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The Substitute Provincial Grand Master, under like orders, applied the square, and the Depute Grand Master then said:
Having, my Right Worshipful Brethren, full confidence in your skill in our Royal Art, it remains with me now to finish this work,' whereupon he gave the stone three knocks, saying : * May the Almighty Architect of the Universe look down with benignity upon our present undertaking, and on the happy completion of the work of which we have now laid the memorial stone, and may this monument be long preserved from peril and decay.' The band then played the Masons' Anthem. On the music ceasing, the Substitute Provincial Grand Master then delivered to the Depute Grand Master a cornucopia, and to the acting senior and junior Provincial Grand Masters, silver vases with wine and oil. The Depute Provincial Grand Master then spread corn on the stone, and poured thereon wine and oil, conformably to ancient custom, saying: “Praise be to the Lord, immortal and eternal, who formed the Heavens, laid the foundations of the earth, and extended the waters beyond it : Who supports the pillars of the nations, and maintains in order and harmony surrounding worlds. We implore thy aid : and may the Almighty Ruler of events deign to direct the hand of our gracious Sovereign, so that she may pour down blessings upon her people: and may that people, living under sage laws in a free Government, ever feel grateful for the blessings they enjoy. Three hearty cheers on the part of the crowd, and 'Rule Britannia' by the band, completed the Masonic part of the ceremony."
After an eloquent address had been delivered by Mr. Cochran-Patrick, and a few remarks made by Provost Sturrock, the procession re-formed and marched back to town, where it dispersed. In the evening a public dinner was held in the George Inn Hall, at which Provost Sturrock presided. It was numerously attended, and amongst those present were several distinguished personages and local celebrities.
More need not be said regarding the quiet town of Kilmarnock, so I will conclude this chapter by reiterating the wish of George Campbell, a local poet, who flourished about 1787 :
“O! happy Marnock, lasting be thy peace !
May trading flourish and thy wealth increase !
FROM KILMARNock To MossGIEL–NOTES BY THE way—MossGIEL– A NOISY RECEPTION.—THE DWELLING-HOUSE-THE SPENCE–AN INTERESTING RELIc—THE “MoUse " AND “DAISY”—John BLANE's RECoLLECTIONS.–THE old Dwell ING-House—THE PoET's STUDY —THE SCENE of “THE VISION "-THE POET's PERSONAL APPEARANCE AND MISFORTUNES WHEN IN THE FARM.
HAVING roved by bonnie Doon and winding Ayr, and sketched the town of Kilmarnock, I would now, courteous reader, ask you to accompany me in a ramble to Mossgiel and the places of interest in its vicinity, which are inseparably associated with the poet's name, for he removed there in May, 1784, and with his brother Gilbert began life anew with the little the family had been able to wrench from the avaricious grasp of the Lochlea landlord.
The day set apart for the journey being favourable, I left Kilmarnock at an early hour, and after a pleasant walk reached Crookedholm, an unpretentious hamlet chiefly occupied by miners, who find employment in numerous coalpits in its vicinity. Unimportant as it now is, it was at one time a place of some note, and, according to a work lately published,” possessed a “flour mill, a cloth factory, and a place of worship near the beginning of the eighteenth century.” Beyond it I passed two handsome Churches, crossed a substantial stone bridge, and entered Hurlford, another mining settlement which has assumed the proportions of a town within the memory of persons still living. This transition is owing to the presence of rich seams of coal in the vicinity, to the opening of the Portland Ironworks, and to its connection with a line of railway which bears away the produce, and brings the village into direct communication with the large centres of industry. The village possesses the churches referred to, a mechanics' institute, a Post and Telegraph Office, a flourishing co-operative store, a commodious police station, and a fair sprinkling of public houses and places of business. According to the work already quoted, “the inhabitants are a very mixed race, and a large proportion of them are either Irish or descendants of Irish. Of the exotic element of the population, a portion are Catholics, while those who are Protestants are Orangemen. Hence frequent quarrels leading to breaches of the peace arise between these two irreconcilable sections of Irishmen.” From this it may be inferred that renewals of the obsolete sports of Donnybrook Fair are of common occurrence on pay nights, and that “a party man” need have no anxiety about turning blue-moulded for want of a sound thrashing. The road to Mauchline branches off what may be termed Hurlford Cross. It was the way Burns came to and returned from Kilmarnock when residing at Mossgiel. Allan Cunningham states that John Wilson suggested the propriety of placing a piece of a grave nature at the beginning of the poems he printed, and that acting on the hint the bard composed or completed “The Twa Dogs” when walking home to Mossgiel. The local work quoted states that “the first wayside inn was kept by James Aiton ; it was on the western side of the Mauchline Road, and he occupied it at the time Burns was in Mossgiel, and was having his poems printed by Wilson in Kilmarnock. He was acquainted with Burns, and being—like many Scotchmen of that era—an inveterate snuffer, was presented by the bard with a snuffbox. This box Aiton long retained, but after Burns had grown famous, he was often asked by his visitors for a pinch of snuff from the poet's box, and at last it was stolen from him.” This is a very pleasing reminiscence, but the following is more so : An old man named Andrew Howat who “had wrought a good deal about coal-pits, which were then being worked at Norris Bank, about two miles on the road to Mauchline and about four miles from Mossgiel, remembered Burns, and related that most of the farmers in the district were known to him as coming to the heugh for coals. Burns, he said, came frequently and generally carried a book with him which he read by the way.” How characteristic “Some book he always carried and read,” says David Sillars, and another writer records that he wore out two copies of * The Man of Feeling” by carrying them about in his pocket —he walked like a thoughtful man and was always meditative when alone. A short walk along Mauchline Road brought me to a bridge which spans the Cessnock—a streamlet celebrated by our poet in an early love song. It takes its rise at Auchmannoch Moor in the parish of Sorn, and forms some fantastic windings in which it serves as the boundary line between the parishes. of Mauchline, Galston, and Riccarton, and empties itself into the Irvine a mile or so above Hurlford. Ellison Begbie, the heroine of the song referred to, was the daughter of a small farmer in the parish of Galston, but was a servant in a family on the banks of the Cessnock when Burns made her acquaintance. This attachment is spoken of as one of the purest he ever engazel in, and he declared in mature years, after he had visited Edinburgh, that of all the women he had ever seriously addressed, she was the one most likely to have formed an agreeable companion for life. He addressed a series of letters to her, and employs a song of thirteen stanzas to describe her personal charms, which tradition states were few in the eyes of her neighbours. Although his passion was not reciprocated, the poet maintained his suit with considerable warmth, and in addition to that dangerous mode of courtship—letter-writing—visited the fair one at her home, and “beneath the moon's unclouded light” poured in her ear the language of love. Mrs Begg had a distinct recollection of this attachment, and related that her brother went frequently in the evenings to pay his addresses to the damsel, and generally returned home at a late hour; and Chambers tells us that “the old man resolved to administer to his son the practical rebuke of sitting up to let him in, and also to give him a few words of gentle admonition. When Robert returned that night the father was there to administer the intended correction, but the young bard defeated his plan. On being asked what had detained him so long, he began a whimsical narration of what he had met with and seen of the natural and supernatural on his way home, concluding with the particulars afterwards wrought up in the well-known verses in his “Address to the Deil’:— ‘Ae dreary, windy, wintry night, The stars shot down wi' sklentin light,
* “Hurlford Sixty Years Ago,” &c., by M. Wilson.
Wi' you mysel' I got a fright,
Ayont the lough ;
Wi' waving sough.
Amang the springs,
On whistling wings !' The old man was in spite of himself so much interested and amused by this recital as to forget the intended scolding, and the affair ended in his sitting up for an hour or two by the kitchen fire enjoying the conversation of his gifted son.
Beyond the bridge referred to a long stretch of road, which winds through an agreeably diversified landscape of gently rising grounds, lay before me. The walk proved lengthy and lonely, but the glorious sights and sounds of nature ministered delightfully to my eye and ear. I entered into conversation with a countryman driving a horse and cart in the direction I was pursuing. He was well acquainted with the district, and entertained the highest veneration of the Poet's memory, and seemed to dwell with fondness upon every little trait and anecdote associated with his name. When we came to Cross hands, where there is a school and a smith's shop, he said, “ Robin was often here about, and in a corner o' a park ahent that wood there a horse o' his lies buried that dee'd wi' him when ploughin'; but haud on an' ye'll see Mossgiel in a wee. The wee soon passed, and from the brow of a brae over which the road passes he pointed with his whip to a farmsteading on the summit of a swelling piece of ground, and in a self-satisfied manner added—“There it is. The parks are the same, but the hoose is a' changed. Yonder's the ane he turned up the mousie's nest in; but haud on a wee an’ I'll set you doun at the yett o' the ane whaur he ploughed down the daisy Haud alang the side o't—it's the nearest way into the farm." Upon arriving at the yett I took leave of my rough good-natured friend and entered the field. A number of cows were browsing in it, and myriads of daisies spangled its surface. As I pensively gazed on the scene the following from the pen of William Scott Douglas, of Edinburgh, came to mind :