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Rambles Through the Land of Burns
Chapter 13


KILMARNOCK--A GLANCE AT ITS HISTORY, PROGRESS, AND APPEARANCE--KILMARNOCK HOUSE--THE LADY’S WALK--BURNS IN KILMARNOCK--FRIENDS, AND PLACES ASSOCIATED WITH HIS NAME--THE TOWN OF HIS DAY--THE LAIGH KIRK--THE CHURCHYARD--THE HIGH CHURCH--”BLACK JOCK RUSSELL” AND BURNS--THE SOULIS MONUMENT--”WEE JOHNIE”--THE KAY PARK--THE BURNS MONUMENT.

At this stage it will be as well to pause and say a word about Kilmarnock, for it is not only as intimately associated with the Poet’s name as any spot visited, but the centre from which these Rambles are taken. The town is beautifully situated in a valley through which the rivers Marnock and Irvine flow, and is, as Chambers’ describes it, “the largest and most elegant town in Ayrshire.” Two centuries ago it was a mere hamlet under the jurisdiction of a baronial lord who dwelt in Dean Castle, a now ruinous stronghold in its vicinity. In 1591 it was created a burgh of barony, and in 1672 a second charter was conferred upon it which endowed it with further privileges. In 1700, the Magistrates received a grant of the whole Common Good and Customs of the burgh from the superior, and from the date of that transaction it prosperity has been marked beyond all precedent. For a long period it was celebrated by the manufacture of the broad, flat worsted bonnets and striped cowls at one time universally worn throughout Scotland; and also for tanning, shoemaking, weaving, calico-printing, and the manufacture of carpets-- but now the snort of the steam engine, and the roar of machinery in numerous workshops and factories, proclaim a new era in its history, and announce that these crafts are superseded by engineering and other mechanical industries. With an increase of trade came the remodeling and extension of the town. Old streets were reconstructed or swept away altogether--in fact, as its historian (Archibald M’Kay) states, “so numerous are the additions which have been made to Kilmarnock since about the year 1816, that it may now be considered an entirely new town when compared with what it was at that period.” True, and I may be added that it now exhibit’s a series of broad modern streets little inferior to those of Glasgow and other cities, and that its 24,000 of a population are noted for industry and thrift. To facilitate the various businesses carried on, it has seven banking establishment; and, consistent with its old character, it abounds with “the means of grace,” there being no fewer than nineteen churches within a short distance of each other. Verily, the words of Burns are as applicable as ever--

“Now, auld Kilmarnock, cock thy tail,
And toss thy horns fu’ canty;
Nae mair thou’lt rowt out owre the dale,
Because thy pasture’s scanty;
For lapful’s large o’ gospel kail
Shall fill thy crib in plenty,
An’ runts o’ grace, the pink and wale,
No given by way o’ dainty,
But ilka day.”

The modern buildings throughout the town are of a superior order, but those which may be termed “public” are few, and contain little to interest the stranger. The Corn Exchange, however, is a most imposing structure, and in an antiquarian point of view Kilmarnock House is worth attention. It is situated in what is now St. Marnock Street, and is easily distinquished by its quaint old-fashioned appearance; but before the town encroached on its privacy it was surrounded by extensive well wooded policies, and was the residence of the Boyds, Earls of Kilmarnock, after the destruction of Dean Castle by fire. The fourth and last Earl crossed its threshold one blustery December morning to join the standard of Prince Charlie, but never returned to the quietude of its baronial shade. He fought at the battle of Falkirk, and materially assisted the Prince in gaining the victory, but at the disastrous battle of Culloden his brief career of adventure was brought to an abrupt close. When the army of the Prince had been to an abrupt close. When the army of the Prince had been defeated, and was seeking safely in flight, “the Earl of Kilmarnock, being half blinded with smoke and snow, mistook a party of Dragoons for the Pretender’s horse, and was accordingly taken. He was soon after led along the lines of the British Infantry, in which his son, then a young man, held the commission of ensign. The Earl had lost his hat in the strife, and his long hair was flying in disorder around his head and over his face. The soldiers stood mute in their lines, beholding the unfortunate nobleman. Among the rest stood Lord Kilmarnock, compelled by his situation to witness, without the power of alleviating, the humiliation of his father. When the Earl came past the place where his son stood, the youth unable to bear any longer that his father’s head should be exposed to the storm, stepped out of the ranks, without regard to discipline, and taking off his hate, placed it over his father’s disordered and wind-beaten locks. He then returned to his place without having uttered a word, while scarcely an eye that saw his filial affection but confessed its merits by a tear.”* It is only necessary to add that he was convicted of high treason, and was beheaded on Tower Hill, London, on the 18th August, 1746. A portion of a  shady avenue, know as “The Lady’s Walk,” may still be seen in the vicinity of this sad memento of the fallen house of Boyd, which is said to have been a favourite resort of Lady Kilmarnock after the tragic and melancholy end of her lord. There she said to have wandered and given vent to the grief which ultimately broke her heart. A strolling player, named Ashton Carle, composed the following highly meritorious lines during a visit to the locality:--

“THE LADY’S WALK

“A wild, weird look has the ‘Lady’s Walk,’
And the trees are stripp’d and old;
They solemn bend in mute-like talk,
In the twilight grey and cold.

“Each gaunt and rugged sinewy root
Starts up along the way--
Memento sad of the lady’s foot
That erst did mournful stray.

“Ghost-like the boughs loom in the sky,
And, skeleton-like, they meet;
The very pathway, white and dry,
Curves like a winding-sheet.

“The rustling leaves that Autumn weaves
In wither’d hillock lie,
And the chilly wind sough just behind
Like the lady’s tearful sigh.

‘Heavily rolls the evening mist,
And the rising night-winds throb
By root and shoot, just where they list,
Till they sound like the lady’s sob.

“And the nightly shadows come and go,
And the gaunt trees bow and wave,
Like weeping mourners, to and fro
Over a dear one’s grave.

“Then this is the far-famed ‘Lady’s Walk,’
And walketh she there to-night?
Holdeth her spirit silent talk
With that moon so sickly white?

“I hear no sound but the rushing bound
Of the swell’d and foaming river,
That seems to say: I cannot stay,
But must on for ever and ever.”

So much of the famous town of Kilmarnock. Famous did I write? Yes. Well, it is famous for many things, but more especially for being the poetical birthplace of Robert Burns. When residing at Mossgiel he was often to be seen standing in its Cross on market-days, and from the shop of John Wilson, the only printer and publisher in the town at the time, the unpretentious first edition of his poems was given to the world. In it, too , he was introduced to individuals who were in every way superior to the rustic class amongst whom the circumstances of his birth compelled him to mingle, and it is no exaggeration to state that it was mainly owing to the assistance and encouragement he received from Kilmarnock men when “skulking from covert to covert” in is vicinity, that his poems were printed and himself prevented from bidding “farewell to dear old Scotland, and his ungrateful, ill-advised Jean.”

It is stated in an article in the Contemporaries of Burns-- a now scarce work--that John Goudie, whom Burns styles “a terror of the Whigs,” had the honour of bringing this about. It appears that he called at Mossgiel during harvest, and that Burns went out with him, and while setting behind a stook read to his visitor several of his poems. “Goudie, delighted with what he heard, threw out hints of a desire to get the poems published and invited the bard to visit him at Kilmarnock. There, it is said, Burns met at Goudie’s table a group of the better class of people living in the town--the town clerk Paterson, a Dr. Hamilton, Major Parker (banker), Dr. William Moore, and Mr. Robert Muir (merchant). He appeared amongst these respectable in his simple hodden grey, but doubtless astonished them by his wit and verses. As visitors of Goudie we cannot doubt that they were most of them partisans of the new light. What immediately followed from the visit to Goudie we cannot tell; apparently, any wish that may have been formed either by the arch-heretic himself or any of his friends to get the poems published did not come to any immediate effect.” John Goudie lived in the second flat of the building now occupied by the Messrs Stewart, ironmongers, Cross, and was next door neighbour to Bailie Gregory, father of Mr. J.S. Gregory, registrar. Burns was on intimate terms with both families, corrected many of his proofs in the house of the first, took “pot luck” occasionally in that of the second, and delighted to listen to the tones of a piano which Mrs. Gregory occasionally played for his entertainment. This piano was the first instrument  of the kind in Kilmarnock, and probably the first Burns ever saw or heard. It is in good preservation, and has found an asylum in the house of her now aged son, who cherished it as a souvenir of loved ones gone before. Goudie was a man of considerable learning, held advanced ideas, and was the author of several heterodox publications. One of these-- Essays on various important subjects, moral and divine, being an attempt to distinguish true from false religion-- attracted considerable attention, and was designated, “Goudie’s Bible.” “Happening to go into a bookseller’s shop one day in Ayr he met a clergyman of his acquaintance at the door.” ‘What have you been doing her?’ jocularly inquired Goudie. ‘Just buying a few ballads,” retorted the minister, ‘to make psalms to your bible.’” He died in 1809 at an advanced age.

The Kilmarnock friends of Burns were all gentlemen of refined intellectual tastes and social standing. Gilbert Burns says:--”Mr. Robert Muir, merchant in Kilmarnock, was one of those early friends that Robert’s poetry procured him, and one who was dear to his heart.” Seemingly his affection for this friend was not misplaced, for he subscribed for seventy-two copies of the first edition of his poems, and forty of the second.

Mr. Thomas Samson of elegiac fame was another warm friend of our poet. He carried on the business of nursery and seedsman, was an ardent sportsman, and altogether a jolly good fellow. Burns visited at his house, sat at his table, and was intimate with his family and friends; indeed, the glass out of which he was in the habit of drinking is an heirloom in the family. The worthy sportsman’s nephew Mr. Charles Samson, Turnbull the poet, William Parker, and other early friends and patrons of Ayrshire ploughman in
Kilmarnock, might be enumerated to show how his manly worth and poetic ability was appreciated.

On the 26th October, 1786, Burns was honoured by being elected an honorary member of St. John’s Masonic Lodge, Kilmarnock, and from the circumstance there is little doubt of his having spent many “festive nights” with the brethren. The following extract from a chapter in Mr. M’Kay’s History of Kilmarnock, which is entirely devoted to “Burns and his Kilmarnock friends,” is quite appropriate:--”The house of Nanse Tinnock, in Mauchline, has been much talked of; and the Edinburgh taverns of Johnnie Dowie and Lucky Pringle, where he (Burns) often met Nichol of the High School and others, have also been noticed by some of his biographers; but nothing has been said, so far as we are aware, respecting the house of Sandy Patrick, in which the poet was wont to spend many merry evenings in Auld Killie, with the hero of one of this happiest poems, namely--Tam Samson, and other  boon companions. Sandy, who was married to a daughter of Mr. Samson, brewed his own premises the cap ale which  the old gentleman used to drink with Burns and other social cronies after a day’s shooting. Sandy’s Public, which consisted of two storeys, and which was famed

‘Thro’ a’ the streets an’ neuks o’ Killie’

for its superior drink, was situated at the foot of Back Street (at the time one of the principal thoroughfares of the town), and was called ‘The Bowling-green House,’ from being near the old Bowling-green, which lay immediately behind it, in the direction of the present George Inn. But like Sandy himself, and other jolly mortals who were accustomed to assemble within its walls, the house which the presence of genius had hallowed, and which would have been an object of interest to many at the present day, is now no more, having taken down about the time that East George Street was formed. In our humble opinion, however, the name of Sandy Patrick is worthy of a place in the biographies of the poet, along with those of Nanse Tinnock, Lucky Pringle, and Johnny Dowe.”

When Burns frequented Kilmarnock it had only some 6000 of a population, and its streets were few, narrow, and intricate. Indeed, according to the History already quoted, “the town presented a mean and inelegant appearance,” and the Cross was “somewhat contracted in form compared with the spacious appearance it now presents.” At the widening of the Cross many old buildings were removed, and amongst them the one which contained the shop of John Wilson, the printer of the first edition of the poems of Burns. It is stated in the above work that it stood “where Portland Street now opens into the Cross,” and that “the printing-office in which the poems were first put into type was in the attic storey of that land on the left of the Star Inn Close, as entered from Waterloo Street.” The writer goes on to say that “the property then belonged to Mr. James Roberson of Tankardha’, whose sister, the late Mrs. Buntine, used to tell his informant that , when living in the Star Inn Close, she noticed frequently the visits of Burns to the printing premises when his work was in the press.” The premises of Mr. James M’Kie, the enterprising publisher, who has done so much for the literature of Burns, and who lately issued a perfect fac-simile of the unpretentious firs edition of the poet’s works, are within a few yards of the humble tenement referred to, in which the wooden press of “Wee Johnie,” with many a jolt and creak, gave out printed sheets which were destined to make Kilmarnock famous, and waft the name of Burns over the world.

As Mr. M’Kie is an enthusiastic admirer of the Poet and collector of Burnsiana, and as his name is inseparably associated with the Burns Monument movement in Kilmarnock, a brief notice of his career may prove acceptable, seeing that he is in every sense of the word a self-made man, and that the position he has attained is wholly due to indomitable appearance. On the 7th of October, 1816, he made his appearance on the stage of life, but not having been gifted with the proverbial “silver spoon,” he was at the tender age of eleven-and-a-half years apprenticed to Mr. Hugh Crawford, Printer and Bookseller, Kimarnock, at the munificent sum of one shilling weekly for the first year. At the conclusion of his apprenticeship he set off to Glasgow, and there received a six months’ engagement to work at his trade in Elgin. At its fulfilment he removed to Saltcoats to manage a bookselling establishment, and remained there for nine years, during which time he succeeded to his employer’s business, and entered into the married state; but like most Kilmarnock men, he sighed for his native town, and upon the old-established business of Messrs Hugh Crawford & Son coming into the market he purchased it and settled in the place of his birth in November, 1844. In October, 1839, Mr. M’Kie commenced a periodical, consisting almost wholly of poetry, entitled the Ayrshire Inspirer, and in 1843, a meritorious annual, entitled the Ayshire Wreath. In October, 1856, he started the Kilmarnock Weekly Post, and sustained if for several years. In May, 1878, he was entertained to dinner by a large number of friends on the occasion of his having completed the fiftieth year of his active business life, and was highly complimented on it success. Few men have done more to disseminate Burns literature than Mr. K’Kie, He is at all times zealous in everything concerning the memory and fame of the Bard, and may be said to have been the life and soul of movement so successfully carried out for the erection of a monument to the Poet’s memory in Kilmarnock.

The spacious Cross of Kilmarnock is the great point of attraction to strangers and residents. Seven streets branch off it, and in its immediate neighbourhood are the only antiquities and places associated with the name of our poet of which the town can boast.

“Switch to the Laigh Kirk ane and a’.
And there tak’ up your stations;
Then aff to Begbie’s in a raw,
An’ pour divine libations
For joy this day.”

“Begbie’s” is now the Angel Inn. It is situated in Market Lane, is an attractive as ever, and presided over by as accommodating a host as it was in the days of Burns; but the Laigh Kirk, to which he refers, and in which the “Ordination” which provoked his satire took place, was taken down, and the present edifice somewhat enlarged occupies its site. The massive square tower which belonged to the old church, however, still stands, and bears date 1410. The church- yard is of peculiar interest, and the rambler will find much in it to cause him to linger. At the north-west corner of the church will be found the graves of Mr. Thomas Samson, the Rev. Dr. Mackinlay, and the Rev. John Robinson, dramatis personae of our poet, who curiously enough liewithin a few inches of each other, and are mentioned together in the first stanza of the worthy sportsman’s elegy.

“Has auld Kilmarnock seen the Deil?
Or great M’Minlay thrawn his heel?
Or Robinson again grown weel
To preach an’ read?
‘Na, waur than a’?’ cries ilka chiel,
‘Tam Samson’s dead.’”

These worthy clergymen rest side by side, and the “weel-worn clay” of Mr. Samson at the head of their graves under a freestone tablet on which the epitaph by Burns is graven. Near to the graves of these contemporaries are the resting places of several local martyrs. A stone behind the church bears the following:--”HERE LIE THE HEADS OF JOHN ROSS AND JOHN SHIELDS, WHO SUFFERED AT EDINBURGH, DEC. 27TH, 1666, AND HAD THEIR HEADS SET UP IN KILMARNOCK.”

“Our persecutors mad with wrath and ire,
In Edinburgh members some do be, some here;
Yet instantly united they shall be,
And witness’ gainst this nation’s perjury.”

These martyrs were found with arms in their possession, and were executed on suspicion of being in town to watch the movements of the King’s troops.

Another stone of like interest, which was renewed by the inhabitants in 1823, is to the memory of John Nisbet, the only martyr executed in the town. The particular spot in  the Cross where the gallows stood was for many years marked by the initials of his name, but during the recent repairing of the causeway the white stones which formed the letters were removed and a circular block of granite substituted. It was indented into the causeway by Mr.Charles Reid, road  surveyor, a gentleman whose antiquarian taste was prompted him to preserve many old landmarks and nick-nacks at once interesting and curious. It will b found near the kerbstone a little to the east of Waterloo Street. It bears the follow- ing:--”JOHN NISBET WAS EXECUTED HERE ON 14TH APRIL, 1683.”

The humble memorial to the memory of this martyr bears  this inscription:--”HERE LIES JOHN NISBET, WHO WAS TAKEN BY MAJOR BALFOUR’S PARTY, AND SUFFERING AT KILMARNOCK, 14TH APRIL, 1683, FOR ADHERING TO THE WORD OF GOD AND OUR COVENANTS.”

“Come, reader, see, here pleasant Nisbet lies,
His blood doth pierce the high and lofty skies;
Kilmarnock did his latter hour perceive,
And Christ his soul to Heaven did receive,
Yet bloody Torrence did his body raise,
And buried him into another place;
Saying, ‘Shall rebels lie in graves with me?
We’ll bury him where evil doers be.’”

The only other martyrs’ stone is close to the former, and in the following simple language tells the mournful tale of those whom it commemorates:--

“SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF THOMAS FINDLAY, JOHN CUTHBERSTON, WILLIAM BROWN, ROBERT AND JAMES ANDERSON (NATIVES OF THIS PARISH), WHO WERE TAKEN PRISONERS AT BOTHWEILL, JUNE 22ND, 1679, SENTENCED TO TRANSPORTATION FOR LIFE, AND DROWNED ON THEIR PASSAGE NEAR THE ORKNEY ISLES. ALSO, JOHN FINDLAY, WHO SUFFERED MARTYRDOM 15TH DEC., 1682, IN THE GRASSMARKET, EDINBURGH.”

“Peace to the church! when foes her peace invade,
Peach to each noble martyr’s honoured shade!
They, with undaunted courage, truth, and zeal,
Contended for the church and country’s weal;
We share the fruits, we drop the grateful tear,
And peaceful altars o’er their ashes rear.”

The stones referred to are the most noteworthy, but there are others to the memory of the honored dead which will also prove interesting.

Tradition has it, and excavation has proved, that this graveyard was of much greater extent, and included part of the ground now forming surrounding streets. Indeed, the writer has seen human bones exhumed in the centres of the now populous thoroughfares on its west and south sides.

In 1731, the Low Church became too small, and a new church or chapel-of-ease was erected to accommodate the increasing population. It is also situated, within a short distance of the Cross, and deserves the rambler’s attention, as it was the building in which the Rev. John Russell, a well-known Burn’s hero who figures in The Holy Fair, The Twa Herds, and The Kirk’s Alarm, officiated.  But now the

Lord’s ain trumpet touts,
Till a’ the hills are rairin’,
And echoes back return the shouts--
BLACK RUSSELL is na sparin’:
His piercing words, like Highland swords,
Divide the joints and marrow;
His talk o’ hell, where devils dwell,
Our vera sauls does harrow
Wi’ fricht that day.”

And again--

“He fine a mangy sheep could scrub,
Or nobly fling the Gospel club,
And New-Light herds could nicely drub,
Or pay their skin;
Could shake them o’er the burning dub,
Or heave them in.”

A correspondent of Robert Chamers wrote--”He was the most tremendous man I ever saw. Black Hugh Macpherson was a beauty in comparison. His voice was like thunder, and his sentiments were such as must have shocked any class of hearers in the least more refined than those whom he usually addressed.” It is stated in the History of Kilmarnock that “his appearance completely harmonized with his severity of manner, for he was uncouth and robust in person, remarkably dark-complexioned, and stern and gloomy in countenance. On Sabbaths, during the intervals of divine services, he would frequently go through the streets, and even to the out-skirts of the town, with a large walking stick in his hand, watching for disorderly boys and other stragglers; and such as he discovered, he would rebuke for their ungodliness. In short, he was a terror to the inhabitants, especially on the Sabbath, that the moment the sound of his ponderous staff was heard upon the streets the doors that chanced to be opened were instantly closed, and every countenance assumed an air of the deepest sanctity. In theological knowledge few of his companions were more deeply versed; and, in religious controversy, he was not easily driven from his position. Even Burns, beneath whose strokes of satire the clergy of Ayrshire were wont to lie prostrate, was on one occasion defeated, it is said, by his determined mode of arguing. They had met accidentally in a barber’s shop in Fore Street, and whether Mr Russell knew the poet and meant to chastise him for his reputed heresy we know not, but they soon became engaged in a warm discussion respecting some particular point of faith; and, according to our informant, who was present, the poet, with all his ingenuity and argumentative powers, was so baffled by his opponent that he became silent, and left the shop in a hurried manner.”

The High Church is now a parish church, is beautifully fitted-up internally, and contains handsome stained-glass “memorial” windows, though externally it is a plain-looking edifice. It is surrounded by a neatly kept churchyard, enclosed by a high wall. In a niche in this wall, near the gateway in Soulis Street, there is a fluted pillar surmounted by an urn, which commemorates an English nobleman name Lord Soulis. Tradition states that he was killed by an arrow which one of the Boyds of Dean Castle shot at him from a distance. On the front of the pediment surmounting the niche is the following:--

“TO THE MEMORY OF LOR SOULIS, A.D. 1444.
ERECTED BY SUBSCRIPTION A.D. 1825.
‘THE DAYS OF OLD TO MIND I CAL.’ “

The graveyard contains many handsome tombstones; but the most noteworthy is to the memory of John Wilson, the cautious, close-fisted printer of the first edition of the poems of Burns. He was the son of a Kilmarnock bailie, and attained the same civic position in the town of Ayr, where he settled and in company with his brother Peter established the Ayr Advertiser shortly after giving the Mossgiel ploughman’s poems to the world. The epitaph--

“Whoe’er thou art, oh reader, know
That death has murder’d Johnnie;
And here his body lies fu’ low--
For saul he ne’er had ony”--

which Burns hurled at him, and made him print by way of joke, has been considered too severe; but if the statement that the poet “pocketed, all expenses deducted, nearly twenty pounds: from the sale of his Kilmarnock edition be true, and there is no reason to doubt it, it is not a whit. Indeed, when Wilson’s account for printing is looked into stronger language would be justifiable. The following facsmilie of this curious document, and the remarks appended to it, are taken from Chamber’s excellent edition of the poet’s works:

“MR. ROBERT BURNS.
…………………………..TO JOHN WILSON…… DR.

Aug. 28, 1786.--Printing 15 sheets at 19s,…………..£14.…..5.….0
………………..19 Reams 13 quires paper at 17s,……16.…..4.….0
………………..Carriage of the paper…………………0.……8.…9
………Stitching 612 Copies in blue paper at 1 3/4d,…4.……9.…3
……………………………….....................................___________
………………………………...................................£35.…..17.…0
Aug. 19.-------By Cash,……………………………...£6.…….3.….0
“ 28.…….By Cash………………………………14.…….13.….0
By 70 Copies,…………………………….................10.…….10.….0
________________________________________£ 31.………6.…..0
………………………………................................£4.……….11.….0
By 9 copies……………………………….................1.………..7.….0
_______________________________________________
………………………………...................£3.………4.…0
October 6th By cash in full,…………………………3.…… .…4...…0
KILMARNOCK. Settled the above account.
JOHN WILSON.

“It appears that Mr. Wilson had here, by an error in his arithmetic, undercharged the Pet Ten Shillings, the second item in the account being properly £16 14s., instead of £16 4s. “Six hundred Copies at 3s. ach would produce £90; and if there were no more to be deducted from that sum the expenses of paper, print, and stitching, there would remain upwards of £54 as profit. The Poet, however, speaks of realizing only £20 by the speculation.”

Wilson died at Ayr on the 6th May, 1821, and by his will left a share in a property in Kilmarnock, to accumulate until there was sufficient funds to build a school in which  poor children were to be taught “reading, writing, and arithmetic only.”

In the vicinity of the Cross also is the Kay Park--an ornamental piece of ground well adapted for recreation and healthful enjoyment, which was gifted to the town by the  late Alexander Kay [born March 1795, did January 1866] --a Kilmarnockonian who amassed a fortune of £70,000 in  Glasgow as an insurance broker. Of the £16,000 bequeathed to his native place £6000 was set aside by the trust for the erection and endowment of two schools, and the remainder for the purchase and maintenance of this place of public resort. On a height within these grounds, overlooking the town, stands the handsomest tribute to the poet’s memory yet erected. It is built of red sandstone hewn from rock on  the banks of the Ayr near to the spot where the poet viewed the bonnie lass of Ballochmyle, and towers to a height of sixty-five feet. It is Gothic in design, and represents a baronial tower of the olden time. At its front, stairs lead up to an alcove fifteen feet in height, in which stands a chaste statue of the poet cut from a block of the finest Sicilian marble by the eminent sculptor, W.G. Stevenson of Edinburgh. The figure--which is eight feet from foot to head--represents the poet, attired in a tight-fitting coat and knee-breeches, leaning against the trunk of a tree, with a book in the one hand and a pencil in the other. The head is turned slightly to the right, which gives the spectator in front of the figure the view of the features as they are shown in the now familiar portrait by Naysmith. Round the base is a walk three feet, and in the interior of the building is a room devoted to relics and articles associated with the life and writings of the poet. From the top of the tower--which is reached by a winding stair--a most gorgeous and extensive view of the land of Burns is witnessed. At the spectator’s feet is the town of Kilmarnock hemmed in as it were by verdant slopes and distant rugged hills, which rigorously preclude a glimpse of

“Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a toun surpasses
For honest men and bonnie lasses.”

To the north is the ruin of Dean Castle--a sad memento of the fallen house of Boyd--nestling in a beautiful vale through which the Marnock glides; and beyond it the moors of Fenwick and Eaglesham, famed lurking place of the Covenanters during the era of the Persecution. To the east, there is a fine far-stretching view backed by Loudoun Hill, “Loundoun’s bonnie woods and braes,” and the moors of Galston, on which the poet witnessed the glorious light of the rising sun on the morning of “The Holy Fair”--a pleasing reminiscence; but they also recall a sad passage in his history, for when traversing them on a bleak blustry afternoon he measured the last song he ever expected to measure in Caledonia. A little to the southward the position of the farm of Mossgiel can be indicated with considerable distinctness, as also other places which the poet loved and celebrated in song. There is also, when the weather is clear, a magnificent prospect of Arran and the Frith of Clyde. On the whole, the view is one of great natural beauty; but no word picture can convey an adequate idea of the hills, woods, plains, and fells which lie around in panoramic magnificence.

It was long considered a blemish on the reputation of Kilmarnock that it contained no memorial of the poet. Although a statue to his memory was long talked of by the town’s people, no practical step for its erection was taken until the movement received an impetus by the unveiling of a statue to the poet’s memory on the 25th of January, 1877, in Glasgow. “On the evening of the day following a public demonstration was held in the George Inn Hall, Kilmarnock --Provost Sturrock in the chair, and Mr Andrew Turnbull (president of the Burns Club), croupier--at which it was proposed, and unanimously agreed to, that a statue be erected in some suitable place in Kilmarnock in honour of the poet. The following were appointed a committee to carry out the proposal:--Provost Sturrock, Bailie Craig, Bailie Muir, Bailie Wilson, Dean of Guild Andrews; Messrs John Baird, John Gilmour, Thomas M’Culloch, George Humphrey, James Stirling, John A. Mather, Alexander Walker, William Mitchel, John G. Hamilton, James Roberson, Hugh Shaw, David Phillips, Andre Christie, James Arbuckle, Ninian Anderson, Dr M’Alister, Andrew Turnbull, James M’Kie, and James Rose--Andrew Turnbull, convener; Hugh Shaw, treasurer; James Rose and James M’Kie, joint-secretaries. At a meeting of the committee on February 23rd, 1877, the Convener, Treasurer, and Secretaries, with Messrs John Baird, Ninian Anderson, Thomas M’Culloch, and James Arbuckle were appointed a sub-committee to carry out the details of the movement, and it was intimated that the sum of six hundred  and fourteen pounds (£614) had already been subscribed. At a meeting of the general committee on April 6th, 1877, a report from the sub-committee recommending open competition by sculptors was agreed to--two premiums, one of £50 and one of £25, being offered for the best and second best models. The amount of the subscriptions at this date was twelve hundred and eighty--two pounds (£1282). On June 7th, 1877, it was suggested at a meeting of the general committee that, as the subscriptions had far exceeded expectations, an ornamental building and a marble statue of the poet in it should be erected. At a general meeting of the subscribers held in the Town Hall on September 8th, 1877, the sub-committee recommended that a marble statue to cost eight hundred pounds (£800), and an ornamental building estimated at fifteen hundred pounds (£1500), should be erected in the Public Park--a site for the building having been granted by the Kay Trustees. This was agreed to, and the sub-committee instructed to carry out the decision. At a meeting of sub-committee on October 9th, 1877, Mr Robert S. Ingram, architect, on behalf of Messrs J. & R.S. Ingram, submitted amended design of ornamental building, which was accepted, and hew was instructed to prepare drawings and specifications of the same. On December 6th and 7th, 18777, the compet- ing models, 21 in all, were publicly exhibited in the George Inn Hall, and on December 14th the committee awarded the commission for the statue to Mr W.G. Stevenson, 2 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh; the premium of fifty pounds (£50) to Mr D.W. Stevenson, 2 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh; and the premium of twenty-five pounds (£25) to Mr Chas M’Bride, 7 Hope Street, Edinburgh. On the Burns Anniversary, Jan. 25th, 1878, a Burns Concert was held in the Corn Exchange Hall, which was crowded to overflowing. On March 29th, 1878, the contract between the sub-committee and Mr. W. G. Stevenson, Edinburgh, for the marble statue was duly signed. In the months to of March, April, and May the sub-committee got working plans and estimates for the erection of the ornamental building in the Kay Park. These, after modifications, were finally agreed to, and at a meeting of June 4th, 1878, Mr Ingram, architect, intimated that Mr. Andrew Calderwood had signed contract for the erection of the building, the entire cost of which was estimated at fourteen hundred and fifty pounds (£1450).” [From “Short Sketch of the Monument Movement,” deposited in the Memorial Stone of the Monument.]

When the building was partly constructed it was agreed that the Memorial Stone would be laid with full Masonic honours by R.W. Cochran-Patrick, Esq. of Woodside, Depute Provincial Grand Maser for Ayshire, and on the 14th of September, 1878, about fifteen thousand people of all classes and conditions of life assembled to do honour to the Poet’s memory. Kilmarnock was moved to its depths, and excitement ran high as a highly imposing procession moved along the streets to the scene of operations in the following order:--Body of Police, the Burns Monument Sub-Committee, Carters, Town Council and County Gentlemen, Burns Monument General Committee and Burns Club, 5th Battery Ayrshire Artillery Volunteers, 1st Ayrshire Rifle Volunteers, Iron Trades, Good Templars, Oddfellows, Tailors, Free Gardeners, Foresters, Joiners and other Wood Workers, Operative Masons, Chimney Sweeps, Operative Gardeners, and one hundred Masonic Lodges.

The following account of the processions taken from the report of the proceedings in the Kilmarnock Standard of September 21, 1878:--”The procession was exceedingly well organized and presented a most imposing appearance. Immediately behind the pioneers, as usual, came the carters, who undoubtedly formed the most note-worthy feature of the display. They numbered no less than 106--the largest turn-out of the kind ever seen in Kilmarnock--and were mounted on strong, well-built, and gaily-decorated horses. Each man wore a Kilmarnock bonnet, decked with blue ribbons, and also a blue rosette on the breast of his coat. The calvacade as it passed along the streets attracted great attention, and the hearty cheers which greeted the men showed how favourable was the impression they created Another noted group was the Foresters. Each lodge was preceded by three mounted men dressed in the picturesque garb of the craft, having the bow slung over the shoulder with the quiver by the side. The Free Gardeners also appeared in a very pleasing costume. Foremost among the trades by rightful position, though the order of them had been determined by the accident of the ballot, marched the iron trades, which now form the chief element of our local industry………….. They carried some beautifully finished models, including a locomotive, two carriages and a van, forming a railway train with every appliance complete. The joiners excited the interest of the crowd by appearing with a lorry which had been fitted up with a double bench, at which two men in white aprons carefully planed away at a piece of wood, and seemed to be so intent on their work as to be altogether ignorant of the panorama of which they formed a part, or of the thousands of eager eyes under whose gaze they were passing. The Oddfellows as usual presented a highly respectable appearance, and the Good Templars also turned out well, among them being a goodly sprinkling of females. Almost hid in the general mass was a small band of chimney-sweeps, whose presence would have passed unnoticed had it not been for the banner which they carried and on which was inscribed in large letter, ‘By dirt we live.’ Their appearance did not bear out the motto, as for once, at least, they had cleaned all the dirt away from themselves, and come out in presentable fashion like the others to honour the  Ayrshire bard. It is impossible to notice in detail all the component parts of the procession, but it may not be out of place to refer to the presence among the Freemasons of the Lodge 133--St. David’s of Tarbolton. This is the mother lodge of the poet, which from some cause lay dormant for 42 years, and was only resuscitated by the Mauchline brethren in January of last year in order that it might take part in the Burns demonstration in Glasgow. Alongside of this lodge was 135--the St. James Kilwinning of Tarbolton--which the poet joined on his leaving the St. David, and in which he occupied the second highest post. It is estimated that about 4000 took part in the procession.”

When the procession was marshalled round the monument, the ceremony of laying the Memorial stone was proceeded with amid a dead impressive silence. The following account of the ceremony is taken from the newspaper report already quoted:--”The Rev. MrInglis of Kilmaurs, Provincial Grand Chaplain, offered up a brief, appropriate and impressive prayer, after which the Depute Provincial Grand Master having directed the Provincial Grand Secretary (Bro. Wylie) deposited in the cavity of the stone a glass bottle, hermetically sealed, containing:--Short sketch of the monument movement. Alphabetical list of subscribers showing subscriptions to the extent of tow thousand two hundred and fifty pounds. Copy of Burns’ poems (Mr M’Kie’s fac-simile edition.) Copy of the Kilmarnock Standard, the Glasgow Herald, N.B. Daily Mail, Glasgow News, Scotsman, Review, Ayr and  Ardossan newspapers; all of date, September 14th, 1878. Registration statistics of the parish of Kilmarnock for 1858; digest of census of 1871 for the parish, with registration statistics; vital statistics from the registers of the parish, for 1876 and 1877, by Mr James Smith Gregory, registar. The current coins of the realm from a farthing to a sovereign. Standard measure of one foot and standard weight of 1 lb. Monograph on a new genus of rugose corals from the carboniferrous lime-stone of Scotland by James Thomson, F.G.S. The Provincial Grand Secretary then read the inscription on the brass plate placed over the glass bottle. The inscription in as follows:--”BY THE FAVOUR OF ALMIGHTY GOD, ON THE 14TH DAY OF SEPTEMBER, ANNO DOMINI EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-EIGHT, AND THE ERA OF MASONRY 5878, AND IN THE FORTY-SECOND YEAR OF THE REIGN OF OUR BELOVED SOVEREIGN, VICTORIA FIRST, THE MEMORIAL STONE OF THIS MONUMENT, ERECTED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION IN HONOUR OF THE GENIUS OF ROBERT BURNS, SCOTLAND’S NATIONAL POET, WAS LAID BY R. WM. COCHRAN-PATRICK, ESQ. OF WOODSIDE, BEITH, RIGHT WORHSIPFUL DEPUTE PROVINCIAL GRAND MASTER FOR AYR- SHIRE (ATTENDED BY NUMEROUS MASONIC LODGES), ACCORDING TO THE ANCIENT USAGES OF MASONRY.’ After the Kilmarnock Brass Band had played ’Old Hundred,’ the necessary workmen were then brought forward, and these having completed the operative part of the ceremony, the Depute Provincial Grand Master spread the mortar in a most workman-like fashion with the silver trowel, and the stone was lowered. The acting Provincial Grand Wardens, under orders from the Provincial Grand Master, severally applied the level and the plummet. The Substitute Provincial Grand Master, under like orders, applied the square, and the Depute Grand Master then said: ‘Having, my Right Worship Brethren, full confidence in  your skill in our Royal Art, it remains with me now to finish this work,’ whereupn he gave the stone three knocks, saying: ‘May the Almighty Architect of the Universe look down with benignity upon our present undertaking, and on the happy completion of the work of which we have now laid the memorial stone, and may this monument be long preserved from peril and decay.’ The band then played the Masons’ Athem. On the music ceasing, the Substitute Provincial Grand Master then delivered to the Depute Grand Master a cornucopia, and to the acting senior and junior Provincial Grand Masters, silver vases with wine and oil The Depute Provincial Grand Master then spread corn on the stone, and poured theron wine and oil, conformably to ancient custo9m, saying:--”Praise be to the Lord, immortal and eternal, who formed the Heavens, laid the foundation of the earth, and extended the waters beyond it: Who supports the pillars of the nations, and maintains in order and harmony surrounding worlds. We implore thy aid: and may the Almighty Ruler of events deign to direct the hand of our gracious Sovereign, so that she may pour down blessings upon her people: and may that people, living under sage laws in a free Government, ever feel grateful for the blessings they enjoy.’ Three hearty cheers on the part of the crowd, and ‘Rule Britannia’ by the band, completed the Masonic part of the ceremony.”

After an eloquent address had been delivered by Mr. Cochran-Patrick, and a few remarks made by Provost Sturrock, the procession re-formed and marched back to town, where it dispersed. In the evening a public dinner was held in the George Inn Hall, at which Provost Sturrock presided. It was numerously attended, and amongst those present were several distinguished personages and local celebrities.

More need not be said regarding the quiet town of Kilmarnock, so I will conclude this chapter by reiterating the wish of George Campbell, a local poet, who flourished about 1787:--

“O! happy Marnock, lasting be thy peace!
May trading flourish and thy wealth increase!
Still may the loaded axle press the sand,
And commerce waft thy wares to ev’ry land!
Happy returns fill every heart with joy,
And poor industrious never want employ!”


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