• June 2012
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Mr Burns

I’m off today for a piss up on a cultural odyssey of discovery to Mauchline in deepest Ayrshire. At the Mauchline Holy Fair, some other sad middle aged reprobates Burns aficionados and I will be getting fou’ immersing ourselves in the music, theatre and poetry

The Burns Monument, Mauchline

Burns leased Mossgiel Farm on the outskirts Mauchline from Gavin Hamilton from 1784 to 1788 which coincided with his most prolific period (on several levels)
During this time Burns was to become a father for the first time (Elizabeth Paton, a farm servant at both Lochlie & Mossgiel, gave birth to a daughter “Dear Bought Bess”). He was to meet and marry Jean Armour, only for her father to cut up the marriage contract. Jean Armour subsequently gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl (Jean & Robert. Jean died aged four and is buried in the churchyard).
He was to meet and also marry “Highland” Mary Campbell, who was a nursemaid for Gavin Hamilton’s children. She and Burns planned to emigrate to Jamaica, but unfortunately she died at Greenock before this could take place.
Burns set out and had published his Kilmarnock Edition, and then planned to have an Edinburgh Edition published. Jean Armour then fell pregnant to Burns again, and subsequently had a second set of twins, both of which died within 10 days. They are also buried in the churchyard. Previous to this on 23rd February 1788 Burns had bought Jean a mahogany bed and had set up house with her in a room in what is now the “Burns House Museum” in Castle Street. On the 5th August 1788 the Reverend William “Daddy” Auld and Mauchline Kirk session recognise the authenticity of Burns’s marriage to Jean.
Burns also at this time had begun preparations to move to Ellisland Farm on the outskirts of Dumfries, and also became an excise man. In December 1788 Jean moved to Nithsdale to join Robert, thereby ending their association with Mauchline.

It was whilst living and having local connections with Mauchline that Burns wrote some of his finest works. He wrote approximately 56 poems among which were “The Holy Fair” “Holy Willies Prayer” “Holy Willies Epitaph” “The Kirks Alarm” “The Belles of Mauchline” “Man Was Made To Mourn” and many of his major works. He wrote at least 15 epistles (verse letters) to among others J. Lapraik, D. Sillars and the Reverand John McMath. He also wrote whilst in Mauchline, “The Jolly Beggars Cantata”, a major work in every manner, and one of his finest works “The Cotters Saturday Night” which is felt to be his tribute to his father.

This is a friend of mine, Sam Smillie, performing Holy Willie’s prayer, a poem about a hypocritical church elder from Mauchline, Willie Fisher. Some with Dumbarton connections may remember Sam as proprietor of Newtown Furnishers in the 80s and 90s

The text of the poem is here