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Rambles Through the Land of Burns
Chapter 7


FROM “THE COTTAGE” TO MOUNT OLIPHANT--THE APPEARANCE OF THE STEADING--GOSSIP,ETC.--PRIVATIONS ENDURED BY THE PARENTS OF BURNS WHEN RESIDING AT MOUNT OLIPHANT--THE POET’S FIRST SWEETHEART--THE FLITTING--”THE FESTIVAL” ON THE BANKS OF THE DOON--ALLOWAY KIRK--A LEGEND--THE GRAVE OF THE POET’S FATHER--OLD STONES.

From December, 1757, to Whitsunday, 1766, the parents of Robert Burns lived a contented, happy, and comparatively prosperous life in the cottage, and would have continued to do so had they not been ambitious to improve their condition and make a better provision for their family.  In an evil hour his father resolved to become a farmer, and with this object in view applied to Mr. Ferguson of Doonholm--to whom he had proved a faithful servant--for a lease of Mount Oliphant, a then tenantless farm on his estate.  The request was generously granted, but with its acceptance a series of misfortunes commenced which pursued the worthy man to his grave.

Being aware that this farm is only some two miles distant from the poet’s natal cot, I resolved to visit it, and for the purpose turned into a pleasant rural lane which branches off the highway some fifty yards beyond the celebrated “biggin’.” As the braes over which this old lane winds is climbed, the landscape becomes more varied and picturesque, and a wide expanse of country lies around, which, when once seen can never be forgotten. Even now I can picture it, and in fancy scan the view.  Yonder are the heights of Arran towering from the glistening bay; nearer are the Heads of Ayr, and the old Castle of Greenan standing out on the verge of the wave, while stretching inland are the brown rugged hills of Carrick, and on the table land below the shady woods of Newark, Doonholm, and Mountcharles, with their mansion-houses peering above the tree-tops; but the most interesting of all the objects on which the eye rest is the cottage in which the poet was born, the monument in his memory, and “Alloway’s auld haunted Kirk,” the scene of Tam o’ Shanter’s adventure with the witches.

There is no saying how romantic one might become over a delightful prospect; but, suffice it to say, a broad traffic-worn cross road was soon reached by whose side a burnie murmured and along which a man was driving a flock of sheep.  Here I rested on a small stone bridge over which the lane passes, and looking down into a clear brook, listened to its sweet babbling music, and the birds singing in gladsome minstrelsy in the rich foliage draping the bank.  After lingering by the delightful scene for a space, a sharp uphill walk brought me to a by-road which proved rugged and steep, and ultimately to Mount Oliphant, the farm on which the parents of our poet toiled and suffered for the long period of eleven years.

The humble buildings which constitute this steading are compactly build round a spacious quadrangular courtyard, opening to the road, but there is nothing about them to interest the visitor.  A number of hens were gathered round the kitchen door, clucking and cackling over the corn which a rosy-faced, bare-armed milk-girl was throwing them, and a collie, not unlike the one whose

“honest, sonsie, baws’nt face,
Aye gat him friends in ilka place,”

lay basking in the sun.. As I approached it rose, and after sniffing curiously about me, began to fawn and frisk in such a way that I wished him at a safe distance.  How far this familiarity would have extended it is hard to say had not an elderly dame appeared on the scene and told him to “gang an’ lie doun”--an order which, to all appearance, he intended to obey when it suited him.  To my question, “Is there aught of interest here in connection with Robert Burns?” she replied--”Deed no.  There used to be an auld crab-tree at the mouth o’ the close there that he used to play below when he was a bairn, but it was blawn doun ae windy nicht short syne.  The house, did you say?  Weel, like every ither thing it’s changed too, an’ I dinna think there’s a stane stan’in’ that was in it in his father’s time.”  To all appearances the statement was true, so the reader need not be troubled with more than the burden of our conversation.  During the summer months they have many visitors, “moistly gentry,” and one man, she affirmed, who had been sent by some society in America to view the place, was so enthusiastic that he sat in the kitchen and wrote for upwards of an hour, and told them things about Burns and his parents that they never knew.  “He was an extraordinary’ body,” she remarked, “an’ muckl at’en up wi’ everythin here awa.”  According to her, the rent of Munt Oliphant is seventy pounds a year.  The poet’s father had it at forty-five pounds, and found it all but impossible to wring the amount from the ungenial glebe, but now, with an improved system of husbandry, the first-mentioned sum is considered the reverse of excessive.

From it elevated situation Mount Oliphant is conspicuous from a great distance, and consequently commands a wide range of scenery which has undergone very little change since the boy poet wandered in its midst. Indeed the eye of man has seldom rested on a more pleasing or extensive prospect than that witnessed from this eminence.  Beautiful as it is, however, it brought neither peace nor contentment to the Burns’ family.  The soil of Mount Oliphant was poor and the rent high, and, to add to the discomfiture of a bad bargain, they entered upon it burdened with a debt of a hundred pounds.  Hard labour and rigid economy were vainly opposed to the tide of misfortune by which they were overtaken, but allow Gilbert Burns, the poet’s brother, to tell the sorrowful tale in his candid, simple way.  In a letter to Mrs Dunlop, he says: “For several years butcher’s meat was a stranger in the house, while all the members of the family exerted them- selves to the utmost of their strength, and rather beyond it, in the labours of the farm.  My brother, at the age of thirteen, assisted in thrashing the crop of corn, and at fifteen was the principal labourer on the farm, for we had no hired servant, male or female.  The anquish of mind we felt at our tender years, under these straits and difficulties, was very great. To think that our father growing old (for he was now above fifty), broken down with the long-continued fatigues of his life, with a wife and five other children, and in a declining state of circumstances--these reflections produced in my brother’s mind and mine sensations of the deepest distress.” Notwithstanding incessant labour, and the retrenchment of expenses, the worthy father managed to give his boys several snatches of education, and by the time Robert was twelve years of age he was “a critic in substantives, verbs, and particles.”

It was at Mount Oliphant that our poet first “committed the sin of rhyme.”  He says

“Amaist as soon as I could spell,
I to the crambo-jingle fell,
Though rude and rough;
Yet crooning to a body’s sel’
Does weel enough.” 

And again, in some noble verses, we have the following passage:--

I mind it weel in early date,
When I was beardless, young, and blate,
And first could thrash the barn,
Or haud a yoking at the plough;
An’ tho’ forfoughten sair enough,
Yet unco proud to learn;
When first among the yellow corn
A man I reckoned was,
An’ wi the lave ilk merry morn
Could rank my rig and lass:
Still shearing and clearing
The ither stookit raw,
Wi’ clavers and havers
Wearing the day awa. 

“E’en then a wish (I mind its power),
A wish that to my latest hour
Shall strongly heave my breast,
That I for poor old Scotland’s sake
Some useful’ plan or beuk could make,
Or sing a sang at least.
The rough, bur-thistle, spreading wide
Amang the bearded here,
I turn’d the weeder-clips aside,
And spared the symbol dear.” 

He speaks here of ranking his “rig and lass.”  Who was the lass?  Let us see.  In a letter to Dr. Moore he says--”You know our country custom of coupling  a man and woman together as partners n the labours of harvest.  n my fifteenth autumn my partner was a bewitching creature, a year younger than myself.  My scarcity of English denies me the power of doing here justice in that language; but you know the Scottish idiom, ‘she was a bonnie sweet sonsie lass.’ In short, she altogether, unwittingly to herself, initiated me in the delicious passion which, in spite of acid disappointment, gin-horse prudence, and book-worn philosophy, I hold to be the first of human joys, our dearest blessing here below! How she caught the contagion I cannot tell.  You medical people talk much of the infection from breathing the same air, and touch, &c.; but I never expressly said I loved her.  Indeed, I  did not know myself why I liked so much to loiter behind her, when returning in the evening from our labours; why the tones of her voice made my heart-strings thrill like an Eolian harp; and, particularly why my pulse beat such a furious ratan when I looked and fingered over her little hand to pick out the cruel nettle-stings and thistles. Among her other love-inspiring qualities she sang sweetly; and it was her favourite reel to which I attempted giving an embodied vehicle in rhyme.  I was not so presumptuous as to imagine that I could make verses like printed ones, composed by men that had Greek and Latin; but my girl sang a song which was said to be composed by a country laird’s son, on one of his father’s maids, which whom he was in love; and I saw no reason why I might not rhyme as well as he; for, excepting that he could smear sheep and cast peats, his father living in the moorlands, he had no more scholar-craft than myself.  Thus with me began love and poetry.”  Yes, they were kindled on the braeside of Mount Oliphant, and burned brightly until quenched by the cold hand of death in the little tenement in Mill Street, Dumfries.

The damsel, so affectionately referred to in the above extract, was name Nelly Kilpatrick, and although, in after years, he characterized the song in her praise as “a very puerile and silly performance,” it contains several good lines, as the following will show:--

“A bonnie lass, I will confess,
Is pleasant to the e’e,

But without some better qualities
She’s no the lass for me. 

“But Nelly’s looks are blythe and sweet,
An, what is best of a’,
Her reputation is complete,
An’ fair without a flaw. 

“She dresses aye sae clean and neat,
Both decent gentell,
An’ then there’s something in her gait
Gars ony dress look weel.” 

The difficulties and privations undergone by the parents of the poet while on this farm served to bring out the sterling qualities of their gifted son, for he shrank not from sharing their hardships and doing his utmost to alleviate them.  He, the child of poverty and toil, when a mere boy, performed the work of a man, and when his compeers in the towns and villages were attending school and fully occupied with the games and pursuits of youth, he followed the plough, or made the grain dance under his flail on the barn floor.

In 1777 the poet’s father succeeded in ridding himself of the lease which bound him to the sterile soil of Mount Oliphant, and removed to Lochlea--a farm in the parish of Tarbolton.  The Rev. Hately Waddell gives a beautiful imaginative description of the “flitting” in his elaborate edition of the poet’s works.  It is as follows:--”Best tables, chairs, and presses piled carefully aloft on all available carts or cars about the steading; friendly neighbors assisting with horses and gear; Agnes and the ‘weans’ securely nestled among bedding and straw; Robert or his father at the horse’s head, solemn; and Gilbert with ‘Luath’ at his heels contemplative, like the forerunners of the patriarch, in charge of the ‘beiss’ before.  Thus marshaled in succession, they take leave of Mount Oliphant in the morning--a blossom or two torn off from the old crab tree in the close for a keepsake, as they go; and pitch, after noon, at Lochlea.”

There are many pleasant rambles in the vicinity of Mount Oliphant to repay those who have time to seek for them.  For my part, I retraced my steps, and in a short time found myself once more in the vicinity of the cottage in which Robert Burns was born.  People hurried out and in its door, and flocked past to view the classic scenes in its immediate vicinity, but my mind was too much occupied to notice their various peculiarities, so, whit a last fond look at the lowly dwelling, I leisurely strolled towards Alloway Kirk, which I found to be something less than a quarter of a mile distant.  When it is first sighted, it bears a closer resemblance to a roofless barn than a time-shattered sanctuary; but with Hew Ainslie it may be said--

“Alloway, that night ye were
Hell’s place o recreation--
Baith heez’d an’ dignified ye mair
Than a’ your consecration. 

“The bit whar fornicators sat
To bide their pastor’s bang
Is now forgotten for the spat
Whar Nanny lap an’ flang. 

“The pu’pit whar the gude Mess John
His wig did weekly wag,
Is lightlied for the bunker seat
Whar Satan blew his bag.”

Yes, the old building is hallowed by the muse of Burns,and on that account is better known throughout the civilized world than Melrose Abbey and other ecclesiastical edifices whose sculpture-bedecked walls lie prostrate at the end of Time.

As I moved towards the celebrated ruin, I passed the field in which the first public demonstration in honour of Burns took place.  It occurred on Tuesday, the 6th August, 1844, and was attended by a concourse of 80,000 persons of all ranks and conditions in life, who had come from all parts of the United Kingdom to do honour to the memory of the ploughman poet.  A temporary erection of sufficient dimen sions to accommodate 2000 individuals was put up in the field, as also tents wherein visitors could obtain rest and refreshments; but the gathering together of the greater bulk of the vast assemblage took place in the Low Green, Ayr, at ten o’clock forenoon.  There the various societies taking part in the demonstration formed in procession , and with their bands, banners, and devices marched to the place of festivity. To quote from a report of the proceedings published in Glasgow at the time:--

“When fully marshaled, the immense body moved onwards, the bands striking up the well-known air of ‘A man’s a man for a’ that,’ along the south side of Wellington Square. The procession was formed three deep, and extended nearly a mile in length.  It had a very imposing effect.  On going  down Sandgate, up the High Street, and on to the Maybole road, every window was thronged with onlookers, and the streets were densely crowded.  As they proceeded, the bands played the national airs of ‘Green grow the rashes,’ ‘This is no’ my ain house,’ ‘My love she’s but a lassie yet,’ ‘Wat ye wha’s in yon town,’ &c.  The road all along was greatly crowded; so much so that it was with difficulty the mass could keep moving.  The walls, houses, and gates were everywhere lined with anxious observers, and various platforms were constructed for the accommodation of ladies.  On approaching the cottage where the poet was born, and where, as already mentioned, a splendid triumphal arch was erected, the bands struck up ‘There was a lad was born in Kyle:’ and the procession, uncovering, lowered their flags as they passed the humble but much endeared spot………………

As the long extended line approached Kirk Alloway, the bell (which still occupies the belfry) was set a-ringing, and continued so while the procession passed on under the triumphal arch along the New Bridge.  Deploying round towards the Old Bridge, the circling linek partially obscured by the houses and trees, had a truly picturesque effect.  The waving banners, the music of the bands, mellowed and echoed by the ‘Bank and braes o’ bonnie Doon,’ imparted an inexpressibly agreeable sensation.  On reaching the triumphal arch of the ‘Auld Brig,’ venerable and grey with age, the bands struck up the air of ‘Welcome, royal Charlie,’ while the procession, uncovering and lowering their flags, passed over the rustic bridges in front of the platform, beside the Earl of Eglinton and Professor Wilson, we observed H. Glassford Bell, Colonel Campbell.  Sir D.H. Blair, H. Onslow, R. Chambers, Mrs. General Hughes, W.A. Cunninghame; A. Boyle, Lord Justice General; Alexander Hastie, M.P.; A. Buchanan, J. O. Fairlie, and a number of ladies.  The sons of Burns seemed to feel deeply the compliment paid t them, and acknowledged it most cordially.  The immense crowd which surrounded the platform seemed highly gratified by the opportunity afforded them of feasting their eyes upon the lineaments of the sons, where they sought to trace those of the father.  The procession occupied at least an hour in passing from the New Bridge into the field, on entering which the whold of the bands played the tune of ‘Duncan Gray,’ followed by ‘The birks of Aberfeldy.’ A large circle was then formed round the platform for the musicians in the field, and the whole company, led by profissional vocalists, joined in the singing of ‘Ye banks and braes o’ bonnie Doon,’ and ‘Auld Langsyne.’ Th e bands were afterwards stationed in various quarters throughout the field --the regimental and Glasgow St. Andrew’s bands in the centre of the field, and the Kilwinning and Cumnock bands at the cottage, the bagpipes playing at a distance from the Pavilion.  There were two inclosures for dancing--oone towards the head of the field, and the other at the brow over-looking the water of Doon.  Immediately after the procession was over, the crowd were astonished by the sudden appearance of Tam o’Shanter, ‘weel mounted on his grey mare, Meg,’ and a flight of witches in full pursuit of him.  Tam approached from the plantation near the cottage, and jogging along the road, put spurts to his ‘noble Maggie; opposite the ‘auld haunted kirk,’ when ‘out the hellish legion sallied.” Maggie, of course, reached the ‘key-stane of the brig’ in safety, but there left behind her ‘an grey tail.’  The enactment of this characteristic interlude created much amusement. The company began to enter the Pavilion almost immediately after the close of the procession, and the chair was taken about two o’clock.”

Nearly all the celebrated individuals mentioned in the above extract are now dead, and the great majority of that vast, enthusiastic assemblage have shared a like fate.  The late Earl of Eglinton occupied the chair, and among other things said:--”This is not a meeting for the purpose of recreation and amusement; it is not a banquet at which a certain number of toasts printed on paper are to be proposed and responded to, which to-day marks our preparations; it is the enthusiastic desire of a whole people to pay honour to their countryman; it is the spontaneous offering of a nation’s feelings toward the illustrious dead, and add to this the desire to extend a hand of welcome and friendship to those whom he has left behind.  Here, on the very spot where he first drew breath--on the very ground which his genius has hallowed , beside the Old Kirk of Alloway which his verse has immortalized, beneath the Monument which an admiring and repentant people have raised to him, we meet, after the lapse of years, to pay our homage to the man of genius.  The master mind who has sung the ‘Isle of Palms,’ who has revelled in the immortal ‘Noctes,’ who has already done that justice to the memory of the bard which a brother poet can alone do--Christopher himself--is here, anxious to pay his tribute of admiration to a kindred spirit.  The historian who has depicted the most eventful period of the French empire, the glorious triumphs of Wellington, is here--Clio, as it were, offering up a garland to Erato.  The distinguished head of the Scottish bar is here--in short, every town and every district, every class, and every sex, and every age has come forward to pay homage to their poet.  At his name every Scottish heart beats high.  He has become a household word alike in the palace and the cottage.  Of whom should we be proud--to whom should we pay homage--if not to our immortal Burns!”

At the conclusion of the addresses the assemblage joined the noble chairman in pledging one overflowing bumper to “The memory of Burns.”  When the deafening shouts of applause which followed ceased, Mr. Robert Burns, the poet’s son (now dead) mad a suitable reply, and was followed by the world-famous Professor Wilson of Edinburgh, who gave a long and vigorous speech, which was characterized throughout by masterly eloquence and fervour of feeling.

Toasts, songs and speeches followed in quick succession, which I would fain chronicle did space allow; but suffice it to say the “Festival,” as this demonstration is commonly  termed, was one of the finest attestations to genius ever witnessed.

A very pleasing glimpse of the Monument to the memory of Burns is obtained by the pedestrian as he nears the flight of steps leading to the stile or opening in the wall which admits visitors to Alloway Kirkyard.  I paused on their landing and reverentially viewed the scene, but visitors in general seemed less impressed, for many romped amongst the grave-stones, and others cracked jokes at the expense of an odd- like personage attired in a broken-rimmed straw hat and rather  soiled apparel, who, in a good round brogue, recites passages from “Tam o’ Shanter,” and exhibit’s the rather weird objects of interest over which he appears to be the presiding genius. His story is always the same, and, however interrupted, he goes through it like a school-boy rehearsing a psalm.  He evidently considers himself a part of the place, and indeed is so much a part of it that it would be unjust to describe it and omit him.  Seemingly he picks up a scant livelihood by waiting on visitors, so, far be it from me to pen a word to injure him in their eyes.

The ruin consists of two gaunt gables, and a front and back wall of rude masonry, some seven feet in height.  The gable fronting the entrance is surmounted by a belfry, which still retains its bell.  In its centre is a small window divided by a thick mullion, which Burns refers to as the “winnock bunker in the east.”  Around the walls are other windows which are built up, but on the south side one is pointed to as that through which Tam o’Shanter is supposed to have witnessed the witches’ carnival and all the horrors of their orgies.  One thing, however, struck me forcibly when looking into the interior, and that was the fact that his Satanic majesty must have had an insecure seat and his emissaries a very small place wherein to hold a revelry like that which the poet describes.  Ever scrap on wood about the building was carried off many years ago.  Dome half-dozen arm chairs have been made out of its rafter, but when one thinks of the enormous quantity of snuff-boxes and similar articles said to be made out of the same materials, the wood seems to have strongly resembled that of “the true Cross.”  The interior is divided by a partition wall and used as a place of burial by the Cathcarts of Blairston, the Crawfords of Doonside, and others.  The date of its erection (1516) is inscribed above a doorway, but its history is void of interest.

At one time a manse and glebe were attached to Alloway Kirk, but the stipend of the minister being only £32 a year, the parish was added to that of Ayr about the close of the seventh century and the sum divided between its ministers. After that the building became untenanted and ruinous, and on that account was considered to be the resort of witches and things uncanny--indeed, it is on record that people who passed it after dark saw “unco sichts” and heard sounds of a supernatural description.  Burns was familiar with many of its legends, and on the following founded the tale of “Tam o’ Shanter”:--

“On a market day in the town of Ayr, a farmer from Carrick, and consequently whose way lay by the very gate of Alloway Kirkyard, in order to cross the rive Doon at the old bridge which is about two or three hundred yards further on  than the said fate, had been detained by his business till, by the time he reached Alloway, it was the wizard hour, between night and morning.  Though he was terrified with a blaze streaming from the kirk, yet, as it is a well-known fact that to turn back on these occasions is running by far the greatest risk of mischief, he prudently advanced on his road.  When he had reached the gate of the Kirk yard he was surprised and entertained through the ribs and arches of an old Gothic window, which still faces the highway, to see a dance of witches merrily footing it round their old sooty blackguard master, who was keeping them all alive with the power of his bagpipe.  The farmer, stopping his horse to observe them a little, could plainly descry the faces of many old women of his acquaintance and neighbourhood.  How the gentlemen was dressed tradition does not say, but that the ladies were all in their smocks; and one of them happening unluckily to have a smock which was considerably too short to answer all the purpose of that piece of dress, our farmer was so tickled that he involuntarily burst out, with a loud laugh, ‘Weel luppen, Maggie wi’ the short sark!’  and recollecting himself, instantly spurred his horse to the top of his speed. I need not mention  the universally known fact that no diabolical power can pursue you beyond the middle of a running stream.  Lucky it was for the poor farmer that the river Doon was so near, for, notwithstanding the speed of his horse, which was a good one, against he reached the middle of the arch of the bridge, and consequently the middle of the stream, the pursuing vengeful hags were so close at his heels that one of them actually sprang to seize him; but it was too late.  Nothing was on her side of the stream but the horse’s tail, which immediatly gave way at her infernal grip, as if blasted by a stroke of lightning, but the farmer was beyond her reach. However, the unsightly, tailless condition of the vigorous steed was, to the last hour of the noble creature’s life, an awful warning to the Carrick farmers not to stay too late in Ayr markets.” [See letter from Robert Burns to Francis Grose, Esq., F.S.A.]

After leisurely examining the scene of this legend, and listening to the prosy descriptions and nasal recitals of the curious specimen of humanity referred to, I began to stray through the unkept burying-ground, and note the humble gravestones of the unknown poor and the more pretentious tombs of the rich.  Small as the place is, it is absolutely crowed with memorial stones of one description and another. Many of these are modern, and several mark the resting-places of individuals whose remains have been brought from considerable distances to moulder with those of the rude fore-fathers of the hamlet.  A plain upright stone which heads, and a tablet which covers a grave near the entrance, attract universal attention.  And why?  Because there rest the ashes of our Poet’s father--that admirable man who now lives in the memory of men as the original of “The Cottar,” whose “Saturday Night” is so picturesquely sketched.  It was the old man’s desire that he should repose in this churchyard, and it was lovingly complied with, although the place where he breathed his last was distant nine miles.  A small headstone was erected over the grave by the family, but it was chipped to pieces and carried away by relic-hunters.  The one occupying its place bears the following inscriptions:--

(Back).

“Oh, ye, whose cheek the tear of pity stains,
Draw near with pious rev’rence and attend!
Here lies the loving husband’s dear remains,
The tender father, and the generous friend.
The pitying heart that felt for human woe;
The dauntless heart that feared no human pride;
The friend of man, to vice alone a foe;
‘For even his failing leaned to virtue’s side.’” 

(Front).

“SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF WILLIAM BURNESS, FARMER
IN LOCHLIE, WHO DIED ON THE 13TH FEB., 1784, IN THE
63D YEAR OF HIS AGE. AND OF AGNES BROWN, HIS SPOUSE,
WHO DIED ON THE 14TH JANY., 1820 IN THE 88TH YEAR
OF HER AGE.  SHE WAS INTERRED IN BOLTON CHURCHYARD,
EAST LOTHIAN.” 

The inscription is continued on the slab over the grave, and reads thus:--

ALSO, OF ISABELLA, RELICT OF HON BEGG, THEIR
YOUNGEST DAUGHTER.  BORN AT MOUNT OLIPHANT, 27TH
JUNE, 1771.  DIED 4TH DECEMBER, 1858.  MUCH RESPECTED
AND ESTEEMED BY A WIDE CIRCLE OF FRIENDS TO WHOM SHE
 ENDEARED HERSELF BY HER LIFE OF PIETY, HER MILD URBANITY
OF MANNER, AND HERE DEVOTION TO THE MEMORY OF THER
GIFTED BROTHER.”

Burns often expressed a wish that his bones should rest with those of his father; and so anxious were tow of his Ayr friends that is should be complied with that they went to Dumfries and offered to bear the expense of transmitting his remains, but they were too late in arriving, arrangements having been made for his interment in St. Michael’s churchyard.  As it is, a path worn by many feet encircles the grave, and the rank grass which covers the uneven sward in its vicinity is trampled and interspersed with bare patches--a sure sign that it is the peculiar prerogative of genius that it attracts the attention of the world not only towards itself but towards everything that is connected with it.

The above is the only grave of interest at Alloway Kirkyard, but several weather-worn memorials are to be met with which may be briefly referred to.  One marks the burial place of Haire of Rankinstone, and bears date 1621; while another, decked with the heraldic devices and dated 1665, covers that of the Hunters of Broomberry.  Near to the grave of the Poet;s father there are several bearing curious sculptured devices.  One has a representation of Justice holding a balance which a figure in bearing down; another the mott Post mortem spsero vitam,  and the figure of a horse in the act of being shod, and also the instruments of farriery; while a very curious but much defaced slab, without name or date, has the following all but obliterated verse:--

“Passenger, we her who lye
Own it is just that man should die,
And bless God, who freely gave
That faith which triumphs o’er ye grave.
When glorious Jesus Christ shall come,
We rest in hope that this our dust
Shall then rise with him from the tomb.” 

A stone to the memory of “the last person baptized in Alloway Kirk” attracts considerable attention, as also one which the exhibitor represents as marking the grave of Souter Johnnie.  That an individual who aspired to the dubious honour of being Burn’s ideal of that character is buried in the grave he indicates is correct, but he was not the prototype of the Souter; and it is astonishing to see how many visitors are deceived by the statement.  Evidently the majority hear and believe, and visit places associated with literary and other celebrities more from the impulse of fashion than admiration  for what they have achieved.

Passing through the kiryard stile I entered the roadway and crossed to the new Kirk of Alloway--a neat little building, to which a cosy manse is attached.  It was built in  1857, but not before the admirers of Burns had done everything in their power to induce the late Mr Baird of Cambusdoon to change the site, for they considered that the erection would materially interfere with the view of the monument. He proved inexorable, however, and in spite of public meetiings and memorials the building was gone on with.

A few yards further on I reached the entrance to the grounds of the Monument, and paused to look upon the busy scene in its vicinity.  Vehicles arrived and departed in quick succession, and visitors hurried hither and thither or sauntered about in little groups in the most enjoyable manner, as if gratified at being surrounded by scenes of which the Scottish heart might well be proud.  The promiscuous throng seemed to be composed of all classes of society, and in waiting were all manner of conveyances.  Here might be seen the smart equipage, there the hired carriage or cab, and close to them the commodious “brake” and common cart fitted up with temporary seats for the accommodation of the more humble class of visitors from a distance. 

On the right hand side of the highway is Doonside cottage, within the enclosed grounds of which

“The thron aboo the wee,
Where Mungo’s mithe hang’d herself
."

is still to be seen.  It was the residence of the late David Auld, an enthusiastic admirer of Burns, who, after acquiring a competency in Ayr, purchased land at Doonbrae, and on it erected the commodious and well-built hotel opposite.  Along the road is the new Brig o’Doon, and a splendid panorama of hills, and to the left, the road down which Tam o’ Shanter is supposed to have dashed when pursued by the witches.

The busy scene in the vicinity of the Monument somewhat surprised me, but I learned fro a “cabbie” with whom I entered into conversation that it was nothing unusual. “Visitors come,” said he, “from all parts and at all seasons, but more especially during the summer months.  Then they arrive in little parties of ten or a dozen, and come in carriages and carts of every description, and many like yourself, sir,” he added, with a significant glance at my dusty boots, “come on foot, but the fact is, people never cease nor seem to weary of coming, for I have noticed the same individuals three or four times during a season.  O yes, the monument is a favourite resort for all.   Family parties, wedding parties, and excursion parties arrive almost daily from Maybole, Ayr, Troon, Irvine, and Kilmarnock, and there are often excursions from Glasgow and other places; but Americans are the most enthusiastic of all visitors.  They never drink; no, it is allbusiness with them, and I can assure you they delight in everything connected with Burns and his works--they wish to see everything that is to be seen, and when they see it they are off; yes, a fine class of people are the Americans.  I have drive them all round here often.  But have you been in the monument?  No--well, in you go and see the show, for there is too much of that about it.”

Following his advice, the merry party of lads and lasses, I presented myself at the fate of the grounds which encircle the handsome tribute to the Poet’s memory, and was admitted upon paying two pence, for such is the amount levied on each visitor for the purpose of defraying the necessary expense of keeping the Monument in proper order.


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