This may shock you but there was strong drink taken at the Burns Supper on Friday. An excerpt from the letter below was read out which chronicled Burns’s visit to Loch Lomond, the Vale of Leven and Dumbarton. The bit about he and his friends riding drunkenly (No vera fou but gaylie yet) along the shores of the Loch, paint a picture:
Donald wheeled his horse, as if to cross before me to mar my progress, when down came his horse, and threw his rider’s breekless arse in a clipt hedge
I’d say that my colleagues and I were indeed ‘vera fou’ after celebrating the bard. Thank goodness there were no horses involved in getting us home. A rather nice chariot driven by a sober piper (not Rory Murphy then) fitted the bill.
To MR. JAMES SMITH, LINLITHGOW, FORMERLY OF MAUCHLINE. June 30th,1787.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
On our return, at a Highland gentleman’s hospitable mansion, [at Bannachra, on Loch Lomond Side] we fell in with a merry party, and danced till the ladies left us, at three in the morning. Our dancing was none of the French or English insipid formal movements; the ladies sung Scotch songs like angels, at intervals; then we flew at Bab at the Bowster, Tullochgorum, Loch Erroch Side, etc., like midges sporting in the mottie sun, or craws prognosticating a storm in a hairst day.
When the dear lasses left us, we ranged round the bowl till the good-fellow hour of six; except a few minutes that we went out to pay our devotions to the glorious lamp of day peering over the towering top of Ben Lomond. We all kneeled; our worthy landlord’s son held the bowl; each man a full glass in his hand; and I, as priest, repeated some rhyming nonsense, like Thomas-a-Rhymer’s prophecies, I suppose. After a small refreshment of the gifts of Somnus, we proceeded to spend the day on Loch Lomond, and reached Dumbarton in the evening.
We dined at another good fellow’s house, and, consequently, pushed the bottle; when we went out to mount our horses we found ourselves “No vera fou but gaylie yet.” My two friends and I rode soberly down the Loch side, till by came a Highlandman at the gallop, on a tolerably good horse, but which had never known the ornaments of iron or leather. We scorned to be out-galloped by a Highlandman, so off we started, whip and spur. My companions, though seemingly gaily mounted, fell sadly astern; but my old mare, Jenny Geddes, one of the Rosinante family, she strained past the Highlandman in spite of all his efforts with the hair halter: just as I was passing him, Donald wheeled his horse, as if to cross before me to mar my progress, when down came his horse, and threw his rider’s breekless arse in a clipt hedge; and down came Jenny Geddes over all, and my hardship between her and the Highlandman’s horse.
Jenny Geddes trode over me with such cautious reverence, that matters were not so bad as might well have been expected; so I came off with a few cuts and bruises, and a thorough resolution to be a pattern of sobriety for the future. I have yet fixed on nothing with respect to the serious business of life. I am, just as usual, a rhyming, mason-making, raking, aimless, idle fellow. However, I shall somewhere have a farm soon. I was going to say, a wife too; but that must never be my blessed lot …(etc)
Filed under: Dumbarton, History, loch lomond | Tagged: banachra, ben lomond, robert burns | 2 Comments »