Today sees the 207th anniversary (25th July 1796) of the funeral of
Scotland's National Bard, Robert Burns, in the north-east corner of the
cemetery, St Michael's Parish Church Kirkyaird, Dumfries, chosen by the
poet himself. He wrote of his choice - 'When I am laid in my grave I wish
to be stretched to my full length, that I may occupy every inch of ground
I have a right to.'
Upon the evening of Sunday, 24th July 1796, his remains were conveyed from
his house in Mill Vennel to the Town Hall in Dumfries. On the following
day his body was borne in procession, with military honours, and the
Volunteer's Band playing 'Dead March of Saul' as they advanced to St
Michael's Churchyard. The chief persons of the town and neighbourhood took
part in the procession and the streets of Dumfries were lined by the
Fencibles Infantry of Angus-shire and the Cavalry of the Cinque Ports,
then quartered in the town. The funeral arranged by the poet's friend,
John Syme, was attended according to Allan Cunningham by a multitude
amounting to ten to twelve thousand. We can only but agree with Allan
Cunningham when he wrote - "I could, indeed, have wished the military part
of the procession away. The scarlet and gold in the banners displayed -
the measured step, and the military array - with the sounds of martial
music, had no share in increasing the solemnity of the burial scene; and
had no connextion with the poet."
Over the grave a sharp volley of farewell shot cracked out, while at the
house in Mill Vennel, his widow, Jean Armour, lay in labour with her ninth
child, a son whom she named Maxwell, after the doctor whose unfortunate
advice had hastened her husband's death.
There was an immediate talk of raising a subscription for a suitable
monument, but as time dragged on Jean suspected that it naught but talk
and covered the grave, at her own expense, with a plain tombstone,
inscribed simply with the name and age of the poet. In 1813, however, a
public meeting was held in Dumfries, with General Dunlop, son of Burns'
friend and patroness, Mistress Frances Dunlop, in the chair; a
subscription list was opened and contributions flowed in from all
quarters. The present costly doric mausoleum was erected in the most
elevated site of the cemetery, there was not enough room where the poet
lay in the south-east, and there the remains of Robert Burns were solemnly
transferred on 5th June 1815. Buried alongside the poet were his sons,
Maxwell, who died in 1799 (aged 2 years 9 months) and Francis Wallace who
died in 1803 (aged 14). His widow, Jean Armour, who died at Dumfries on
26th March 1834 was interred in the Mausoleum on 1st April 1834.
The Mausoleum still attracts thousands of visitors every year, and if you
are visiting the churchyard, take the opportunity of seeing Burns' chosen
burial spot and visiting the graves of many people associated with our
National Bard. During the tourist season you can also take advantage of
a conducted tour of St Michael's Parish Church carried out by members of
the congregation. A Christian Church has stood on the spot for over 1300
years and amongst the many points of interest inside the present Church is
a brass plaque marking the site of the pew occupied by Robert Burns. His
widow, Jean Armour, continued to occupy the pew regularly for the next
thirty-eight years until her death.
Robert Burns wrote that 'FREEDOM and Whisky gang thegither/ Tak aff your
dram!' and this week's recipe, in honour of our National Bard, has
Scotland's National Drink as one of the tasty ingredients. Our recipe for
Scotch Collops in the pan serves four.
Scotch Collops in the Pan
Ingredients : 45g butter; 2 large onions; 250 g mushrooms, sliced; 4 thick
Scotch fillet steaks (800 g total); 2 tablespoons whisky; 2 teaspoons
plain flour; 1/2 cup chicken stock; salt and pepper
Heat butter in large frying pan; add sliced onions. Cook over medium heat
for 5 minutes; add mushrooms. Stir over medium-heat for five minutes until
lightly golden. Push to one side of pan.
Add steaks to pan. Cook over medium-heat 3 minutes each side. Spread
onions and mushrooms around meat; add whisky, shake pan. Transfer steaks
to serving plate; keep warm.
Add flour to pan; stir over medium-heat for 1 minute. Add stock gradually.
Stir for 2 minutes or until sauce boils and thickens. Season and spoon