Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Greater Atlanta, GA, USA
the great things about having your own website is you
can go in different directions trying to get to the same
destination. An interesting email came across my desk
via computer magic a few months ago and naturally Dr.
Gerry Carruthers was involved. May I introduce you to a
rather new scholar who is searching for a connection
between Scotland’s Bard, Robert Burns, and another
Scottish poet known as Thomas Burns. Now I can share her
email with you after suggesting to Dr. Seal she write a
brief article on her subject and ask your help. Everyone
is looking for something new about Robert Burns or an
original that has been lost, misplaced, or hidden long
ago without a trail to follow.
have read the article below from Dr. Seal, maybe you can
lend her a bit of help. If you run across anything that
may of interest, she would appreciate your sending it to
me to be passed along. Yes, I know, it could be like
reading the old testament with all the “begats” when so
many with the same name can pop up! But then again, who
knows. One bit of information might be the one thing to
help Christine in her search. As I was writing this
brief introduction, I kept going back to the lovely
picture Dr. Seal sent me and wondered why there is a
handle and a keyhole in the picture. You may have the
key to open the door. Maybe that is why both keyhole and
handle ended up in the picture - for you to do your part
so Christine can do her part. Many thanks to Christine
and to you, dear readers. A final word of encouragement,
for those of you so inclined, forward me another article
on Robert Burns! We need more to come in so more can be
shared. The pantry has been empty far too long, so help
out Robert Burns Lives! Cheers. (FRS)
Dr. Christine Seal
Short Biography of Dr Christine Seal
came to higher education at the age of 40, completing a
BA (Honours) with the Open University in History and
Music. In 2002 she completed an MPhil in Modern History
investigating domestic servants in the houses of the
aristocracy and industrialists in the Midland County.
Christine then took a PhD at the Centre for English
History at the University of Leicester, where the thesis
topic was relief of the poor in the community and in the
workhouses of Belper and Cheltenham. This was taken
part time while working full time in administration at
the University of Oxford.
following the death of her husband, Christine took early
retirement and moved to Northumberland. Christine has
become involved with the Family and Community Historical
Research Society and has spent time researching alms
houses in County Durham, Northumberland, Cumbria, and
more recently on the Home Front in the First World War.
It was while working on the 1WW that she became
interested in the life story and poetry of Thomas.
moving to Northumberland Christine have been appointed
Circuit Archivist for the Methodist Church, have become
involved with the conservation group at Hexham Abbey,
helping to record the textiles in the Abbey, and is a
member of the NE Methodist History Society. Her current
research and writing is on the homes for the aged
miners, continuing the history of Thomas and his poetry,
and on stories of prominent Methodists in the
Life and Poetry of Thomas Burns
was born in 1848 and baptized at Morebattle Free
Church. No father was listed at the baptism except the
surname “Burns” and “Laidlaw” appeared on the baptism
record. His mother was Elizabeth Laidlaw and in the
Kirk Minutes she “confessed to the sin of fornication”
and was restored to the communion of the church. At
this time the father of Thomas was not known, but in the
same Kirk Minutes the name ‘John Burns’ appeared
admitting that he was “guilty of the sin of uncleanness
with Elizabeth Laidlaw, also of Cessford, which led to
him being “suitably admonished by the Moderator” and
restored to church privileges. Although a promising
pupil he was not allowed to continue his education.” He
became an agricultural labourer before age 13, and was
hired at Kelso fair to a Ford farmer. Ford and Etal
were in the northern area of Northumberland. The
Marchioness of Waterford recognised Thomas’ ability and
encouraged him in his efforts. She remained an admirer
and a patron until her death. Thomas married Margaret
in 1869, just 20 years of age, and they were living at
Lilburn Towers Farm in the 1870s. Land around
Pallisburn and Lilburn was owned by Mr Askew Robertson,
a patron of Thomas. There were three children born to
Thomas, Elizabeth born in 1870 at Eglingham, Mary born
in 1874 at Rothbury and Thomas John born in 1876 in
simplest elements of education, except reading, were
beyond his acquired knowledge. Without a teacher or any
assistance he set himself to study arithmetic, writing,
grammar, phonography and composition. Once his
knowledge was improved Thomas left North Northumberland
to take up a job as a police constable in May 1876.
remained with the police in Newcastle for 3 years until
resigning in July 1879 to take up a post as School
Attendance Officer. Sadness came to Thomas when his
wife died in 1880. His mother, Elizabeth, came to look
after the family until her death later in the 1880s.
Thomas remarried in 1885 to Janet White and went on to
have a daughter, Olive, who sadly lived for just two
years. As a School Board Officer he made house to house
visits, to enquire after absentees and serve default
notices to parents. A free house was provided for the
family at Diane Street School in Newcastle and initially
he was provided with a uniform. This later changed to a
yearly clothing allowance.
you help to locate the missing books of poems?
Despite contacting the Bodleian
Library, the National Library for Scotland, the British
Library and patrons of his books, I have not been able
to locate seven of the twelve books Thomas published.
books were published between 1890 and 1901:
Poems and Songs
of a Life
Scottish Songs and their authors
Tours in the Highlands of Scotland
A further three books were published
between 1901 and 1906 and the titles are referred to:
Tours in the Borders
A Panegyric on the Life and Works of Robert
Patronage has included The Lady
Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, Mayor and Councillors
of Newcastle, Sheriff of Newcastle, W A Watson-Armstrong
of Cragside, Lord Percy, The Lord Bishop of Newcastle,
Professor Blackie in Edinburgh and a long list of Vicars
from Newcastle and the surrounding villages.
Thomas wrote four poems dedicated to
Robert Burns. The first was Lines on the Anniversary
of Robert Burns:
fervour of feeling our spirits o’erflow,
As the mem’ry leaps back to where Robbie was
On the banks of the Doon, with a patriot’s glow,
The song-roll of time to exalt and adorn.
shrine of devotion our love-kindled hearts,
Beating high with Scotch pride so intensely
All jubilant, we sing o’er his exquisite arts,
By the mandate of nature and intellect
pathetic and warm, love flowed from his lips,
That beauty threw down her best dower at his
While a tenderness hung, like the moon in eclipse,
From his dark flashing eyes, so entrancingly
the strains of his genius with culture began,
Still the Iris of promise, that herald of
His pathway to favour continues to span
With grand swelling chimes of a passionate
surge and the fret of this turbulent age
His influence runs with a dominant aim,
And the joy-mellowed wit that enriches his page
Gives a classic result to the blaze of his
life so romantic, in passions and powers –
Of its joys and its sorrows he bore a full
Both in sunshine and tempest, and hope blighting
He worked at the garland his country now
long as the songs of old Scotland are sung,
Or the love of a man to a woman returns,
The loftiest note on the cottager’s tongue
Shall ring to the honour and glory of Burns.
A second poem with the same title,
Lines on the Anniversary of Robert Burns but
published in a different book:
adverse time research her urns,
And bring her relics out to gaze;
Few greater names extant than Burns,
None more deserves a poet’s praise.
soul in friendship’s mutual flush,
Was laden with a rich perfume;
While nature’s fresh consonant blush,
Nursed fancy into bridal bloom.
the music of the spheres,
That gleesome sonorous voice of his;
Clear through the isles like echo veers,
To fill a waiting world with bliss.
charged his heart with ardent love,
And tuned his intellect for song;
His harmonizing muses prove,
How buoyant was his pow’r and strong
the strains to Mary sung,
No other singer so refined;
When Heaven’s dart his soul had stung,
And burst the flood-gates of his mind.
monarchs of the Muse give ear,
Mark well the transports of his pen;
Did ever man such music hear,
As echo’s over Logan Glen.
Burns’ Anniversary Song, 1889 was given a tune
title, Kelvin Grove.
met wi’ one acclaim – bonnie laddies, O!
To extol the honoured name – bonnie laddies, O!
Of the ploughman bard o’Kyle,
Whose fine poetic style,
Sheds glory on our Isle – bonnie laddies, O!
a humble peasant lad – bonnie laddies, O!
He has made the nations glad – bonnie laddies, O!
Wi’ his native Doric lore,
Which we feelingly adore,
As it thrills us to the core – bonnie laddies, O!
had many singers here – bonnie laddies, O!
|Who have pleased the human ear – bonnie laddies, O!
But the ploughman bard o’ Ayr,
Left strains so passing fair,
Time fondles them wi’ care – bonnie laddies, O!
to “Burns” we owe the fire – bonnie laddies, O!
Of auld Scotia’s harp and lyre – bonnie laddies, O!
So it’s meet that we should sing,
To th’ genius of our king,
Till the world’s rafters ring, bonnie laddies, O!
The last of the Robert Burns poems
forms part of the Sonnets and include poems about
famous British Poets.
a vale within love’s choice retreat,
The peasant bard in blazing glory stands;
Near where the temperate gales repress the heat,
He shows to heaven his toil-innured hands;
Full ankle-deep in intermingling flowers,
Sun-painted beds, a variegated show,
Yes, there he stands; while round in wild-wood bowers,
Each high-shrined beauty bids her offspring
Gay nature here her richest garment wears,
Her rustic limbs in royal purple clad;
She views Burns through alternate smiles and tears,
Then blushing drops her nectar-dropping
Contending cupids play about the grove,
Where he is standing wreathed in flowers of love.
retired in 1913, moved to Wylam, and in retirement wrote
21 poems about the war, between 1914 and December 1915,
published in the local newspaper.
were many poems written that had associations to his
life in the Border counties of Roxburghshire and
Berwickshire, and to his tours in Scotland. On a visit
to Edinburgh his poems included : An Ode on a Visit
to the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, and,
Musings on Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh. His poems
written about Scotland include: Sailing through the
Kyles of Bute; On Entering a Highland Glen; Reverie
written among the Highland Hill.
View of Ben Lomond;
What a burst of
magnificence kindled my eye,
When the sun pitched his tent on Ben Lomond so high;
The sweet breeze of summer on soft tinsel wing,
Seemed bound by a spell, and too solemn to sing.
wrinkles that time had engraved on his brow,
By its moon-horned spears and conquest crowned plough,
Unfolded to me through the light bracing air,
A beauty more potent than mind can compare.
awe-moving spirit soothed my soul as it fell,
And freshened devotion its wonders to tell;
O’er glens of black umbrage by cataracts riven,
His shadow hung high in the azure of heaven.
the glory of nature hath nothing to fear,
For time the restorer unbidden sits here;
On Ben Lomond the sun rests his banquet to keep,
And mirror his glow on the breast of the deep.
the swift billows sleep in the calm sober eve,
Down the sides of Ben Lomond the Highland winds heave;
O, land of my fathers, of friendship and might,
Glowing with virtue and smiling in light.
freedom and honours full chartered retain
The fame of thy WALLACE, SCOTT, and BURNS maintain,
For their art sculptured busts I saw on my way,
With the tombstone at Greenock will shrink and decay.
the songs are engraven in letters of love,
And circle the seal of the mintage above;
Ben Lomond subdued to soft feeling declares,
No country save Judah have any such heirs.
Banks of the Ayr and Afton
(mentions Robert Burns and the Doon);
Lugar and the Afton streams,
With Ayr and Nith, and “bonnie Doon,”
Now girdle earth with pleasing themes,
And deck it in the light of noon.
tongue that sang their sweetest note,
The eyes that saw their fairest turns,
Have ting’d with gold an empire’s thought,
And crown’d with worth the name of Burns.
the relics of a day
That wreath’d his brow in sorrow’s cloud;
We stood beside the walls of clay
Where death spread out his sable shroud;
trod the haunts and fields among,
Where first the matchless lyre he strung,
And heard the accents of his song
From female lips divinely flung.
Nature has a voice to raise,
And beauty’s lamp holds oil to burn,
The banks of Doon shall wear his bays,
While old Dumfries preserves his urn.
impulse of a nation’s heart
Which keeps aglow old Scotia’s lays,
May lose itself in sculptured art,
But never in the ploughman’s praise.
tree-fring’d dells and flowery meads,
The lights and shades on waving corn,
The songsters, with their changeless creeds,
Proclaim him to each dewy morn.
Copyright, Dr Christine Seal