Archibald Reender “Renny”
Adamson was born in 1839 in Arbroath, Forfarshire (Angus) Scotland, the son
of James Webster Adamson and Jana Jane Morrison. He was one of seven
children. He married Elizabeth “Betsay” Chambling in October 1861 in
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland and they had a total of twelve children. It
is believed, based on census records, that his family moved to Glasgow
sometime between 1846 and 1851 where he met his future wife. He was known as
“Renny” to most everyone.
In or around 1871, Archibald moved his family to Riccarton, Ayrshire,
Scotland, where his interest and love of the Land of Burns was sparked. It
is believed that he moved the family there either for better financial
opportunity or for him to be able to begin his research on what was to
become his first book, “Rambles
Round Kilmarnock”. (It must be said at this point that Renny was a
“rambler”; that is, he liked to go on long walks and observe the countryside
and learn about the stories and facts of where he was travelling. He sought
out interesting and unusual places and those scenes that were referenced in
various other books and materials. He was hungry for knowledge.) Although he
indicates in the preface to this book that it was reluctantly that he
published his work as a book, it was well-received by his fellow
Kilmarnockonians. The book was published in 1875. It was bound in red
leather and was published by Dunlop & Drennan Standard Office in Kilmarnock.
The book was a “ramble” of stories about places in and around Kilmarnock
with poetry interspersed. It describes the layout of the town, interesting
and famous occurrences (including the “Sour Milk Rebellion”). There is some
evidence, as yet unverified, that a second edition of “Rambles Round
Kilmarnock” was made in 1885 in Kilmarnock, this time with four additional
chapters at the back of the book. We have, however, no actual copy to
document this. If anyone finds an 1885 edition, please forward it to me.
Based on the success of this first book, Renny began working on his second
book, published in 1879, called, “Rambles
Through The Land of Burns”. This book was based on the life and times of
Robert Burns primarily, with snippets of the struggles of the Covenanters,
the battles of William Wallace and Robert d’Bruce, and other notable
occurrences before and during Burns’ lifetime. The book covers Burns’ birth,
youth, life as a poet, his loves, and inspirations, and many of the fairs
and rituals of the kirks and pagans throughout Scottish history and their
effect on the social norms of the day. In addition, it covers how everything
“Burns” became what it is today – the tourist stops. It becomes a social
commentary that is as true today as it was incredible after Burns’ death.
This book is filled with Burns poetry and with the poetry of others. It
should appeal to both the Mason and the average reader.
Within only a few years of publishing this second book, Archibald and his
family made the decision to emigrate to America where they settled in
Nebraska. His fellow authors and poets in Riccarton gathered at a local pub
and toasted him to his new life (covered by the Kilmarnock Standard). They
presented him with a purse of sovereigns (the total value is unknown). Renny
and Betsay left for America via Larne, Ireland. He and his family set down
roots in August 1881 in North Platte, Nebraska, USA. Archibald’s children
came over in a few different groupings as did his brother David Webster
Adamson. We know this because Renny and his brother, David, got into a bit
of a row in North Platte and the police had to be called to break up the
dispute. It is reputed that at least one gunshot was heard and David and
Renny were on the “outs” from that point. They were both drunk at the time
of the incident (too bad it wasn’t good Scotch whiskey).
On his and his family’s arrival in North Platte, the Western Nebraskian
published a reprint of the news from the Kilmarnock Standard and said that
they had a very special person gracing their town. Given his new “fame” in
North Platte, he began working on his third book, “North
Platte and Its Associations”. Again, it was a ramble of stories, facts,
and interesting information he learned of in his rambles around the
countryside. It was his final book, published in 1910. His publication of
the North Platte and Its Associations was covered in The Evening Telegraph
(a North Platte newspaper at the time) in 1910. The above photograph was
included in the press coverage. He received his citizenship papers in
October 1889, as did other members of his family who emigrated.
Archibald passed in 1923 and is laid to rest in the original cemetery in
North Platte, Nebraska.
Thanks to Cynthia Gray for
providing this information and the picture.