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Bletherin’ Bitch

BELOW thir stanes lie Jamie’s banes;
  O Death, it’s my opinion,
Thou ne’er took such a bleth’rin bitch
  Into thy dark dominion!

Robert Burns writing about his friend James Humphrey.

Epitaph on a Noisy Polemic

In fact Humphrey outlived Burns by 48 years so the epitaph was written well in advance of the event of Humphrey’s death in 1844.

I was at the Mauchline Holy Fair yesterday and noticed this in the churchyard:


Humphrey, a stone-mason from Mauchline who was employed at both Lochlie and Mossgiel.

He was interviewed by Allan Cunningham in 1834, and recalled Burns with affection, indeed he was flattered even to have been on the receiving end of his poetic dig.

Humphrey had a degree of education and would sometimes engage Burns in debate, hence the subject of the epitaph.

It was also included as one of the epitaphs in the Kilmarnock edition.

I found this on a search:



8 Responses

  1. That epitaph reminds me of a Scottish comedian/poet, briefly famous, who appeared on the Michael Parkinson show wearing a raincoat and bunnet and carrying his poems in a plastic shopping bag. One of his epitaphs ran along these lines…

    Under this stone, all alone
    Lies the body of Sydney

    His horse it cleared the drystane dyke
    But alas poor Sydney didnae.

    I’ve no idea of his name and I’m beginning to wonder if it’s false memory syndrome ran amok.
    It wasn’t Ivor Cutler. Any ideas?

  2. Didn’t McCorrisken also do in that Parkie show the one about the three-legged dog who turned up at the local law enoforcer’s premises and said, “Sheriff, I’ve come for my paw.”?

  3. “enforcer’s”

  4. Just googled him now that I know his name. He died in 2004. Here’s another one…

    Dear Sir,

    Never bite your fingernails
    It makes your fingers lumpy
    Never bite your fingernails
    Yours Sincerely,


    Walking the line between bad and good.

  5. Burns knew his people:-

    LAMENT him, Mauchline husbands a’,
    He aften did assist ye;
    For had ye staid hale weeks awa,
    Your wives they ne’er had miss’d ye.

    Ye Mauchline bairns, as on ye press,
    To school in bands thegither,
    O tread ye lightly on his grass,—
    Perhaps he was your father!

  6. Hi , I’m Ronnie McCorrisken, the nephew of the late, great, Walter McCorrisken. Itry to keep his poetry alive by performances on the folk circuit in Scotland and beyond. Good to see he hasn’t been lost completely from the public consciousness. I can be contacted at rory905@hotmail.com The final word to Walter;


    A three-legged dug rode westward wan day
    Doon tae the jile at Moosejaw
    “Sheriff”, he said, on unsteady leg,
    “Sheriff, I’ve come for ma paw!”


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