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most beautiful poems and songs. Passing along a narrow unfenced road, I soon reached the highway, and after a walk of something like a mile entered Mauchline-a place to which Burns was often decoyed on a nicht at e'en " to " clachan yill” or perchance “the mou' o'some bonnie lass but more of him and it in next Chapter.
MATCHLINE-THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF THE BOX-MAKING TRADE
NANSE TANNOCK'S HOUSE-THE HOUSE IN WHICH BURNS LIVED
WORD ABOUT THEM-AN ANECDOTE OF BURNS AND JEAN ARMOUR
Mauchline is situated in a beautiful district, and although somewhat scattered and irregularly built is a town of neat appearance and considerable bustle. Like many places in the shire it owes its origin to its church and priory, of which the tower behind the burying ground is the only remnant. “In 1510 a charter, erecting Mauchline into a free burgh of barony, was granted by James IV. ; and by the act of 1606 it will be observed that Mauchline was again constituted a free burgh of barony. The charters, however, are said to have been destroyed at the burning of the Register Office in Edinburgh, upwards of a hundred years ago, and they have never been renewed.” Otherwise, there is nothing of historical interest connected with the place. The weaving of cotton goods at one time formed the chief support of the inhabitants, but, alas ! that trade has received an irreparable shock, and the sound of the shuttle is no longer heard in the streets. The staple industry at present is the manufacture of fancy ornaments, snuff boxes, card cases, &c. It is curious how this industry originated, and still more so how it has developed itself, and made Mauchline known throughout Great Britain, America, and the Continent of Europe. A French gentleman, on a visit to Sir Alexander Boswell at Auchinleck House, having the misfortune to break a handsome curiouslyhinged snuff-box, sent it to the late Mr Wyllie, the village
* ' History of the County of Ayr.”
watch-maker, to be repaired. During the process, the workman into whose hands it was given inadvertently allowed some solder to run into the joint, and consequently rendered it useless. To remedy the mishap he taxed his ingenuity, and tried every possible means to remove the obstruction, but without success. Latterly he succeeded in making an instrument that answered the purpose so well that the difficulty was overcome, and the hinge put in working order. Being pleased with his success in repairing, the workman—a Mr Crawford-next conceived the idea of making a fac simile of the Frenchman's box and presenting it to Sir Alexander. The magical or secret hinge taxed his mechanical skill, but by the aid of the instrument he had made he succeeded in imitating it, and that so well that orders flowed in, and the manufacture of such boxes became his sole occupation. To monopolise the trade, both master and man kept the formation of the hinge a secret, and that for twelve years; but a misunderstanding arising between them, they separated, and each carried on the box-making business on his own account. Crawford settled in Cumnock, and introduced the trade there ; but, having employed a watchmaker to make a hingeforming instrument like unto what he made himself, its use was suspected, and the secret in a short time ceased to be private : one firm after another sprang up in neighbouring towns until the industry assumed considerable proportions. On this hinge- of which a bed-ridden Laurencekirk cripple named Steven is said to have been the inventor--the fancy wood trade in Mauchline is founded ; but the honour of its introduction belongs to the late Andrew Smith, a genius who, though bred a stone-mason, raised himself by energy, selfculture, and perseverance to a very respectable position. Having, like others, discovered the secret of the snuff-box hinge, he put it to practical use, and opened a small manufactory in the village, in which he employed three men as box-makers. This venture proving a success, Andrew took his brother William into partnership, and his business habits, combined with his own creative genius, did much to make the industry the staple of the place. It is now fully sixty years since this species of manufacture was introduced into Mauchline, but during that period it has undergone many changes, and snuff-boxes are now the least of its products
beautifully-fashioned articles of ornament and use being turned out in great variety. The trade is so far developed by the application of steam and mechanical science that an article can now be purchased for a couple of shillings which at one time would have cost as many pounds. There are at present three factories in the place, and close on 400 people find constant employment in them.
When residing in Mossgiel, Burns found many attractions in Mauchline, not the least of which were the lasses, the Masonic Lodge, the debating society, and the delusive pleasures of the ale-house. But at this stage it will be as well to resiune the narrative and call attention to what is deemed worthy of regard.
The walk from Mossgiel to Mauchline proved pleasant and enjoyable. Upon entering the town I passed up a long street of clean, comfortable dwelling-houses, and in a very short time arrived in what may be appropriately termed the Cross, but not without being honoured with many a “glower” from chatty village belles, gossiping wives, and garrulous dames of one description and another who idled at doors in the seemingly earnest discussion of some all-important subject. Many of the houses in the vicinity of the local centre are modern ; but one old-fashioned thoroughfare which branches off it and steals between two rows of venerable thatched cottages is of peculiar interest, being associated with the Poet's name. Accosting a middle-aged man, he kindly, and in a somewhat self-satisfied manner, pointed to an old house on the left, in which there is at present a tinsmith's shop, and said, “ This was Nanse Tannock's place, and that two-storeyed red-stone building on the other side is the one in which Burns began housekeeping with his Jean; that is the auld kirkyard in which the Holy Fair' was held, and yonder is the house in which Gavin Hamilton lived, and the window of the office in which Burns and Jean were married.” What was at one time the howf of Nanse Tannock is a rickety thatched building of two stories, with a wooden stair going up from the street door to the upper apartments—which, by the bye, have an entrance into a small yard adjoining the burying-ground, which was at one time unenclosed. Nothing remains to indicate this judicious ale wifie's residence but the nails which secured her signboard above the door, and these are pointed
to as objects of curiosity by the residents—a circumstance certainly which indicates that the most is made of everything pertaining to the poet.
It is pretty evident that Burns frequented Nanse Tannock's change-house, and that its walls have often rung with the laughter which followed his sallies of wit. In it he promised to drink the health (" nine times a week”) of those M.P.'s who would devise some scheme to remove the restriction on aqua vitae ;" but when Nanse heard of it she is reported to have said “that he might be a very clever lad, but he certainly was regardless, as, to the best of her belief, he had never taken three half-mutchkins in her house in all his life.” This may be, hnt, facts are very much against her. The Rev. P. Hately Waddell says—“ Mrs Nelly Martin or Miller, who died December 22, 1858, aged 92, and was originally sweetheart to the Poet's brother William, was intimately acquainted also with the Poet himself, and confirmed iri the most earnest and emphatic manner, as if living over again in his society the scenes of her youth, the rumours of the extraordinary gift of eloquence with which he was even then endowed. According to her account, to escape from his tongue, if once entangled by it, was almost an impossibility. He was unco, by-ordinar engagin' in his talk.' For which reason he was an invaluable visitor at the change-house, where Nanse Tannock had a jesuitical device of her own for detaining him. Nanse carried a huge leather pouch at her side, slung from her waist (as old Scotch landladies used to do), filled with keys, pence, 'change,' and et ceterus. When application for Burns was made at her dooras was often the case," for atweel he was uncolie in demand' by personal friends of his or rivals of her own—' Is Rab here ?' or ' Is Mossgiel here ? — Nanse would thrust her hand into her capacious leather pouch, and, jingling ostentatiously among keys and coppers, would solemnly and fraudulently declare that he wasna there (in her pouch) that night ! -Rab, in reality, being most probably engaged at the very moment in rehearsing his last poetical effusion, The Holy Fair' or · The Twa Herds,' to an ecstatic audience in the parlour.” The same writer goes on to say that it was in Nanse Tannock's parlour that “the first reading of The Holy Fair' took place, when there were present Robert and his sweet