The journal of Robert Burns records that on Tuesday 8th of May “He came up Teviot and Jed to lie, and to wish myself goodnight” The house in which he stayed for three nights was situated at 27 Canongate, adjoining Deans Close. A plaque was erected in 1913 to commemorate his visit. His host, Mr James Fair, was a lawyer in the town, and had been un-lucky to have been attended to by a quack doctor, who caused permanent damage to his sight. He purchased the estate of Langlee and married Miss Catherine Lookup. For some years James Fair was the agent for the British Linen Bank. The Jedburgh home of James Fair was one of the chief houses in the Burgh, it had large rooms, and the marble jambs and carved woodwork around the fireplace of the largest room, were relics of sixteenth century grandeur. Next morning after breakfast the Poet walked about two miles out of Jedburgh to a Roup of Parks (a land auction) where he met a polite soldier like gentleman, a Captain Rutherford, who had spent many years in the wilds of America and had been taken prisoner by Indians. On his rescue John Rutherford perused a military career in the 42nd regiment based in New York. After he retired he acquired the estate Mossburnford, and it was there that Burns visited him. In his journal the Bard notes that “The Captain, a specious polite fellow very fond of money in his farming way, but showed a particular respect to my Bardship. Mrs Rutherford is exactly a proper matrimonial second part of him, while their daughter is a beautiful girl, but to far gone woman to expose too much of a fine swelling bosom”n On his return to Jedburgh after his visit to Mossburnford Burns took a “Walk up Jed with some ladies to be shown Love Lane and Blackburn, two fairy scenes. Introduced to a Mr Potts, Writer, a very clever fellow; and Mr Somerville, the clergy man of the place, a man and a gentleman, but sadly addicted to punning. The walking party of ladies were Mrs Fair and Miss Lookup her sister, two Miss Fairs, Miss Hope, (one of the Hopes of Cowdenknowes) a tolerably pretty girl, fond of laughing and fun, Miss Lindsay, a good humoured amiable girl; beautiful hazel eyes full of spirit and sparkling with delicious moisture, and her sister, a bonnie, strappan, rosy, sonsie lass. Isabella Lindsay was the daughter of the Jedburgh Doctor Robert Lindsay, whose home at that time was the house which had been associated with Marry, Queen of Scots. She had a mild flirtation with Robert Burns, and as she was engaged to Adam Armstrong at that time, she was criticised locally for her “easy manners” with the Bard. Twenty four days after parting with the Bard she married Adam, and as he was employed by the Russian Government she went with him to that country, never to return to Scotland. The Reverend Thomas Somerville was the author of “A history of Great Britain during the reign of Queen Anne” but his most important work was a very interesting book “My own life and times”, which gives valuable information on local and national affairs, 1741 – 1814. The next morning (10th May) Burns set out on a journey to visit a Mrs Scott at Wauchope House, breakfasting on the way with Dr. Elliot who according to the journal was; “an agreeable, good hearted, climate beaten, old veteran in the medical line; now retired to a romantic but rather Moorish place on the banks of the Roole, he accompanied us almost to Wauchope. We traverse the country to the top of Bonchester, the scene of an old encampment, and Woolee hill – Wauchope”. About the end of February or the beginning of March while Burns was in Edinburgh, he received a letter from a Mrs Scott of Wauchope House, which was in rhyme, and in this letter she praises his poetic skills, but doubts that such skills could come from one who had not gone to university or college. Mrs Scott was the niece of Mrs Cockburn, the authoress of “The Flowers of the Forest”, and it she who sent Mrs Scott a copy of “The Kilmarnock Edition” which prompted her to write to Burns.
One verse of her letter states;
My canty, witty, rhyming ploughman,
I hafflins dought it isn’a true man,
That thee between the stilts were bred,
Wi’ ploughman schooled, wi’ ploughman fed,
I doubt it sair, ye’ve drawn your knowledge,
Either frae grammar school or College.
In his reply, Burns reminded her that she had promised in her letter to give him a marled plaid to keep him warm on a winters night and that he would be pleased to receive it.
One verse of the Bard’s reply says:
“For you no bred to barn or byre,
Wha sweetly tune the Scottish lyre’
Thanks to you for kindly line,
The marled plaid ye kindly spare,
By me should gratefully be ware,
‘Twad please me to the nine”
The home of Mrs Scott was demolished in the 1800s and in 1985 the Hawick Burns Club built a cairn on the site of Wauchope House, to commemorate the visit of Robert Burns to the district of Hawick. A plaque on the cairn quotes a part of a verse in the reply to Mrs Scott’s letter:
“That I for old Scotland’s sake,
Some usefu’ plan or buek could make,
Or sing a sang at least”.
Mrs Scott died on the 19th of February 1789, and after her death a book of poems entitled “Alonza and Cora” was published, in which the reply of Robert Burns appears for the first time. The members and friends of Hawick Burns Club meet at the Wauchope cairn on the second Sunday of July each year, to keep alive the name of Robert Burns in their area.
Dr. Gilbert Elliot (born in 1717) with whom Burns breakfasted with on his way to Bonchester Bridge, had a chair belonging to James Thomson author of The Seasons and which Burns much admired. Thomson was born at Ednam and educated at Jedburgh. Returning to Jedburgh Burns had supper with Mr. Potts before retiring for the night. Next morning he breakfasted with the Reverend Somerville and invited to join them were the family of Dr. Lindsay, but in the event only Miss Lindsay arrived, and the Bards notes indicate that she was more to him than just a passing acquaintance.
“I find Miss Lindsay would soon play the devil with me. I meet with some little flattering attentions from her. Mrs. Somerville an excellent, motherly, agreeable woman and a fine family. Mr. Ainslie and Mr. Somerville Jnr. with Mr. Fair, Miss Lindsay and me go to see Esther, a very remarkable woman for reciting poetry of all kinds, and sometimes making scotch doggerel herself. She can repeat by heart almost everything she has ever read, particularly Pope’s Homer from end to end. She has studied Euclid by herself, and in short is a woman of very extraordinary abilities. On conversing with her I find her fully to come up to the character given to her. She is very flattered that I send for her, and she sees a poet who has put out a book as she says she is among other things a great florist, and is rather past the meridian of a once celebrated beauty, but alas’ though’ very well married, before that period she was violently suspected for some of the tricks of the Cytherean De’esse”. I walk down Esther’s garden with Miss Lindsay, and after some little chit – chat of the tender kind I present her with a proof-print of my nob, which she accepted with something more than gratitude”. Cytherean was a common eighteenth century euphemism for a prostitute, so Burns was saying that Esther Easton was wanton. Ester Easton lived in a house on Dr. Lindsay’s property, so it seems that the garden of the “Queen Mary” house must have been bigger than today. She was the wife of a poor gardener, and kept school for a short time. She died in 1789. The “Proof-Print of my nob” which Burns gave to Isabella Lindsay was one of the 36 prints of the Bard’s head engraved by John Beugo (1759-1841), the famed Edinburgh engraver.
On this day the Bard was asked to attend the Magistrates of Jedburgh and was presented with “The Freedom of the Burgh”. It was unusual for the Magistrates to present a “Riddle of Claret” to the person receiving this honour, and although Burns offered to pay for the Claret, the Magistrates overruled him. Burns says very little about this high honour, and the local records show that he did not sign the Burgess roll, but this was not too unusual in these days, when the clerk responsible for seeing this duty done quite often neglected his task. Burns received this honour on the 11th of May 1787, and for nearly two centuries his Burgess ticket was thought lost or destroyed. In 1939 the ticket suddenly appeared for sale, but unfortunately the people of Jedburgh could not raise the necessary funds to purchase it, and it was not until 1971 that the Burgess ticket presented to Burns in 1787 was finally returned to Jedburgh.
The ticket records that:
“On the 11th May 1787, Robert Burns Esqu. was entered and received into the liberties of this Burgh and made a free Burgess and guild brother of the same, who gave his oath with all ceremonies used and wont. Whereupon he required acts of court and protested for an extract of the same under the common seal of the Burgh”.
On the same day that he received his Burgess ticket Burns took his farewell of Jedburgh with some regrets, mostly because he was leaving Miss Lindsay behind.
The following story is both Duns and Jedburgh’s history, so it is written for both towns.
William Cruickshank, M.A. was born in Duns and was trained by his uncle and namesake, William Cruickshank, a famous schoolmaster at Duns. In 1770 he was appointed Rector of the High school of the Canongate in Edinburgh, and in 1772 he received a classical Mastership in the High school. Burns and he became close friends and the poet lodged with him at number 29 afterwards number30) St. James Square, which is now part of the Register House in Princes Street. William Cruickshank had only one daughter, Jenny, and at 12 years was a great favourite of the Bards. During the poets stay with her father, Jenny played songs of Burns on her harpsichord and sang them to him while he adjusted them to the music, which resulted in the perfect marriage of words and music. Burns acknowledged his indebtedness to her in “A rosebud by my early walk” and “Beauteous rosebud, young and gay”. Jenny became the wife of James Henderson, a Writer in Jedburgh, and when she died in 1835 she was buried in Jedburgh Abbey/ William Cruickshank, died in 1795 and is buried in the “Old Calton Burying ground” in Edinburgh.
On his death Burns wrote this tribute:
Epitaph for Mr. W Cruickshank
“Honest Will to heaven is gane,
An’ mony shall lament him,
His faults they all in Latin lay,
In English nane e’er kent them”