Burns Blog three! by Melvyn Gibson

Dear Readers,

Autumn weather Sept 13th 2017


Jist settling doon tae ride oot Hurricane Ophelia. Ahm bidein at hame until the winds subside. Trust thir are nae pooer cuts tae interrupt my dwelling oan this epistle. A guid thocht micht cam tae fruition if the richt wis gained to name a hurricanes makin land in Alba oorsels. Crie them Hurricane Jimmy, Big Aggie, Black Dougie and sae oan. Harnessing the winds noo  – a rerr concept. Beats oany devolved pooers or as they maun be cried devoluted or dissolved or even diluted pooers as fowk predict aifter Brexit. Nary mind.  Claiming they Hurricanes for oorsels wud gie us cause to perty in old Scotia. Whit a perty tae –  wud blaw awa a the cobwebs as lang as thir still no attached tae oor hooses.


When thirs weirdings aye in the neeghborhood wha ye gonnae ca? Mayhap Richard Dawkins or yon priest oot a the Exorcist. I encountered a surrealist landscape inby the Cottage qhan I conducted the guided tours thir oan the Sabbath morn. Hud the spirits jinked in ahead o set up fir tae Halloween happenings aboot the site?   Table and chairs frae the Spence levitated tae a  odd places in the byre. A the straw sooked oot the bare barn. An empty display cabinet landed in the Spence like some wee Tardus. Nae audio visuals. The sounds ah wis makin stanin in for the kye, yowes, poultry, rattons, diels and witches – squawkin, screechin and scuttling. Man it wis monumumental. Ah wis fare jiggered. Didnae scare onybody aff  anyweis. Fowk cam by frae Bermuda, Nova Scotia, Aberdeenshire, Irvine, Troon, Ayr and Glesca amangst them a.

Heighlicht Talks

Wee reminder that Hugh Farrell is next up in the Robertson Room this Wednesday tae grab the lectern fir 3pm wi his tak on the past,present and future o oor ain Burns Monument – topical or whit? Ken hes nae likely to address trademerkin the Monument. Is he? Next week new departure fir the Heighlicht talks. No sae much a talk as a Burns or,broadened oot, Burns related karaoke o poetry and sang. Wan second ower the allocated time fir performance and you get the hook. Nae news yet oan talks in the series fir November.

The Mitchell


Anent the prospect o a visit to the Robert Burns collection at the Mitchell library in Glasgow. Thir are hunners an hunners actually thoosans and thoosans o items held there. Thanks to Ana fir passing oan the information.  Heilichts include –

oer nine hunner  editions of the works wi importantly  twa copies of the 1786 Kilmarnock edition and twa o the 1787 Edinburgh edition.

15 original manuscripts in the poet’s hand, including the only surviving letter written by  Burns

in Scots and the only copy in existence of ‘The Ordination’.

Translations of the poet’s works into more than 36 languages.

Wan complete set of The Burns Chronicle.

Please contact Ana on amagongo@gmail.com if interested in this proposed visit.



Oan the experience o a recent visit to The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry at Irvine Town House a lang time fan o the newsletter, Myra, writes – 5th-18th October. I took myself up to this exhibition and have to say I was blown away by the content of the embroidered panels displayed. This was a history lesson from the early days of Scots migration to every part of the world. No country could have been missed out and it was split into sections – Australasia/Africa, Americas, Baltic nations, European nations, the British Isles. It covered every part of Scottish culture and heritage from famous Kings and Queens, football, especially South America – many Scots started up football teams that developed into many famous football clubs that we know today – (Gordon Strachan may have been right about genetics after Scotland failed the World Club entry again and all the tactics/techniques had been sent out into the world in previous centuries!!) Religion, engineering, farming, textiles, botany and so much more. The nephew of Robert Burns, Rev. Thomas Burns who went to Otago was featured on one panel as was Robert Burns himself. My own favourite panels were the Asian panels full of flowers, trees and plants and one showed the famous Paisley teardrop that created an industry in Scotland and that is still used to this day. In this section too  the famous Scottish Calcutta graveyard where lots of Scots were buried who had lived and worked in the city. Not only was this a fabulous history lesson for all ages but the skill and patience displayed in the embroidery was stunning to admire.

The Tapestry is on display at Irvine until this Wednesday. Moira and Annabel also add thir approval o the exhibition. Annabel also pints oot that the Tapestry can be viewed online via The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry website.


This contribution by anither adorer o the newsletter, Maureen Bryceland, needs nae comment. Spaks fir itsel oan the mutual benefits for fowk frae volunteering

I have been guiding for seven years  and a few years ago we had a group of partially sighted people in the museum but I have never had a blind visitor in the Cottage .This a different tour  altogether as I found on Saturday . Three gents arrived. One was totally blind. I quickly realised I had to adapt my talk to a more tactile experience for this  man to appreciate what the Cottage held within. After my short intro at the door we raised our hands to touch the thatch. On feeling the depth and width sharp and jaggy ,he traced the door and the frame paying great attention to the latch.  Walking through from the Barn to the Byrne he could tell that the floor changed. He found the kerb.He churned some butter. He felt the large cheese press and Meg’s haulter. He could hear the rustle of the straw and lifted an armful of straw to smell. In the Spence he traced the size of the window and the thickness of the walls as he said he could smell the age. Again he traced the door at the kitchen opening out to the street. He felt the hinges and the lock. He was fascinated by the ironwork on the door ,the height of the ceiling at the trans wall ,and said the people must have been small. In the kitchen he sat on William’s chair while I told them about the life the Burns family would

have had. I told of the night a storm blew down the end wall,  Robert and his mother  being taken in by neighbours,with Gilbert and Robbie chiding one another about  “Rantin Ravin Robbie”.We all sang this to him. Tears in his eye he could feel the depth of the rag rug. He traced the shape of the spinning wheel. He touched the pewter and horn cups. He was so eager to find out aboot This Robbie. Sitting in the chair he told me they were from Dundee staying in Alloway for a wee break,that the young man was his son who’s twin had died 6weeks ago and he just loved Burns. So they all had to come and find oot all that this poet was aboot asin his possessions they found a lot of memorabilia  with connections to Robert Burns.  We left by the back door. When we turned round he was again tracing the wood of the door and the latch what fascinated him. We entered the kaleyard. He felt the kale. Running his hand along  he tasted it and said it tasted of his mother’s soup, On leaving he hugged me ,thanking me for showing him the life of the Burns Family. An hour later I headed to poets corner for a strong cuppa o’tea,,,,,,


This Sunday Robertson Room at 2pm Professor Gerard Carruthers of the University of Glasgow considers those who have attempted falsify the record of Robert Burns’s life and work. It looks at editorial manipulations from James Currie to the 21st Century, the bending of historical data and also physical forgery. In the latter regard, his talk particularly considers the case of Alexander Howland (‘Antique’) Smith who served a prison sentence for his manuscript forgeries during the 1890s. You micht hae seen Professor Carruthers on the telly being interviewed bi Tony Robinson at Abbotsford a aboot Walter Scott. Ither talks o interest and speakers in this series shud be notified in due course. Wan on Sunday looks like a guid stert tae the current programme.


At the Museum on Saturday 11th November Dalry Burns Club are gaen tae perform The Jolly Beggars for only £5. Bargain price for an event that deserves an audience.



An appeal frae Ally oan this. She explains that this is a Burns Museum blog site at https://burnsmuseum.wordpress.com/ she publishes fortnightly blog posts on. Posts should be roughly 500 words,include at least one picture and be on something related to Burns. The link may be tenuous however e.g., to do with the 18th century, poetry, Scots language. Suggested focus could be on a n object in the collection or on a particular aspect of Burns’s life. Ally would be grateful for any contribution of completed blogs to help sustain this.


Via emails relayed by Ally comes advice that Curatorial and Conservation Services are running a series of practical collections care workshops for staff and volunteers who work with collections in February 2018. The most convenient and practical venue offered for this area is Culzean on Thursday 15th February 2018. The advice is that a booking form will be widely circulated during October actually within the next two weeks. Places however are limited and as workshops are usually over-subscribed and as the aim is for a fair and wide representation of Trust roles the right is reserved not to accept all bookings. Alison’s advice however in her email addressed to volunteer guides in these linked communications and in her capacity as Volunteer Coordinator is that despite the scarce places all volunteers are supposed to do this course. Any comments or advice on this? Personally I do not know if I shall be free or not on the 15th of February. Like other volunteers I have other commitments and interests to consider.


Still time to put your name down for the lunch and viewing the contents at Pollok House next Monday from noon. Contact Moira Gemmell on moiragemmell995@btinternet.com


Some o oor ain seen at the first o ten Poetry and Sang Gang Thegither talks given at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow by Professor Fred Freeman on Wednesday jist bye. These talks are every Wednesday at 7pm concluding at 8.30pm.


Guid luck to abody – staff and volunteers – taking part in the upcoming Halloween events. Hae a scary successful time ain an a.


Pleased to hear from you with stories, poems, information, appeals, comments, concerns for the newsletter.


Didnae mak it in this week but’ll likely be back e’er lang.














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