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the grass round about it trampled and bare? Well, tradition states that it is the identical tree beneath which Robert Burns took the last farewell of his sweet Highland Mary.
“ How sweetly bloomed the gay green birk,
How rich the hawthorn's blossom,
I clasped her to my bosom!
Flew o'er me and my dearie :
Was my sweet Highland Mary.
Our parting was fu' tender;
We tore ourselves asunder;
That nipt my flower sae early !
That wraps my Highland Mary !" In all likelihood the tradition is correct, for the position of the thorn and its nearness to the mansion makes it more than probable that the parting took place beneath its shade-in fact, Burns was by far too great a gallant to part from his mistress at any great distance from her home.
The parting took place on the evening of “the second Sunday of May," 1786. In a note to "the Highland lassie," Burns gives us a little insight into this episode. “My Highland lassie was a warm-hearted, charming young creature as ever blest a man with generous love.
After a pretty long tract of the most ardent reciprocal attachment, we met by appointment on the second Sunday of May in a sequestered spot on the banks of the Ayr, where we spent the day in taking a farewell before she should embark for the West Highlands to arrange matters among her friends for our projected change of life. At the close of autumn she crossed the sea to meet me at Greenock, where she had scarce landed when she was seized with a malignant fever before I could even hear of her illness."
Mr. Cromek tells that “their adieu was performed with those simple and striking ceremonials which rustic sentiment has devised to prolong tender emotions and to impose awe. The lovers stood on each side of a purling brook—they laved
their hands in the limpid stream—and holding a Bible between them pronounced their vows to be faithful to each other.” As already stated, they exchanged Bibles, but what became of that which Burns received was never known; the half-Bibles presented to Mary are,
reader will remember, preserved in the monument on the banks of Doon. Mary appears to have left Ayrshire about Whitsunday, 1786, and to have spent the summer at her father's house in Campbeltown, but whether she made arrangements for the “ projected change in life” Burns speaks of there is no evidence to show. Robert Chambers thinks that she had agreed to accept a situation in Glasgow in the family of a Colonel M'Ivor, and that she was proceeding thither when she sickened and died. He also mentions as a tradition that her friends believed her illness to be caused by the cast of an evil eye, and at their suggestion her father went to a spot where two burns meet, selected seven smooth stones, boiled them in milk, and gave it her to drink. She was buried in the West Kirkyard of Greenock. Her resting-place is marked by a handsome monument, the cost of which (£100) was raised by subscription.
In a little work entitled “Much about Kilmalcolm," by Alexander S. Gibb, there is an interesting traditional narrative, entitled “A Story of Greenock," which may interest the reader. It was originally told many years ago by a worthy soul named Johnnie Blair, and refers to Highland Mary. Of course,
it may be taken for what it is worth. He says :“While I was looking at the country side, the river, and Greenock down the water's edge, and hearkening to the whirr o the moor fowl as they settled in a black flock on the farmer's stooks, I saw a braw buxom lass coming down the Kilmalcolm Road. She was a well-faur'd dame, wi' cheeks like roses. She had on a tartan shawl, and was carrying some things wi' her. I offered to help her to carry them, which she gladly assented to, for she was tired wi' a long journey. She had come frae Ayrshire, she said, and got a drive to Kilmalcolm, and was gaun first to Jamie Macpherson, the shipwright's, whase wife was her cousin, and syne to Argyle, where her folk belanged. I kent Jamie as weel's I ken you, Davie; we were gude cronies and gude neebors. Twa or three days after this I chanced to forgather wi' Jamie.
Man, John,' says he to me, 'ye're aye speaking about books and poetry ; ye'll come doun by the nicht an' I'll let you see some richt poems.' I gaed doun by accordingly, an' got a sicht o' the book he spak o'. It was a volume o? poems by Robert Burns, printed at Kilmarnock. “It was Mary Campbell, Jean's cousin,' Jean explained, 'wha brought the book wi' her frae Ayr; it's juist new out, you see.
She's awa to Argyle to see her friends, and she's coming back in a week or twa to be married. And wha do you think till ? I said I couldna guess.
Well, it's juist to the chiel wha made that book. She said he had been fechtin' wi' the ministers, and was thinking o'gaun awa to the West Indies ; but she didna care, she was willing to gang wi' him.' Jamie read a lot o'the poems ower, and we held at them till twal o'clock. Jamie said he didna a'thegither like the way the chiel spak o' the kirks, but he thocht 'the lassie micht help to haud him straught; and he sudna be the man to mak’ strife amang sweethearts.' He let's see a wee sang the lass had brocht wi' her, beginning
“Will ye gang to the Indies, my Mary,
And leave auld Scotland's shore?' which Mary had shown as a great secret to his wife, and which was written upon
herself. Mary returned across the Firth th week afte It was a cold, rainy, muggy day that she had got to cross and she had gotten a dreadful chill. The fever was then raging in Greenock, for ye ken wi' our houses a' hauled thegither, an' the ill water we had then, and the foul air that hangs about our wynds and closes, we never hardly want fever. Puir Mary onyway took it; whether it was the chill she had gotten, or the foul air of Minch Callop Close, baith thegither that brocht it on I canna say, but Mary sickened and grew worse day by day. Jamie Macpherson's wife nursed her like a sister; a doctor was called in, but nothing wad do.
Her time was come. Jamie's wife teli’d me a' aboot it. She lay in a wee room aff the kitchen ; there was a chest o' drawers an'a clock in't; three or four stuffed birds, and a picture of a naval battle between French and British ; also, twa models of ships. There was a wee window that neither opened up nor down; but the air outside was that foul wi' vapours that it was maybe better it didna. Nae doubt, to her coming out o' the country, the close air that the dwellers' lungs had got used to wad no be beneficial. Man, I whiles think that thae fevers are juist brocht on by the air a'thegither. Whiles the poor sufferer was a wee raivell’d; whiles she repeated verses out o' the Bible, ane in particular- Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shall perform unto the Lord thine oaths ;' and ance she cried out, 0 for a drink o' caller water !' but it was thocht at the time that water was ill for fevers. But afore she died she was quite sensible, an' said to her cousin Jean, If it had been God's will I wad hae liked to be Robert Burns' wife ; but I ken I'm deein' an' I'm quite willing.' Dinna speak that way, Mary,' said Jean, or ye'll break my heart; ye'll get better yet, lassie, for a' this.' But she did not get better; an' the night following her spirit took its flicht from this world of sin and misery, to the great sorrow of all her friends, and, was kent some years after, to that of her admirer, Robert Burns. Ye ken his sang ‘Highland Mary' was written about her, and ither sangs o' his, gin I could mind them
With a lingering look at “the Castle o' Montgomery" and the old thorn tree, I passed down the drive and began to walk briskly in the direction of Tarbolton. On my a beautiful lawn studded here and there with fine specimens of natural wood, and on my right a highly romantic scene, through which the Fail glided
“Wi' bickering, dancing dazzle," as if anxious to escape from the shade of the trees on its banks and gain the open glade in the distance. Passing through a dilapidated gateway I entered a shady avenue, and in the course of twenty minutes arrived at the ancient village, which stands on some rising ground, and occupies a place in the heart of one of the sweetest localities in the west of Scotland. It is a quaint little place, chiefly consisting of one long street, from which short thoroughfares branch, but, with the exception of weaving and the manufacture of fancy woodwork, no trades are carried on save what are incidental to all rural settlements. The population last census was 829, but it has considerably diminished, very many individuals, and in some instances whole families, having been compelled to remove to the large centres of industry to procure employ
ment. Tarbolton contains three places of worship, a Mechanics" Institute, and a handsome school, which is more than adequate to the requirements of the community. It is governed by two bailies and twelve councillors, who are elected annually, and was created a burgh of barony by Charles II. in 1671.
Although Tarbulton is an ancient village, there is nothing of historical interest connected with it, and it is only on account of it having been a favourite resort of our poet when residing in the farm of Lochlea that it has become famous. It was the scene of several of his early amours, and in it he spent some of the happiest hours of his brief life. Thirty years ago the sojourner experienced little difficulty in meeting and conversing with people in this village who had known the bard ; but now they are all gone, and with his. associates and boon companions rest from their labours in the churchyard. However, it is gratifying to note the pride some middle-aged people take in telling that their grandfathers “kenned Rabbie weel, an' ran wi' him i' their young days.” They appear gratified to identify their “forebeers" with bis name, and have it in their power to relate anecdotes of him and them. The following extract from David Sillar's account of the poet when he frequented the village will be of interest :-"His social disposition easily procured him acquaintances; but a certain satirical seasoning, with which he and all poetical genius are in some degree influenced, while it set the rustic circle in a roar, was not unaccompanied by its kindred attendant, suspicious fear.
He wore the only tied hair in the parish; and in church his plaid, which was of a particular colour, I think fillemot, he wrapped in a particular manner round his shoulders.
After the commencement of my acquaintance with the bard we frequently met upon Sundays at church, when, between sermons, instead of going with our friends or lasses to the inn, we often took a walk in the fields. In these walks I have frequently been struck by his facility in addressing the fair sex : many times when I have been bashfully anxious how to express myself, he would have entered into conversation with them with the greatest ease and freedom; and it was generally a death blow to our conversation, however agreeable, to meet a female acquaintance. Some of the few