BURNS AND GLASGOW
Helen Ann Park was a great niece of Mrs Hyslop, the landlady of the Globe Tavern in Dumfries, better known as the Burns Howff. She is the heroine of the song “Yestreen I had a pint o’ wine” and according to some writers she was a beautiful young woman. On the 31st of March 1791 she bore a daughter to Robert Burns and the baby was named Elizabeth Burns. Jean Armour, the bard’s wife, brought up this child as if she were her own daughter, and even after Elizabeth grew up and married, Jean took an interest in her life. This deep affection was mutual, and Elizabeth referred to Jean as “A woman whose memory I will ever cherish with fond remembrances for her many good qualities”. In 1808 Elizabeth, (who was better known as Betty) married a soldier John Thomson, ( 1784-1869) and while he was away on service with the Stirlingshire Militia, she stayed at Pollockshaws, Glasgow, with his parents. Betty Burns Thomson proved to be a woman of initiative, and she supplemented her army allowance by doing needle-flowering work for a Glasgow ware-house. At this time her circumstances were improved by the gift of £200 being one half of a sum of money raised by Alderman Shaw of London, who was a native of Kilmarnock, for the two natural daughters of Robert Burns. After John Thomson returned from the war he settled down in Pollockshaws at his trade as a weaver , and died there in 1869. His widow, who was very popular with her neighbours, went to live with one of her sons in the tenement property at 1047 Pollockshaws Road, Crossmyloof, and this venue some time later became the site of the Co-operative Super market between Shawlands Cross and Minard Road. Betty burns died here at 3-00 A.M. on June the 13th 1873, the death being registered in the registrars office for the Parish of Cathcart. She is buried in the “Kirk Lane Churchyard”, Pollockshaws. A low rectangular stone inscribed as follows marks her grave:-
GILBERT BURNS JOHN THOMSON SON
1885 AND R. B. THOMSON
NEPHEW OF BETTY BURNS DIED AT SHAWLANDS
ROBERT BURNS DAUGHTER OF 1887 AGED 60
Betty Burns bore a striking resemblance to her father, and this likeness was carried on to her son, Robert Burns Thomson, and it was not only the looks of the poet that was passed on, but also some of his love of poetry and song, because we find that Robert Burns Thomson wrote poetry of a very high standard, and at the Centenary celebrations of the bard’s birth held in Glasgow in 1859, both of Betty Burns’s boys sang the songs of their illustrious Grand-father.
Saunders Tait was a writer of verse who lived in Tarbolton while Burns lived at Lochlea farm. He possessed a ribald and scurrilous tongue, and wrote some tirades against Robert Burns.
In reply Burns wrote his “Answer to a poetical Epistle” and this poem was first published in Glasgow in 1801.
Robert Burns must have been familiar with the City of Glasgow for some time before his first visit in 1787. The first extant letter to mention the City was written to his cousin James Burness, telling of his anxiety about his father’s health. There were three letters written from Glasgow, one to Captain Richard brown, whom he met in Irvine, one to William Creech, his Edinburgh publisher, and one to Mrs Mclehose, (Clarinda), a Glasgow lady residing at that time in Edinburgh. Burns mentions the City in about twenty other letters.
At the end of the war of independence, William Corbet retired from the army with the rank of Colonel, and entered the excise service. He served the service with distinction in many parts of Scotland, and promotion was rapid owing to his competence. At the time when Robert Burns was seeking to better his position in the excise in Dumfries, Mrs Dunlop of Dunlop wrote to him enquiring if a Mr. William Corbet in the Excise could be of any use in advancing his career, and if this was so she would renew her acquaintance with Mrs Corbet on Burns’s behalf. It seems that Burns did receive some assistance from Mr. Corbet, as is evident from the two letters from Burns to Corbet, thanking him for his kindnesses, and offering a copy of his newly printed Edinburgh edition to Mrs Corbet as a gift. The year after the Bard’s death he was translated to Glasgow as Collector, and during his stay in the City he joined a convivial club known as “The Board of Green Cloth”, and took part in the social life of Glasgow until his death at Meadowside in 1811. Three of his sons attended Glasgow University.
When Prince Charles Edward Stewart occupied Glasgow in 1746, he found that few Glaswegians supported his cause. One of the few who did was John Walkinshaw of Camlachie House, which was situated at Numbers 809-811 Gallowgate. The Prince visited this house and it is possible that it was here that he first met the third daughter of the house, Clementina. When the Prince was defeated on Drumossie Moor and went into exile, Clementina followed him and lived with him as his mistress in Switzerland and Flanders. Charles at this time was married to Princess Louise of Stolberg, but there was no issue from this union. Clementina bore a child to the Prince and this child’s name was Charlotte Stewart. Charles sought to have his daughter legitimised, and this was done by a deed of the parliament of Paris in 1787, when she was styled “The Duchess of Albany”. When news of this ennoblement reached Robert Burns, he was inspired to write this song.
“THE BONNIE LASS OF ALBANY”
"My heart is wae, and unco wae, To think upon the raging sea,
That roars between her garden green, and the bonnie lass of Albany
This lovely maid’s of Royal blood, That ruled Albion’s kingdoms three
But oh alas for her bonnie face, They hae wrang’d the lass of Albany
In the rolling tide of spreading Clyde, There sits an Isle of high degree
And a town of fame, whose Princely name, should grace the lass of Albany
But there’s a youth, a witless youth, that fills the place that she should be;
We’ll send him o’er to his native shore, and bring our ain sweet Albany.
Alas the day, and woe the day, A false usurper won thegree,
Who now commands the towers and lands,The Royal right of Albany.
We’ll daily pray, we’ll nightly pray, on bended knees most ferventlie,
The time may come, with pipe and drum, we’ll welcome hame fair Albany."
THE GILBERT MAY STAMP COLLECTION
On the 22nd of January 1998 I was privileged to attend a function in the Burns room of the Mitchell library in Glasgow, and to meet with a young lady Karen Cunningham, a departmental librarian in the Arts department of that famous theatre of learning. On looking round the room I noticed that some of the show cases were displaying part of “The Gilbert May Collection” and when I spoke to Karen about the display she informed me that at various times the Collection was exhibited in the Burns room. I was extremely pleased to hear this as I had played a small part in the Collection being in the Mitchell library, as the following tale will show. Stamp collecting is a world wide hobby, and one that holds an attraction for most boys and girls. In common with other boys of my generation I gave up stamp collecting when I was about 14 years old, and never gave stamp collecting another thought until I met Gilbert May. It was during the annual wreath laying ceremony of the Glasgow & District Burns Association which takes place on the Saturday nearest to the 25th of January at the Burns statue in George Square, that Gilbert May approached George Anderson and me and introduced himself. He told us that he was a Philatelist who had a special interest in stamps concerning the poet Robert Burns. We were much impressed with our new found friend and invited him to join us for refreshments in the Trades House in Glassford street, and it was there that we were to find out how modest Gilbert had been when he introduced himself. It was in 1927 that Gilbert, then a lad of thirteen first took up stamp collecting. His first album was a school note book and he recalled that like most youthful collectors of that time, he would save his precious pocket money to buy packets of stamps from the collectors corner, a shop run by the late William Ferris at the corner of Renfrew street and West Nile street, not far from Killermont street bus station. Until 1959 his interests in philately were fairly general, but as the bi-centenary of the Bard’s birth approached he began to specialise. His Burns collection started with a label which had been produced by the Scottish Secretariat, largely as a protest over the fact that the British Post office had turned down a request for a commemorative issue. Soon afterwards Gilbert met another collector of Burns stamps and this spurred him on to greater ambitions. In 1962 he attended the Jubilee exhibition of the Caledonian Philatelic Society in Glasgow, and saw a display of Burns stamps by the late Captain Philippe Durand. Despite his French name Durand was a fine old Scottish gentleman, a sprightly veteran of the first world war, and latterly the Curator of the world famous Peoples Palace Museum in Glasgow Green, and a man who deserved the title of “Father of Thematic Philately”. This is that branch of stamp collecting devoted to stamps arranged according to their themes or subjects, rather than the usual country classification. Captain Durand was an indefatigable exponent of Thematics, still exhibiting and lecturing on the subject well into his nineties. In addition to a splendid array of envelopes bearing ordinary stamps post marked on Burns birthday, Captain Durand exhibited a galaxy of labels, vignettes and other mementos, and showed considerable ingenuity in using stamps from all over the world to illustrate quotations from the writings of the Bard. This was both a revelation and inspiration to Gilbert, who thereupon decided to devote his collecting interests whole-heartedly to Robert Burns, his life and works as illustrated in stamp and post-mark form. Gilbert took this a stage further by designing and producing his own distinctive covers and envelopes to suit every occasion in the Burnsian calendar. He went to tremendous lengths to arrange the appropriate 25th of January post mark on covers illustrating “The Twa Dogs”, “Tam o’ Shanter”, The Vision”, “Lincluden”, “Scottish Nationalism”, and other aspects of the works of Burns. Nothing was too way out for Gilbert, George and I were astonished to see envelopes from Russia, Greece, Sweden, Germany, China, Japan, Columbia, Australia, The United States, and even one from Norway post-marked “HELL”. The formation of this remarkable collection has been one man’s constant endeavour over a period of twenty years, and it now runs to many albums, all written up in a beautiful manner. Gilbert May not only converted many Burnsians to Philately, but also doubtless converted many Philatelists to Burns.
He played a leading part in organising the first Philatelic Burns supper in 1979, and helped the Glasgow & District Burns association in producing a souvenir cover and post-mark for the 1978 Burns Conference. A youthful 68 Gilbert expressed the hope that he would continue to build up his unique collection for many years to come. He was adamant however; that he would not want his collection, so lovingly and painstakingly assembled, ever broken up. To this end George Anderson and I were appointed Trustees, a position we were both proud to accept, with the strict and binding promise that the collection would always remain intact. We are indebted to men like Gilbert May, who are willing what amounts to a life time of work, so that students of the works of the Bard can enjoy the fruits of his labours. The Mitchell library will welcome anyone interested in viewing the Gilbert May Collection, or any other of their vast collection of Burns memorabilia. With Gilbert’s agreement we decided that the collection would be the property of “The Glasgow & District Burns Association” and would be housed in the Mitchell library, so that students of the Bard could view the collection in a proper atmosphere. An interesting footnote to this story is that those Scottish Secretariat labels of the late 1950s, were printed by a young apprentice named George Anderson.
A native of Mauchline, David Brice moved to Glasgow and set himself up as a Shoe-maker.
He was a very close friend of Burns, and knew the family of Jean Armour intimately.
Burns wrote two important letters to Brice, which gave us invaluable information about the Bard’s state of mind during a very emotional time of his life.
THE JEAN ARMOUR BURNS HOUSES
It is with a great deal of pride that I reprint some of the history of “THE JEAN ARMOUR BURNS HOUSES” in the Ayrshire town of Mauchline, not simply because I am a past President of the Glasgow & District Burns Association, but more importantly because I believe that the names of those Glasgow Burnsians, who by their generosity with money and time, made the preservation of some of the houses connected to our Scottish Bard possible. The story begins when Burns returned from Edinburgh in 1788 to find that Jean Armour had been expelled from her father’s house because of her association with him. In a letter to one of his friends he writes, “Jean I found banished like a martyr, and I have taken a room. This room was on the upper floor of a house in the “Back Causeway” in Mauchline, which was then being let out room by room by the owner, a tailor in the town, and it was in this room that the twin children of Jean Armour and Robert Burns were born. Many changes have taken place over the years since 1788, but the room where Robert and Jean began married life is still much as it was in their day. No record of the furnishings of the Burns room exists, except for a mention by Burns of a mahogany bed, which he gave to Jean. In November 1788 Burns set up house in Ellisland, and the tenancy of the house in Mauchline ended. The survival of the Burns house was not due to any public or official effort. There were various owners over the years, and some of those owners allowed pilgrims to view the room where the Bard had lived, but no authoritative body took charge until 1915. In that year the Glasgow & District Burns Association were informed that the owner of the Burns house was willing to sell the property, and the association were able to purchase and repair the house through the generosity of Mr Charles Rennie Cowie, J.P. an east India merchant living in the City, and an ardent Burnsian, ably assisted by Mr Ninian Macwhannell, F.R.I.B.A. another of Glasgows notable Burnsians. After repairs and decorations were completed the house was opened to the public in August 1915, with the Burns room intact upstairs, while a small museum and accommodation for three old people took up the remaining space. The house that adjoins the Burns house was formally known as “The Doctors Shop” and was associated with Dr. John McKenzie, medical advisor, patron and friend of Robert Burns. It is known from the title deeds that Dr. John McKenzie had an interest in the ownership of this house from 1788—1830, but whether he ever lived there, or had a consulting room in the house has so far not been positively established. This house was also acquired by the Glasgow and District Burns Association in 1916, and in 1919 was converted to provide accommodation for deserving old folk. Opposite Dr. McKenzie’s house on the other side of the Back-Causeway, (Now re-named Castle street) is the building sometimes known as “The Sma’ Inn”, and immortalised by Burns in his “Holy Fair” where he speaks of the Inn as “Auld Nanse Tinnucks”. This building was gifted to “Glasgow & District Burns Association” in 1924 by Mrs Charles Cowie, on behalf of her husband who had died in 1922, and once more the rooms were used to provide extra dwellings for old people in need. The three properties were known as “The Jean Armour Burns Houses” and contained a small museum and nine rooms for old folk to live in, rent and rate free, and each tenant receiving a small annual cash allowance. A tablet of granite was set in the front walls of the Burns—McKenzie houses in 1924 as a memorial to Charles Rennie Cowie, J.P., an outstandingly generous Glasgow Burnsian. By the year 1958 these old buildings were deemed to be unsuitable for human habitation, and in 1959 the tenants were re-housed in the newly built “Jean Armour Burns Houses” at Mossgiel farm, Mauchline. Many Glaswegians have given a life-time of dedication to the benefit of “The Jean Armour Burns Houses” in Castle street, Mauchline, and hundreds of donors have entrusted valuable relics of Robert Burns and Jean Armour to the”Glasgow & District Burns Association”, and as it would be impossible to name them all in a small pamphlet such as this, the following list is merely a token one. Mr Andrew Stenhouse, Secretary of the Burns Federation, and Secretary of “Glasgow & District Burns Association” from the early thirties till he died in 1974, Neil Campbell, President and Honorary President of the Burns Federation, and Treasurer of the Glasgow Association from 1932 until his death in 1979. Neil nursed the finances of the Mauchline houses over many years, and much of the credit for the success of this enterprise is the result of his devotion. Mr Charles Cowie this gentleman’s name will be remembered as the man who purchased the Mauchline houses for the Glasgow Association. He also donated the following artefacts to the Museum—A photograph of a pencil drawing of the Burns house at Dumfries, by John Wilson, 1803. A pencil drawing of the Cowgate, Mauchline, by John Wilson, 1803, and others. Mr J. C. Ewing of Glasgow, Editor of the Burns Chronicle donated a silver watch which belonged to the poet, and a pair of razors used by the Bard. Mr R Edmiston, Glasgow, donated a plaster model of Robert Burns by W.G. Stevenson, R.S.A. Photogravure –Auld Brig of Ayr, 1907, three volumes of the Edinburgh Edition1, a second edition 1787, a third edition, London 1787, and three enlarged copies of the Edinburgh edition 1797, in two volumes. Mr T. Yule, Edinburgh, W.S. painting in oils of DR. McKenzie M.D. by James Douglas, 1885, from the original by James Tannock. Miss Isabella Mc Lennan, Hillhead of Coylton. A pair of silver buckles for knee breeches, worn by Wm. Brown, Miller at Traboch Mill, who sat for James Thom, Sculptor, for his figure of Tam o’ Shanter. Mr William Crosbie, Reading, Address to the diel, by Robert Burns, Illustrated by Thomas Landseer, 1830, Cabinet of the Scottish Muses, Edinburgh, 1608. Of paramount importance is the Armour family Bible, which contains the record of the marriage of James Armour and Mary Smith, and the register of their sons and daughters.
The birth of their second child is thus recorded---
We had a daughter born Feby. 26th 1765, called Jean. Jean became the wife of Robert Burns.
SMITH & SON BOOKSELLER
John Smith was born in 1753, the eldest son of John Smith who founded the well known firm of John Smith, stationers and booksellers in 1751. The company name was changed to “John Smith and Son” some time between 1774 and 1777, when John Smith senior took his son into partnership, and the company has retained the name ever since, making them the oldest Scottish booksellers in existence at the present time. The company subscribed for a dozen copies of Burns’s first Edinburgh edition, but it is apparent from the following letters, written by Burns, that they ordered a further nine copies, and that they acted as agents on behalf of individual subscribers. There is the story told that when Burns learned that Smith was only charging 5% for acting as agents, he exclaimed, “You seem a very decent sort of folk, you Glasgow booksellers, but eh, they’re sair birkies in Edinburgh.
To William Creech. Glasgow 24th June,
If you have any copies of mine on hand, please send fifty to Mr Smith here for supply to subscribers—if you cannot, write to me in Mauchline.
I am, Dear Sir,
Mauchline 18th July 1788
I received per the Mauchline carrier £11-19-1d as mentioned in yours of the 18th current. I cannot lay my hands on the account but I suppose the nine copies sent from Kilmarnock are not included in this payment. I only mention this en passant, but I will probably be in Glasgow in a month or two myself.
I am Dear Sir,
Your humble servant,
To John Smith,Jnr.
Bookseller, Glasgow. Mauchline,17th January 1789
Please send me at your convenience the value of the nine copies of my book, which I sent you last from Kilmarnock, and are not yet accounted for, by John Glover, carrier to Dumfries.
My address is. At Ellisland, near Dumfries,
I am, Dear Sir,
Your very humble serv.
An early friend of Robert Burns and a schoolmate when they both attended the Parish school at Dalrymple, and for a short time later the Ayr Grammar school. He married Miss Jean Smith, one of the young Ladies celebrated by Burns in his “Belles of Mauchline”. In a letter written by Burns from Ellisland, Burns refers to James Candlish as “The earliest friend except my only brother that I have on earth, and one of the worthiest fellows that ever man called by the name of friend” James Candlish studied Medicine at Glasgow University, and worked in the City as a private teacher for a short time.
THE BLACK BULL INN
The Black Bull Inn was opened to the public in the same year that Robert Burns was born, namely 1759. It was situated between Virginia street and Glassford street on the North side of Argyle street, and was the rendezvous of the elite of Glasgow. The story of how the funds to build this Inn were obtained is worthy of note. From the year 1727 there had been a “Highland Society” in the City, and they owned the land on which the Inn was to be built, having purchased it some time earlier for £260. The funds to build the Inn were acquired when George Whitefield, the famous 18th century evangelist was preaching a rather rousing sermon to a large crowd in the graveyard of Glasgow Cathedral. On the suggestion of the Highland Society a special collection was taken, which provided not only enough money to build the Inn, but also stables to house 38 horses and a hayloft which held 30 tons of hay.Robert Burns stayed at the Black Bull Inn at least twice, and it was from here that he wrote one of his letters to Mrs Mclehose. (Clarinda) Clarinda was a Glasgow lady who at that time lived in Edinburgh, and who inspired Burns to write among other songs “Ae Fond Kiss” From this Inn the Bard also wrote to his friend Richard Brown, inviting him to meet the poet in Glasgow on a Monday in February and the two friends met as Burns was alighting from his coach. The Bard’s other brother William, who had come on horseback on that same day to visit Burns joined the other two, and the trio had a night out on the town. A plaque is set into the wall of Marks and Spencers store at the corner of Virginia street and Argyle street which states:
LODGED HERE WHEN THIS BUILDING
WAS THE BLACK BULL INN
HE VISITED GLASGOW FEBRUARY AND MARCH 1788
Burns had many friends in Glasgow, some of whom came to the City from Ayrshire, and others whom he had met on his visits to the City. Before the publication of the Kilmarnock Edition, Burns had met and become friendly with William Reid, a young printer who was a member of the firm “Brash & Reid”, who conducted quite a flourishing bookselling and printing business in the City. There is the story told that Burns showed his poems to Reid, which at that time the Bard was considering putting into print, and Reid is said to have told Burns that Glasgow publishers did not print such trivialities as poems, as they were too busy doing important work such as psalms and sermons, editions of the Holy Bible and commentaries on scriptures. The story goes on to say that Reid recommended that Burns should take his poems to Edinburgh, where the publishers were more likely to print such light and frivolous books. It is well known that a short time later Burns arranged with John Wilson of Kilmarnock to publish his works in what is known as the Kilmarnock edition, and the thought must come to mind that if William Reid had been a little more enterprising perhaps the first printing of the Bard’s works would beat the name “The Glasgow Edition. It is interesting to note that while William Reid called himself a friend of the Bards, his friendship did not extend to anything that would harm his chances of making a bob or two on the side. After the Bard’s death Reid published a four volume edition of poetry, which included “Tam o’ Shanter” and other Burns poems.
In the year 1787, Thomas Muir, the only son of the owners of Huntershill near Cadder, was admitted a member of the Honourable Faculty of Advocates. In 1792 he burst forth into a blaze of political fame by attacking the many gross and flagrant corruptions of the state. He was a leading light in the establishment of the REFORM ASSOCIATION in the Star Hotel in Ingram Street Glasgow, now the site of the Bank of Scotland. This Hotel, and the Reform Association, was patronised by Lord Daer, afterwards the Earl of Selkirk, the Honourable North Dalrymple, afterwards Lord Stair, John Pattison of Kelvingrove and David Dale of the Blantyre and New Lanark projects. It will be recalled that Robert Burns met Lord Daer when he was invited to dinner at the country home of Professor Dugald Stewart at Catrine, Ayrshire, and found that the young Lord Daer was also a guest, and shortly afterwards his poem, “ On meeting with Lord Daer” was composed. Thomas Muir fought long and hard to get Parliamentary reform, and his speeches were becoming so effective that the Government brought forth their most able ministers to try to still his voice. In Ayrshire, Robert Burns, who was about the same age as Thomas Muir, heard the message of that great advocate, and all the liberal tendencies of the Bard put him 100% behind Thomas Muir’s cause. Unfortunately the Government employed Burns as an excise man, and for him to openly give support to Thomas Muir would have been fatal to his livelihood. His situation and his personal safety were in peril, and we find him writing to the Honourable Mr. Erskine of Mar on the 13th of April 1793, where he says:- “But for the exertions of Mr. Graham of Fintry, who has ever been my warm and generous friend, I had, without so much as a hearing, or the slightest previous intimation, been turned adrift with my helpless family, to all the horrors of want”. In this same letter Burns writes that the Board of Excise had issued orders to him, that his business was to act, not to think, and whatever might be, men or measures, it was for him, (Robert Burns) to be silent and obedient. For his advocacy of Parliamentary reform, Thomas Muir was banished overseas for fourteen years, but the reform that he so verdantly advocated has become fact, and his name will live on in the hearts of all who cherish democracy.
THE NATIONAL BURNS MEMORIAL AND COTTAGE HOMES
Over the last one hundred years many thousand of visitors from all over the world have come to Ayrshire to pay their respects to Robert Burns, Scotland’s National Bard. During their pilgrimage they may visit The National Burns Memorial and Cottage Homes at Mauchline, and see these homes as a fitting tribute to the poet of Humanity. Only a few of those visitors will know that it was a Glasgow Burnsian who first thought of this wonderful scheme. Our tale begins in 1866 when a re-union of some natives of Mauchline took place in Glasgow, and Mr. Andrew Macrorie of Kilwinning made this criticism of Mauchline, “Not a Street, Road, Inn, Mansion or Cottage in Mauchline bears the name of Burns”. Years later, in 1895, steps were taken to wipe out this reproach. In the City of Glasgow there existed a benevolent society composed of natives of Mauchline who had come to Glasgow to seek employment, and Glasgow Burnsians who supported the ideas of the society. This organisation was named “The Glasgow Mauchline Society”, and in 1895, acting upon a suggestion made by Bailie John Marr of Govan, the members resolved to erect a memorial to Robert Burns at Mauchline. After much discussion the society issued an appeal for the necessary finances to build the memorial, which was to take the form of six cottages to house “Respectable and deserving people”, for example, “An aged couple, a workman in ill health, a ploughman or a cottar”. Also a tower, the lower portion of which would be suitable for holding relics of Burns, while the upper portion would be provided with a balcony from which visitors could view the surrounding countryside. The petition went on to say that the tenants would live rent and rate free, and if possible they would receive a small endowment. It is interesting to note the number of Glaswegians and Burns Federation members who agreed to act as Honorary Patrons to the fund. Mr. Peter Sturrock, President of the Burns Federation, Mr. D. Snedden, Secretary of the Burns Federation, Mr. D. Mc Naught, Editor of the Burns Chronicle, Mr. Thomas Killin, Secretary of the Glasgow Mauchline Society, Mr. J. Leiper Gemmel, Mr. W.S. McMillan, Sir John Neilson, Mr. James Mc Lennan, Judge Morrin, J.P., Major John Cassels, The Rev. Thomas Sommerville, Bailie John Marr, and Provost Kirkwood. The appeal was favourably received by a considerable number of Burns clubs and kindred societies, both at home and abroad, and even at the outset subscriptions for £800 had already been promised. The site chosen was near Mossgiel farm, and from the top of the tower visitors would see the farmhouse where “ Ben in the Spence” some of the Bard’s finest poems were written, the field where ”The wee modest crimson tipped flower” was upturned, and that other field where the “Wee sleekit, cowerin’, timorous beastie” startled “Awa’ wi’ bickerin’ brattle”. In a letter from B.W. Hutchinson, a grand-daughter of the Bard, to Mr. D. McNaught, gave full support to the cottage idea, and expressed the wish that no more money would be spent on statues. The first sod was cut on the 4th of July 1896, and on the 23rd of that same month, when the celebrations for the centenary of the death of the Bard were in full swing, tha foundation stone was laid with full Masonic Honours by Mr. Hugh. R. Wallace of Busby and Cloncaird, Provisional Grand Master of Ayrshire. The architect of the Cottage homes and Tower was Mr. Fraser of Glasgow, and the inauguration day was the 7th of May 1889. While every half-penny donated to the scheme was most welcome, a special thanks goes to those Glaswegians who contributed almost a third of the necessary funds.
THE JOLLY BEGGARS
The Jolly Beggars, a cantata, was first published in Glasgow.The Publishers were Stewart & Meikle, booksellers in the Candleriggs, and it was sold as a two-penny tract of sixteen pages.The year of its printing was 1799.
Patrick Miller was born in Glasgow in 1731and began his career in the merchant service, spending most of his youthful years as an ordinary sailor. Later on he became a successful participant in the banking business in Edinburgh, and served as deputy chairman of the Bank of Scotland. About a fortnight after Burns arrived in Edinburgh he wrote to John Ballantyne in Ayr saying ”An unknown hand left ten guineas for the Ayrshire Bard with Mr Sibbald, which I got. I have since discovered my generous unknown friend to be Patrick Miller Esq. brother of the Justice clerk, and I drank a glass of claret with him by invitation at his own house yesterday” Patrick Miller purchased the estate of Dalwinston, part of which forms the farm of Ellisland. It was he who rented this farm to Burns in 1788, and at this time he was experimenting in propelling vessels by steam. According to George Eyre Todd in his book “The story of Glasgow”, Patrick Miller, Robert Burns and Alexander Nasmyth, the artist, were aboard a double boat, with a paddle in the middle, driven by steam on its first voyage across Dalwinston Loch.
Thomas Campbell was born in the High Street of Glasgow, and is buried in Westminster Abbey. He is the author of “Ye Mariners of England”, “Locheils Warning”, “Pleasures of Hope”, and many other well known works. He was one of over ten thousand mourners at the funeral of Robert Burns.
GOVERNOR MACRAE OF MADRAS
In the year 1735 the City of Glasgow received the gift of its first statue, the well known figure of King William the third mounted on his charger, and it stood near the pavement on the North side of the Trongate for over 150 years, a trysting place for young lovers and drouthy cronies, before being taken to its resting place in the High Street, where today it enhances our Cathedral Square.The statue was given to our City by James Macrae who was born in Ayr about 1680. He was the only son of a poor but honest widow whose married name was Macrae, but she was better known by her maiden name “Bell Gardner”. Despite his mother’s pleas, James, at the tender age of fifteen left his native Ayr to seek his fortune somewhere over the seas, and nothing was heard of him for over forty years. His story tells how he obtained employment in the service of the East India Company, and by the year 1720 he had risen to the rank of Captain. By diligence and hard work he rapidly rose in the hierarchy of the company, and in 1725 he was appointed Governor of Madras in India. James Macrae never married, and when he resigned the Governorship some five years later he had amassed a personal fortune in excess of £100,000 in gold and diamonds. In 1731 he set sail for Scotland and began a search for his family, and discovered that his only sister had married a fiddler named Hugh Mc Guire who supplemented his income by playing the Fiddle at “Penny Weddings”, rural dances, and other forms of merrymaking. James Macrae settled in Ayrshire and purchased a number of estates, and in 1733 he was entered as a Burgess of Ayr. As he was a great admirer of King William of Orange, he named his Monkton estate “Orangefield”, and this estate became the main terminal of Prestwick airport, but alas, the mansion was demolished in 1964, after the opening of the present terminal. A monument was erected at Monkton between 1748-1750 to the memory of James Macrae, but unfortunately it is falling into dis-repair. James Macrae died on the 21st of July 1744, and is buried in Monkton Kirkyard, and as he had no family of his own, he left his fortune to the family of Hugh McGuire. Hugh McGuire himself inherited the estate of Drumdow, and became a “landed Gentleman”, while his son James received the Barony of Houston, Renfrewshire, on condition that he adopted the name of Macrae. To the eldest daughter Elizabeth, born in 1725, he left a large dowry and the Barony of Ochiltree, which enabled her after a whirlwind courtship to marry William Cunningham, thirteenth Earl of Glencairn, a short time later. Elizabeth McGuire, (Lizzie) had in her early life been a farm servant to John Tennant of Laigh Corton, and she repaid his kindness to her by appointing his eldest son John, of (Glenconner) as factor of the Glencairn estates, a position he held for eleven years. Lizzie’s sister, Margaret, obtained the estate of Alva, while the youngest sister, who inherited the lands of Orangefield, married Charles Dalrymple of Ayr in 1750. Thus it was that the fourteenth Earl of Glencairn, son of a fiddlers daughter, became the friend and Patron of Robert Burns.
A MAN’S A MAN FOR A’ THAT
Robert Burns sent this song to George Thomson in Edinburgh in January 1795, for inclusion in his collection of Scottish melodies. It first appeared in print in “The Glasgow Magazine”, in August 1795, some ten years before it appeared in Thomson’s select collection in 1805, under the title “The honest man, the best o’ men”, to the tune “Up and war them A’ Willie”.
(DEATH & DOCTOR HORNBOOK)
A Hornbook is a sheet of paper on which is written the Alphabet, Numbers, The Lord’s Prayer, and the rules of spelling. It is mounted on a board and is protected by a thin plate of transparent horn, thus a “Hornbook.)John Wilson was born in 1751, the son of a Glasgow weaver. He studied at the Glasgow University in High Street, and sometime later taught at Craigie, near Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, before being appointed Schoolmaster at Tarbolton in 1781. In June 1774 he married Margaret Hunter at Riccarton, and in their marriage of 20 years they had 11 children. She died on the 9th of May 1784 and on the 15th of December of that same year he married Margaret Ritchie of Whiteleas , the Minister being the Rev. William Logan of Symington. It was at Tarbolton that Robert Burns first met John Wilson, the latter not only being the Schoolmaster but also the session clerk of Tarbolton Parish Church, and Secretary of St. James’s Masonic Lodge, three very important situations in the local community. To top up his salary he ran a small grocers shop, and after reading some medical books he began to stock a few basic medicines, and had a handbill which not only advertised his medicines but stated that advice would be given on common disorders at the shop, gratis. One night at the Masonic Lodge he was expounding on his medical knowledge too offensively, and to bring him down to earth Burns wrote the satire “Death and Doctor Hornbook”. John Wilson did not seem too hurt by the poem and he continued in his posts as Session clerk and Schoolmaster until 1793. In that year he decided to return to Glasgow, and took up residence at 164 South Portland Street in the Gorbals. He continued in his profession as Schoolmaster, teaching in the High street of the City, and eventually establishing a Commercial College in Buchanan Street. In 1809 he became Session clerk of Gorbals Parish Church an appointment he held for 30 years, until his death in 1839. It is interesting to note that John Wilsons only surviving son was appointed Minister of the Chapel of Ease in the District of Maryhill. The Rev. Robert Mc Nair Wilson began his ministry in 1824, and served the Church for 19 years until 1843. John Wilson often travelled from his Church in the Gorbals to assist his son to celebrate communion. John Wilson died in 1839, and lies in the Old Gorbals Kirkyard. This area of Glasgow has undergone many changes, and the Glasgow Corporation of the 1950s, along with the Glasgow & District Burns Association, worked together to make the Old Kirkyard into a “Garden of Rest”, so that Glasgow children of the future would be able to view this important link between our City and Robert Burns. Two of John Wilson’s Great-grand children graduated from Glasgow University as Doctors.
ROBERT BURNS THE POET’S ELDEST SON
Born at Mauchline on the 3rd of September 1786, he was educated at the Grammar school at Dumfries for a few years, and continued his education at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The “Glasgow Evening News” of the 19th of April 1897, reported that Robert Burns, the eldest son of the poet, was a prize winner at Glasgow University, and also that in 1802 he was presented by the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon to a Bursary in what is known as “Duchess Anne’s Mortification”, founded in 1694. An entry in the Matriculation album of the University of Glasgow 1802 states-
“Robertus Burns, Filius natu maximus quondam Roberti,Poetae celeberrimi apud Mauchline in comitati de Ayr. Which when translated reads:-
Robert Burns, born the eldest son of the late Robert, most celebrated poet, at Mauchline in the County of Ayr.
In light of his farther’s democratic principles, and the freedom with which he avowed them, it is refreshing to find that within six years of his death a boon like this should be conferred on his son by the Primier Duke. He died on the 14th of May 1857, aged 71 years, and is buried in the Mausoleum at Dumfries.
DR. JOHN MOORE
On the North side of Glasgow’s Trongate there can be seen a plaque on a building almost opposite the Laigh Kirk Steeple, which states that this site was the one time home of Dr. John Moore. It was in this house that his celebrated son, Sir John Moore, whose statue adorns George Square, was born. Dr. John Moore was born in Stirling in 1729 and when his father died in 1737 his mother brought him to Glasgow. Dr. Moore was the Grandson of John Anderson, Lord Provost of Glasgow, and Laird of Dowhill estate. He attended Glasgow High School and later Glasgow University, and after travelling to many parts of the world he returned to Glasgow and took his diploma as M.D. It was Mrs. Dunlop of Dunlop who introduced Burns to Dr. Moore, and in her letter to the Bard of December 30th 1786, she tells him that she has sent a copy of his poems to Dr. Moore, and it was from this introduction that the correspondence between Robert Burns and Dr. Moore began. Burns wrote eight letters to Dr. Moore and received six letters from him. The most important letter that Burns wrote was the autobiographical letter which tells so much about his early life, and gave future writers an accurate account of this rather obscure part of his life. The good Dr. was one of the friends of the Bard who advised him to write his works in English in order to attract a larger audience, and we will be ever grateful that Burns ignored Dr. Moores advice. Dr. Moore died in London in 1802, and the only other memorial to him in Glasgow, other than the Trongate plaque, is a memorial plaque embedded in the East wall of Glasgow Cathedral cemetery.
THE REV.WILLIAM AULD
The Rev. William Auld ( Robert Burns’s Daddy Auld ) attended Glasgow University.
Many of our Glasgow Burnsians will remember the massive chimney which stood between Townhead and Springburn, pouring a whit and obnoxious sulphuric smell over many parts of our City.The chimney was the tallest in Europe in those days and was situated in the St. Rollox chemical works owned by Charles Tennant. As in so many of the connections between Glasgow and Robert Burns, we have to go back in time to Ayrshire, where the Tennant family came from. In the early years of the18th century there lived on the banks of the river Doon, a farmer named William Tennant, who was a friend of the Bard’s father. William had a son named John, and it was this John Tennant who was employed as manager or factor to the Countess of Glencairn, maiden name Lizzie Mc Guire. ( see anecdote on Governor Macrae ) . John and Lizzie were playmates at school, and some writers say that they had been youthful sweet-hearts. After the death of the Earl of Glencairn, John Tennant continued in the employment of the Countess, and it would seem that she had great faith in his judgements. He was a very close friend of the Burns family and was Godfather at the Baptism of the Bard in 1759. It was John Tennant who accompanied Burns when he went to view the farm at Ellisland, with the intention of taking it over. John Tennant had four sons whose names are remembered by being mentioned in the Bards “Letter to James Tennant of Glenconner” and the one with the greatest connection with Glasgow is Charles Tennant who is spoken of by Burns as “Wabster Charlie”. Charles was the youngest son of John Tennant, and started off his career as a weaver, but before long he had set up a bleach works at Darnley, near Pollockshaws. It was at this time that what could be called a revolution was taking place in Glasgow the hand looms of the cottage weavers could no longer weave the yarn into cloth quick enough, nor could the bleach fields whiten it fast enough. Charles Tennant took full advantage of this crisis by opening the largest bleach works in the world at St. Rollox, near Springburn ,and these works were still operating until after the second world war. The family of Charles Tennant lived in a lovely Georgian house near Blythswood Square, and he was an ardent supporter of the reform movement of the early 19th century, and when the government offered him a Knighthood he refused to accept it.He was born on the 3rd of May 1767 and died on the 1st of October 1838. He is buried in the Necropolis near Glasgow Cathedral and a statue is erected over his grave.
THE STATUE OF ROBERT BURNS IN GEORGE SQUARE
George Square is famous for its display of statues of eminent men who have contributed to the well being of Scotland in their various ways, but of all those statues, the statue erected to the memory of Robert Burns, is without doubt the most democratic. Glasgow had no monument of the Bard for at least a century after the publication of the Kilmarnock edition, and it was mainly due to the efforts of three men, Dr. Hedderwick, Mr. John Browne and Bailie Wilson, whose unselfish work led to the erection of the memorial in George Square. It was John Browne who suggested that a public appeal for a one shilling subscription be launched, Dr. Hedderwick looked after the advertising without charge, while Bailie Wilson, who was perhaps the most active member of the small Committee, co-ordinated all the various activities. The combined efforts of the Committee raised over £2,000 from over 40,000 of the citizens of Glasgow. The sculptor chosen was a Glasgow man, George Edwin Ewing, who studied the portraits of Burns by Nasmyth and Skirving before beginning his task. It was in October 1786 that the statue was cast in Bronze by Cox & Son, Thames Ditton, London, and on the afternoon of the 25th of January 1877, the Trades organisations and many other societies of the City assembled in Glasgow Green, and after marching through the principal streets of the City, they finally arrived in George Square. Entering the Square they found that some thirty thousand of the citizens of Glasgow had gathered to take part in the ceremony, and to witness the historic unveiling of Glasgow’s first statue to Robert Burns. Lord Houghton, who was well known as a friend of poets and men of literature, unveiled the statue, and then delivered a fine oration on the genius of Robert Burns. Bailie Wilson, on behalf of the subscribers, requested Lord Provost Bain to accept the custody of the statue on behalf of the City, to which his Lordship, in one of the best of his many excellent speeches, happily acceded. The statue is inscribed with only two words,:- Robert Burns, and that is all that is required in the City of Glasgow, where his songs and verses are inscribed in the hearts of its citizens.
In Virginia Street, not far from The Black Bull Inn, there was a silk merchants shop which was owned by Robert McIndoe. He was a firm friend of Robert Burns, and on the 5th of August 1788 Burns wrote a letter to him requesting that a parcel of material should be sent by carrier to the town of Mauchline. I will not quote the whole letter, but the last paragraph reads:-
“To be brief, send me fifteen yards of black lutestring silk, such as they use to to make gowns and petticoats of, and I will chuse some sober morning before breakfast, and write you a sober answer, with a sober sum which will then be due you from, Dear Sir, fu’ or fasting:
The cost of the Lutestring was five shillings and nine pence a yard, and the sum due and duly paid was four pounds six shillings and three pence. The Lutestring was used to make a wedding gown for Jean Armour.
DEAR BOUGHT BESS
In the winter of the year 1783 a servant girl was temporarily employed at the Burns farm of Lochlea. Her name was Elizabeth Paton, and after a flirtation with the Bard she bore him an illegitimate daughter who was named Elizabeth Burns, and it was to this child that Burns wrote his poem:-
“A poets welcome to his love begotten daughter”
When the Bard moved from Mossgiel farm to Ellisland, the baby was brought to Mossgiel and attended school at Mauchline, living with Burns’s mother until after the Bard’s death. She married John Bishop, a farm overseer to the Baillie family of Polkemmet, where she died on the 8th December 1816 allegedly giving birth to her seventh child. A family tree compiled by her Great Grandson Alexander Freugh, shows that the Bishop branch of the poets descendants were numerous, and by 1922 were scattered throughout the world. The youngest daughter of Bess named Jean, married James Weir, from whom was descended Lord Weir of Cathcart, the only descendant of Burns to be ennobled. The present Viscount Weir has his estate near Mauchline in Ayrshire.
Many of our Glasgow Burnsians will remember the burial ground which was situated on the East side of North Street. It was known as the North and South Woodside burial ground because of a wall that divided it into two parts. In 1839 the burial of a man, Alexander Findlater took place in these grounds, and this gentleman was not only a friend of Robert Burns, but also his superior in the excise. He was a true friend of the poets, and was with him the night preceding his death. In a letter to Alexander Peterkin Findlater says:-
“My connection with Robert Burns commenced immediately after his admission into the Excise, and continued to the hour of his death. Permit me to add, I have seen Burns in all his various phases, in his convivial moments, in his sober moods, and in the bosom of his family, indeed I have seen more of him than any other individual had occasion to see, and I have never beheld anything like the gross enormities with which he is now charged”.
Alexander Findlater was born in 1754 and had a distinguished career in the excise, being admitted in 1774, appointed examiner in 1790, supervisor at Dumfries in 1791, and collector in Glasgow in 1811. The family of Alexander Findlater in Dublin owns a copy of Thomson’s Original Scottish Airs, 1793, which was exhibited at the Glasgow Burns Centenary exhibition in 1896.
It bears the following:
“A pledge of rooted friendship, well watered with a bottle of good wine "
For 84 years the grave of this friend of Robert Burns lay unmarked until in 1923 the Sandyford Burns Club of Glasgow took it upon themselves to erect a granite stone over the unmarked grave, a fitting tribute to a man, who when so many people were belittling the Bard, spoke out in his favour, and unlike the many, he spoke from personal experience. Attending the stone laying ceremony were two descendants of Alexander Findlater, his great-grand Nephews Dr. Alexander Findlater, Edgeware, Middlesex, and Mr. William Findlater, Dublin. Mr William Findlater was one of the nine men who founded ”ROTARY” in the British Isles. Like many other men and women, Alexander Findlater is remembered today, not so much for what they achieved during their life-time, but because of their association with Robert Burns. The Sandyford Burns Club of Glasgow deserves the gratitude of all Burnsians for raising this stone over the grave of this friend of Robert Burns. Unfortunately progress destroys even “The best laid schemes”, and the motorway through Glasgow has removed the graves of many worthy men and women, and the grave of Alexander Linklater was one of them.
The stone now rests in the Lynn Cemetery and is inscribed as follows:-
"To the Memory of ALEXANDER FINDLATER
Supervisor of Excise at Dumfries
Collector of Excise at Glasgow
The friend of Robert Burns in life
His vindicator after death."
Erected by Sandyford Burns Club.
John Maine was a contemporary of Robert Burns, having been born at Dumfries on the 26th of March 1750. He began his career as an apprentice printer to the famous Foulis brothers, who opened the “ Foulis Academy of Art” in the University of Glasgow in 1745, 15 years before the “Royal Academy” in London. (The gravestones of the Foulis brothers can be seen on the pavement on the north side of Ingram Street , near the Ramshorn Church). It was not long before John Maine was recognized as a writer of verse and song, and his works were of a very high standard, as is shown in the following two short pieces:-
“Whae’re has daundered oot at e’en
And seen the sights that I hae seen
For strappin’ lasses, tight and clean
May proudly tell,
That search the country, Glasgow Green,
Will bear the bell”
Or again when he writes of the university in High Street:-
“Here great Buchanan learnt to scan
The verse that mak’s him mair than man;
Cullen and Hunter here began
They’re first probations;
And Smith Frae Glasgow, formed his plan,
The Wealth o’ Nations”.
John Maine latterly went to London to become editor and part owner of the STAR newspaper.
His poems “Hallowe’en” and “Logan Braes” were printed before the Burns version of “Logan Braes”, and Burns uses the last two lines of Maine’s song. John Maine lived in a house beside Glasgow Green before he left Glasgow, and he died at Lisson Grove, near London, on the 14th of March, 1836.
Elison Begbie was the daughter of a farmer in the Galston Parish of Ayrshire. She is said to have promised to marry Robert Burns, and then changed her mind. She is the heroine of the songs “The Lass of Cessnock Bank”, and “I’ll kiss thee yet, yet”. She married shortly after these songs were written and settled in Glasgow, but there is no knowledge of her later life.
The “Town House” of the Alexander family was situated on the North East corner of George Square, that is the left hand corner of the City Chambers when looking at the frontage of the building. Wilhelmina was a daughter of the Alexander family of the estate of Ballochmyle, and sometime about July 1785 when she was visiting her family and enjoying a walk along the river that runs through the estate, Robert Burns noticed her from the other side of the river, and was enchanted by her beauty. From this very brief encounter came that lovely song “The Lass o’ Ballochmyle”, and sometime later, when Burns was making arrangements for the publication of the first Edinburgh edition of his works, he sent Wilhelmina a letter and enclosed a copy of his song, asking her permission to publish the song in the new edition of his poems. To the mortification of the Bard, the lady declined to take any notice of his request, for reasons known only to herself, but she kept the letter and the copy of the song, and when she was an old lady sitting at her window looking on to George Square, she was quite proud to tell the children who passed her window on their way to the High school that she was Burns’s “Lass o’ Ballochmyle”. Miss Alexander died unmarried on the 5th of June 1843, at the grand old age of 90 years. In spite of intensive research I have been unable to establish her burial place, but the most likely venue would be the family burial grounds at Inchinnan, Renfrewshire.
MRS AGNES McLEHOSE
Agnes Craig was born in the Saltmarket of Glasgow, and like all Glasgow children she would play in the streets or backcourts at the games that were popular in the 1700s.She was the daughter of William Craig, a Surgeon whose home was a tenement flat near Glasgow Cross, which was hospital property. Her uncle, the Rev. W. Craig, became the father of Lord Craig, an eminent Judge in the Court of Session. Her mother was the daughter of the Rev. John McLaurin, Minister of Luss Parish Church, and latterly the Minister of Saint David’s (Ramshorn Church) in Ingram Street. Her mother died when she was only eight years old and close relatives then cared for her. When she was about 15 years old she was sent to Edinburgh to improve her grammar and handwriting, and give her the polish required when she was eventually launched into society. In July 1776, she married James McLehose, a well known law agent in Glasgow, and although she bore him three children, the marriage was unsuccessful, and after a few years she again moved to Edinburgh. In December 1787 Burns attended a party in the home of Miss Nimmo in Edinburgh, and it was here that he was introduced to Mrs. McLehose. Burns and she had a mutual attraction, and for a considerable time many letters passed from one to the other. Burns was deeply affected by the beauty of Agnes McLehose, and also her manners and intellect. One of the most moving love songs written by Burns was “Ae fond kiss” with its exquisite verse:-
“Had we never loved sae kindly
Had we never lov’d sae blindly
Never met, or never parted,
We had ne’er been broken-hearted”.
Agnes McLehose survived Burns for forty-five years, dying in her eighty-third year, on the 23rd of October 1841. She is buried in the Old Canongate Churchyard in Edinburgh.
Mr. ALEXANDER POLLOCK
There are many sons of Glasgow whose life’s work has made life easier or more interesting for some less fortunate people, and just such a man was Mr. Alexander Pollock. He was born in Glasgow 1n 1860, and became a successful business man working as an advertising agent. He was well known in debating circles, and was independent in politics, but it was in the Burns fraternity that he best showed his talents and humanitarianism. Alexander was a member of the Rosebery Burns Club in Glasgow, a past President of The Glasgow and District Burns Association, and in the wider Burns movement he was a vice-President of the Burns Federation. He took a leading part in the of editions of Burns’s works in Braille and in moon types for the use of the blind, and was active in the movements for the funding of a chair of Scottish history and Literature in Glasgow University. In the controversy that rose from the scandal relating to the sale of the “Glenriddel Burns Manuscripts” in1913, the indignant voice of Alexander Pollock was heard. The children of his day remember him as the ever enthusiastic Secretary of the Burns Federation schools competition.
THE MITCHELL LIBRARY
The Mitchell Library was given to the people of Glasgow by the tobacco family of that name. It has within its extensive premises one of the largest collections of Burns memorabilia in the world.
Clubs of all kinds have existed in Glasgow from its earliest times, and it is interesting to note that one of these clubs, “The City Club” which met in the Bank Tavern in the Trongate, and was termed a Literary Club, had among its many distinguished members Hugh McDonald, Author of that excellent little book, “Rambles around Glasgow” About the middle of the 1800s “The City Club” changed its name to “The Burns Club”, and existed for many years under that name.
BURNS STATUE AT IRVINE
The handsome statue of the Bard on the banks of the River Irvine on the town moor, was a gift of Mr. John Spiers of Glasgow. The sculptor was Dr. Pittendreigh Mc Gillvary, and the memorial was unveiled by the poet Laureate Alfred Austin in 1896.
Lilias was the daughter of a Glasgow merchant who married William Campbell of Netherplace, near Mauchline. She was well known as a domineering wife and died in 1826.
Burns wrote the following Epitaph to her husband:-
“As father Adam first was fool’d,
A case that’s still too common,
Here lies a man a woman ruled
The devil ruled the woman”
This epigram was written by Burns on the same occasion as the above Epitaph.
“ O death, had’st thou but spar’d his life
Whom we this day lament!
We freely wad exchanged the wife,
And a’ been weel content.
Ev’n as he is, cauld in his graff,
The swap we yet will do’t;
ask thou the Carlin’s carcase aff,
Thou’se get saul o boot.”
The third Epigram on William Campbell of Netherplace recalls the legend of Queen Artemisa who married her brother Mausolus, and she was so devoted to him that on his death in 353 B.C. she erected a Mausoleum, one of the ancient wonders of the world. She mixed his ashes in liquor and drank the potion.
" One Queen Artemisa, as old stories tell,
When depriv’d of her husband she loved se well,
In respect for the love and affection he’d show’d her,
She reduc’d him to dust and she drank up the powder.
But Queen Netherplace, of a diff’rent complexion,
When call’d on to order the fun’ral direction,
Would have eat her dead Lord, on a slender pretence,
Not to show her respect, but—to save the expence!”.