Page images

He was a

Descending the steps of the Mausoleum, I handed the exhibitor the customary fee, and thoughtfully passed out of the churchyard. Opposite is a curious old building erected and endowed by two brothers named Moorhead for the purpose of providing homes for aged natives of the burgh in reduced circumstances. Amongst the inmates is a son of Robert Burns, the eldest son of our national poet. schoolmaster in Dumfries for thirty-five years, but owing to the infirmities of age and the changes which the new Education Act brought about, his circumstances have become so reduced that he is forced to avail himself of this charity. I had the pleasure of conversing with him, and found him to be not only intelligent but proud that the blood of Burns flows in his veins.

Farther along the street is another old building adjoining the Mechanics’ Institute. In it there is a library established by the citizens in 1792, of which Burns was an honorary member. A minute in its records states that on the 5th March, 1793, “the committee, by a great majority, resolved to offer to Mr Burns a share in the library, free of any admission money [10s 6d) and the quarterly contributions [28 6d] to this date, out of respect and esteem for his abilities as a literary man; and they directed the secretary to make this known to Mr Burns as soon as possible, that the application which they understood he was about to make in the ordinary way might be anticipated.”

This is a pleasing testimony of the esteem in which Burns was held, and says much for his conduct as a member of society.

Reciprocating this kindness, Burns presented four books to the library, namely—“Humphry Clinker," "Julia de Roubigné," "Knox's History of the Reformation," and “ Delolme on the British Constitution." On the back of the frontispiece of the last-named volume he wrote—“Mr. Burns presents this book to the Library, and begs they will take it as a creed of British liberty—until they find a better.-R.

This seems to have been penned on the spur of the moment, but Burns was soon alive to the indiscretion committed, and called at an early hour in the morning after the presentation upon the custodian of the books, and asked to be shown “ Delolme,” stating as a reason that he feared he had

written something upon it " which might bring him into trouble." When handed the volume, he looked at what he had written, and then carefully pasted the fly-leaf to the back of the frontispiece in such a way as completely to conceal the writing. The volume is still to the fore, and anyone holding the frontispiece up to the light can read the seditious passage without difficulty. In this library there is still another book bearing the handwriting of Burns. It is the thirteenth volume of Sinclair's “ Statistical Account of Scotland." In a notice of the martyred Covenanters of the parish of Balmaghie, an inscription on a tombstone to the memory of a worthy buried in the churchyard is given. Burns appears to have been impressed with the force of its simple but expressive language, for the following verse appears on the margin of the page, pencilled in his striking handwriting

“ The Solemn League and Covenant

Now brings a smile, now brings a tear;
But sacred Freedom, too, was theirs-,

If thou’rt a slave indulge thy sneer." Dumfries and its neighbourhood possess many attractions to the rambler and tourist besides memorials of Robert Burns, but it is these which specially engage the visitor's attention and induce thousands to visit the ancient burgh annually. Few towns are planted in a more lovely situation, and in none can a holiday be spent to greater advantage, there being so many places of interest within easy access. To the southeast is the romantic little village of Glencaple, where the foam-crested billows of the Solway may be seen flowing with race-horse speed; and also at no great distance from it the magnificent ruins of Carlaverock Castle, the supposed Ellangowan of Scott's “Guy Mannering." In Carlaverock Churchyard, too, rests “Old Mortality," the enthusiastic amateur sculptor who wandered the length and breadth of Scotland renewing the lettering on the grave-stones of the Covenanters. Messrs A. & C. Black, of Edinburgh, the publishers of the Waverley Novels, have erected a neat monument to his memory. Then there is Cromlongan Castle, once the residence of the Earls of Mansfield, with Ruthwell Cross near by, which is considered the most important Runic monument in Britain ; and also Sweetheart Abbey, a fine ruin, near which

one could linger a whole summer day. Everywhere round Dumfries the country is replete with natural beauty and historic interest; but my task is accomplished, I have followed the footsteps of Burns from the place of his birth to the scene of his death and burial, so it only remains to be stated that after visiting the Dock Park, the Observatory, and other places within easy reach, I sought the railway station, and was soon on my way to Kilmarnock.

Reader, adieu ! and in taking leave of the subject and of each other, let us exclaim with Thomas Campbell :

“ Farewell, high chief of Scottish song !

That couldst alternately impart
Wisdom and rapture in thy page,
And brand each vice with satire strong ;
Whose lines are mottoes of the heart,
Whose truths electrify the sage.

" Farewell! and ne'er may envy dare

To wring one baleful poison-drop
From the crush'd laurels of thy bust;
But while the lark sings sweet in air,
Still may the grateful pilgrim stop
To bless the spot that holds thy dust!"



« PreviousContinue »