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Significant Scots
Archibald R. Adamson


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.


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