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This is a reconstructed life sized ‘heid’ of Robert Burns we encountered at Mauchline on Saturday.


Going by contemporary descriptions and depictions of Burns, this is not what I imagined at all.

This ‘classical’ engraved image of the bard was by John Buego, a friend of Burns in 1787.


This image was commissioned for the publication of Burns’s Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, published by William Creech that year.

It is said that Burns was very pleased with the print and that he wrote to Beugo to congratulate him on it. In a copy of the book given to a friend he wrote the following lines.


This image by Archibald Skirving two years after Burns death, bears a striking resemblance to the Buego work.


One wonders what Rabbie would have thought of the ‘heid’ in Mauchline?

Thanks to the excellent Alexandria Burns Club Website


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:


Mauchline Holy Fair

Here stands a shed to fend the show’rs,
An’ screen our countra gentry;
There Racer Jess, an’ twa-three whores,
Are blinkin at the entry.
Here sits a raw o’ tittlin jads,
Wi’ heaving breast an’ bare neck;
An’ there a batch o’ wabster lads,
Blackguarding frae Kilmarnock,
For fun this day.

Robert Burns “The Holy Fair” 1786

There were over 70 stalls, street theatre, concerts and exhibitions.

Mauchline, where Burns lived for four years is a treasure chest of history for anyone interested in the bard. For example this is Poosie Nansie’s

In Poosie-Nansie’s held the splore,
To drink their orra duddies;
Wi’ quaffing an’ laughing,
They ranted an’ they sang,
Wi’ jumping an’ thumping,
The vera girdle rang,

The Jolly Beggars (For Love and Liberty)

In the churchyard, there were several graves bearing familiar names

The grave of William Fisher, aka Holy Willie

The grave of Mary Morrison who died when she was only 20 years old.

Oh Mary wouldst thou wreck his peace who for thy sake would gladly die
Or wouldst thou break that heart o’ his wha’s only faut was lovin’ thee
If love for love thou wiltnae gie at least be pity to me shown
A thocht ungentle cannae be the thocht o’ Mary Morrison

Burns wrote the poem/song about Mary when she was only 16.

One of the most poignant graves was that of Jean Armour and four Burns children (two sets of twin girls) who died  in infancy. The eldest of the four was not yet three when she died.

Capercaillie played an excellent version of this at the end of their one hour show:

Anyone within travelling distance should put this event in their diaries for next year.

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