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Had her detractors heeded the advice of Burns
“Gently scan your brother man,
Still gentler sister woman she would not have been “a flower plucked in its bloom.” She was an accomplished poetess, and shortly after her death -which occurred at Buckingham Palace in July, 1839—her poems, which are distinguished by much purity of thought, sweetness, and grace, were collected and published. Indeed, as an able reviewer remarked, “such a deep love of the beauti ful, the exalted, and the holy reigns through them all that it is impossible to repel the conviction that her actions accorded with her words, and that her words gave but the utterance to the calm and sinless feelings of her heart.”
There is a curious old stone at the door of the queir worth attention. It states that it is “ IN MEMORY OF Matho Futun, MAISTER MASON—ANE RICHT HONEST MAN WHO DIED IN THE YEAR OF GOD, 1632.” According to the semi-obliterated inscription, “ Matho” went to his grave as to his bed, with the intention of rising at the Resurrection. Within a few yards of it, and near to the gable of the old kirk, is the grave of the “Scottish Milkmaid,” Janet Little, author of a small volume of poetry which never gained any great or lasting popularity, but who is now well known as the poetical correspondent of Robert Burns. The plain slab, which marks the spot, bears the fol. lowing in yet legible characters :
“ IN MEMORY OF JOHN RICHMOND, WHO DIED August 10, 1819, AGED 78 YEARS; AND JANET LITTLE, HIS SPOUSE, WHO DIED MARCH, 15, 1818, AGED 54 YEARS ; AND FIVE OF THEIR CHILDREN."
Janet belonged to Ecclefechan and came to Ayrshire to serve in the capacity of a domestic servant in the family of Mrs Hendrie, daughter of Mrs Dunlop, the distinguished friend of our poet, when she resided in Loudoun Castle. Having met with a copy of the Kilmarnock edition, she was so captivated by it that she conceived a partiality for Burns, and wrote him a poetical address, of which the subjoined is part :
“ Fair fa' the honest rustic swain,
The pride o' a' oor Scottish plain ;
And notes sae sweet;
În thee we greet.
“ Lov'd Thalia, that delightfu’muse,
Seem'd long shut up in a recluse ;
Since Allan's day ;
To grace thy lay.
Sae weel you strike the dormant lyre ;
Thy breast does charm;
Thy art to charm.
'Tis pity e'er their gabs should steek,
And knots unravel ;
Nine miles I'd travel.
“In the latter part of March (1791), Burns had the misfortune to come down with his horse and break his right arm. Janet Little, the poetical milkmaid, had come to see him, and was waiting at Ellisland when the bard returned in the disabled state to which he had been reduced by the accident. She has related in simple verse her own painful alarm when the sad intelligence resounded through his hall, the sympathy with which she regarded the tears of his affectionate Jean, and the double en barrassment she experienced in greeting at such a crisis the illustrious poet whom she had formerly trembled to meet at all."*
Little else regarding Janet is known. The cottage where she resided is within a stone-throw of the kirkyard, and from this it appears that she married and settled in the district after quitting the service of Mrs Hendrie.
Near Janet's grave there is a handsome monument to the memory of the late Rev. James Allan, minister of Loudoun, and a very chaste stone which Mr Robert Mackie has raised to the memory of his sister, Janet, who died at Loudoun Cottage, 24th September, 1872, in the sixty-third year of her age.
With the exception of these, and a humble slab commemorating
“ THOMAS FLEMMING OF LOUDOUN HILL, WHO, FOR HIS APPEARANCE IN ARMS IN HIS OWN DEFENCE, AND IN THE
* Contemporaries of Burns.
DEFENCE OF THE GOSPEL, ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF GOD, WAS SHOT IN AN ENCOUNTER AT DRUMCLOG, 1st JUNE, 1679, BY BLOODY GRAHAM OF CLAVERHOUSE," there are no stones of special interest, but several may be found decked “with uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture,” which implore “ the passing tribute of a sigh.”
Beyond Loudoun Kirk the road is very beautiful and the scenery most sylvan and picturesque. From the height which the road attains before entering the policies of Loudoun Castle, there is an excellent view of Galston, nestling sweetly on the bank of the river Irvine at the foot of a range of uplands studded with farmsteads and patches of woodland, which Burns refers to in the opening stanza of the “ Holy Fair.” Although it cannot be called flourishing, it is at least a comfortable country town, with some four thousand inhabitants, but there is little in it to stay the feet of a rambler, its antiquities being few, and its buildings lowly. Its chief objects of interest are its church--which stands above the town and is a prominent object for a great distance—and Barr Castle, an old square tower at the top of one of its streets. It also boasts a
a boss tree," as the rotten hollow stump of a gigantic willow is termed. The tradition regarding it is that Sir Wm. Wallace concealed himself in its branches when pursued by a detachment of Southern soldiers, a statement which verges on the probable, for from its girth it is of seeining great age. The old tower possesses no history. It is said to have been the residence of a powerful family named Lockhart, and that the reformer, John Knox, addressed the people of Kyle from one of its windows. It was a favourite haunt of John Wright, a gifted but erratic local genius, who made some stir in literary circles in his day. In some verses which he addressed to it, he says ::
“ Proud edifice ! no annals tell
What thou hast brooked, what thou hast been,
What mighty baron-lord, I ween,
Possessed more independent power.” Amongst the many excellent things John wrote is a song entitled “Kiss the goblet and live," which I am almost tempted to reproduce. Unfortunately for him, he kissed it
too often and died in the prime of life, and had it not been for the generosity of a few friends would have filled a pauper's grave.
The quaint byroad which we have followed from Kilmarnock terminates at the sylvan avenue leading to Loudoun Castle, the magnificent residence of the Loudoun family. The present Earl succeeded to his mother, the late Countess of Loudoun, who took up the Scotch title at the death of her brother, the Marquis of Hastings.
The grounds are thickly wooded, and contain many beautiful aged trees. Indeed, in the vernal season of the year, the woods and braes around this fained residence are unsurpassed for grandeur, and are in every way worthy of the compliment which the poet Tannahill paid them. To John, fourth Earl of Loudoun, belongs the merit of having made the scenery what it is, for he not only devoted himself to improving the estate in many ways, but planted upwards of one million trees which he brought from various parts of the globe.
Passing up the shady avenue I soon arrived in front of the Castle, which may be described as combining the gracefulness of modern architecture with the massive strength of early times. One battlemented square tower was erected in the twelfth century, and another, which overlooks the entire building, in the fifteenth. To these antiquated structures Sir John Campbell, who was created Lord Chancellor in 1642, made an extensive addition, and in 1811 the whole was augmented by a large and stately portion which gives to the pile quite a palatial appearance. The interior is fitted up with great magnificence, and the walls of several apartments are literally covered with finely-executed portraits of the Loudoun and Rowallan families. Many of these pictures are dimmed with age and recal to one's mind stirring events of the good old times when plain speaking and hard blows were in fashion, and when the four feet of cold steel which dangled by every gallant's side settled differences and enforced arguments. A picture of Charles I., which is disfigured and patched-looking, is associated with an incident worth relating. It appears that the troops of Oliver Cromwell visited the Castle, and that a company of officers, when straying through its rooms, stopped before the king's
picture, and out of contempt for his majesty made thrusts at it with their swords by way of joke.
The library is said to contain over 10,000 volumes, and very many ancient manuscripts and curious documents.
It may be added that few families can boast a more honourable pedigree, or a more lengthened possession of their property, than that of Loudoun. Indeed, the whole line, or rather lines, of the noble house have been distinguished for deeds of patriotism and valour.
A notice of this beautiful domain, be it ever so brief, would be incomplete without some reference to the old yew-tree which grows beside the castle wall. Although ages have fled, and generations of men have passed away since it was planted, it spreads its umbrageous boughs over the lawn, and seems as likely to withstand the blast as any tree on the estate. One of the family charters was subscribed under its deep shade in the reign of William the Lion, and when Scotland and England became united, Lord Hugh Campbell chose the same place to sign the deed. It is also memorable for the trifling incident of James, second Earl of Loudoun, having addressed letters to it, when secretly communicating with his lady during the period of his banishment.
“ TO THE GUDEWIFE AT THE AULTON,
SCOTLAND," was the manner in which they were inscribed, and there is little doubt that they reached the hand intended.
There are many pleasant rambles to be had amongst “ Loudoun's bonnie woods and braes,” and not the least of them is from the Castle to Newmilns by the private road. When traversing it I was delighted with the bosky scene. At one part the rustic way passes a stripe of woodland, and is overshadowed by the foliage of stately trees; at another, it merges into the open glade, and winds along a verdant bank, or dips into a dell where some tiny streamlet murmurs among the brackens, and ultimately pursues a zig-zag course until it reaches the brow of an almost perpendicular height overlooking the picturesque hamlet. For a reason which will be