function that we would like you to sponsor, and we would be happy to meet you, or any of your staff to discuss this venture if your company agree to participate.
Archie Mc Arthur
Robert Burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire on the 25th of January 1759. His Father hailed from the Kincardenshire area of Scotland and his Mother was the daughter of a farmer in Maybole, Ayrshire. His poetry and song writings were to bring him fame as the Bard of Scotland and during his lifetime he received many honours, including six Scottish towns honouring him with the Freedom of their boroughs. Burns hated hypocrisy and some of his early and best known poems are an exposure of the hypocritical attitude of many of the leading personages in the Kirk of Scotland in his day. His forthrightedness in expressing his views in the native tongue of Scotland, and his satires about the hypocrisy of the Kirk Elders made him many enemies among these bigots in the Kirk. With the enormous power which these people held, Burns was the main target of their venom, and the persecution of Burns was the natural outcome. The Poem which relates to “Cutty Sark” is “Tam O’ Shanter” and in this poem of the superstitions of Scotland, Burns is at his best. We see “Tam” of the farm of “Shanter” having a night out with the boys in the Inn at Ayr, and taking leave of his friends sets off home on his mare Meg”. Coming to the “Auld Kirk of Alloway” Tam hears the sounds of mirth and dancing, and decides to investigate and behold he sees Warlocks and witches having a very merry time. Burns describes the scene through the eyes of “Tam” and being Burns he cannot let a chance to attack the Deil pass by, and so we learn that –
A Winnock-bunker in the east
There sat Auld Nick, in shape o’ beast
A towszie tyke, black, grim and large,
Tae gie them music was his charge:
He screw’d the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a’ did dirl”.
And what red-blooded Scotsman would ever fear a devil that played the bagpipes. Burns goes on to on to relate the various thoughts and antics of “Tam” and after describing the ugliness of some of the witches and their manner of dress, Burns causes “Tam” to relate the powers, and the beauty of one particular witch, who goes by the name of “Nannie”.
“But “Tam” Ken’d what was what fu’ brawlie
There was ae winsome wench and waulie
That night enlisted in the core,
(Lang after ken’d on Carrick shore;
For mony a beast to dead she shot
And perish’d mony a bonie boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
And kept the countryside in fear
Her Cutty Sark o’ Paisley Harn
That while a lassie she had worn
In longitude tho’ sorely scanty
It was her best, and she was vauntie,
“Ah little ken’d thy reverend Grannie,
That Sark she coft for her wee Nannie
Wi’ twa pund Scots, (twas a’ her riches)
Wa’ d ever grac’d a dance o’ witches
But here my muse her wing maun cour;
Sic flights are far beyond her pow’r;
To sing how nannie lap and flang ,
(A souple Jade she was and strang)
And how Tam stood, like ane bewitch’d,
And thought his very een enrich’d;
Even Satan glowr’d, and fidg’d fu’ fain,
And hotch’d and blew wi’ might and main:
Till first ae caper, syne anither,
Tam tint his reason a’ the gither,
And roars out, “Weel done, Cutty Sark”
And in an instant, aw was dark:
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied, sallied.
When oot the hellish legion sallied.
Burns Completes his tale by a bit of advice to any man who may be tempted to spend too long with the bottle, or think too much on “Cutty Sarks” (Short shirts)
“Now, Wha this tale o’ truth shall read,
Ilk man and Mother ‘s son tak heed,
Whene’er to drink you are inclined ,
Or Cutty Sarks run in you mind,
Think—you may buy the joys ower dear
Remember Tam O’ Shanters Mare
This poem is regarded by most people as the finest in the world of any writer, and was written in the course of one afternoon at the farm of Ellisland, for the Antiquarian writer, Grose, in whose book “The Antiquities of Scotland” it first appeared.
Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, Norfolk, on the 29th of January 1737. And Died on the 8th of June, 1809. He was an Excise man early in his career. He wrote articles criticising corruption in the Excise service and religion. He was outlawed and persecuted for his beliefs Supported and wrote in favour of America’s right to independence Supported and wrote in favour of the French Revolution.
His humanitarian feelings prompted him to oppose the executions of the opponents of the revolution. Benjiman Franklin was one of his patrons. He was Ignored for years after his death, and his books suppressed.
“The Times” in 1952 referred to him as the English “Voltaire”, and the
“Hall of Fame” of New York University unveiled a Bust in his Honour.
Robert Burns was born in Alloway, in Ayrshire on the 25th of January 1759, and died on the 21st of July, 1796. He was an Excise man late in his career. He wrote poems and songs criticising the established churches teachings. He was persecuted by the establishment for his beliefs. He supported and wrote in favour of America’s right to independence He supported and wrote in favour of the French Revolution. His humanitarian feelings prompted him to oppose the executions of the opponents of the revolution.
Lord Glencairn was his Patron.
His name was besmirched by his opponents long after his death. It took the established Church of Scotland a century before a Bust of him was Placed in Westminster Abbey, and to unveil a window in honour of their own Scottish Bard.
CUTTY SARK WHISKY
The British Clipper “CUTTY SARK” is now permanently docked in Greenwich, England, but it started it’s distinguished career from the same country from which came it’s name. The CUTTY SARK was launched at Dumbarton on the Clyde in 1869, and was in length 64.7 Metres and 11 Metres wide, and a net tonnage of 921 Tonnes. Her name comes from the poem “Tam O’ Shanter” by Robert Burns, and means “Short Shirt” in the Scots tongue. The name “CUTTY SARK “ is now used by the firm of Berry Brothers & Rudd” as a trade- mark for their Scotch Whisky, and their firm, like the “CUTTY SARK” has had an eventful career. The firm began it’s business in St. James’s Street in London, sometime in the 1700s, as a wine and Champagne shop, and the original name of this shop was “The Coffee Mill”. I can not give a specific date for the commencement of the firm but in the 1920s the firm went under the name of “Berry Brothers & Co. The two partners Francis and Walter, were in reality second cousins, and they ran the business with the Junior partner Hugh Rudd. Both Francis and Walter were Great Grandsons of the wine merchant George Berry, who, over a century previous had come from Exeter to enter the family business at St. James’s Street, bequeathed by his Mother’s Father. Francis and Walter Berry seem to have been excellent men at their trade, as will be seen by one or two episodes in their careers. It is recorded that in the 1920s the “Coffee Mill” was visited by no less a personage than “Legs Diamond” the American Bootlegger, hoodlum, and protection racket operator. He wanted to be supplied with Whisky for the American market, but because of “Prohibition” the Berry brothers had not sent Whisky to America after the passing of that act. Francis Berry was the traveller for the firm and he visited amongst other countries, America, Nassau, China and Singapore, where he was recognised as an honest dealer, and one whose product was neither contaminated, or less than pure. The reputation of the company was such that the “Coffee Mill” had the “Appointment to H.M. the King” sign displayed proudly over its door. Among their customers were to be found the Rockefellers of American and most of the American aristocracy , and of course the Court and Aristocracy of England. Berry Brothers had sold whisky as long as any other merchant , although that was not a very long time,, but their main line was wine and Champagne, and it was not until the 1920s that CUTTY SARK was first produced. It was about this time that Francis Berry was concerned about his whisky being diluted after he had exported it, and in making enquiries about who was the most honest of the dealers, honest that is that they would not tamper with the bottles, he was told to seek out one “Bill Mc Coy” at Lucerne. Mc Coy was a well known Rum-runner, and like Francis Berry, was very careful of his reputation for supplying pure merchandise. His reputation was such that when people spoke of something sold by him they coined the phrase “It’s the real Mc Coy” which meant that it was the perfect article. The Berry brothers have continued today, along with their partner Hugh Rudd, to produce the Whisky “CUTTY SARK” a name synonymous with perfection and in truth is “The Real Mc Coy”.