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bridge for a space, I moved slowly forward, but again stopped before proceeding many yards to note another point in the route of “honest Tam." It was the
“ Meikle stane Where drucken Charlie brak's neck-bane." This stone rests in a small garden which lies behind a rustic cottage and is easily perceived from the road, being little more than twenty yards distant. That an individual, who was oftener “the waur o't” than was either good for soul or body, actually broke his neck by stumbling over the obstacle when in such a condition that he could scarce
“ Free the ditches,
Frae ghaists and witches, tradition states; but who or what he was no one at this date knows. Having tarried rather long by the above-mentioned objects, I stepped out to make up for lost time. Machines to and from the Monument passed in quick succession and many pedestrians rubbed shoulders with me on the narrow footpath,
" For roads were clad frae side to side
In droves that day.” I enjoyed the scenery very much as I plodded slowly along, holding converse with Nature and my own heart, feeling thankful that I was released from the cankering cares of life for the time being. When about two miles from town, the rounding of a slight curve in the road brought me somewhat unexpectedly to a row of humble cottages clustering together on the right hand side of the highway. The clanking of an anvil made known that a “Burnewin ” was hard at work, and that some one was bringing
“Hard ower hip, wi' sturdy wheel,
The strong forehammer,
Wi' dinsome clamour.” As I passed his door, I saw the flaming forge and heard the bellows blow; but did not linger, for—by the animated scene in front of a straw-covered cot a few yards off-I knew that I had reached the birthplace of Robert Burns, the bard
whose name has
gone forth through all countries. Indeed, while gazing on the bit biggin' and the fields which lie around it, I felt that I knew the poet better, and could hold closer converse with him than in his pages.
“The Cottage,” as it is termed, is a low-roofed, one-storeyed structure of a very humble order, with rudely-lettered signboards on its front, of which the following is a facsimile :
WAS BORN UNDER THIS ROOF
AGED 371 YEARS.
The sound of mirth,
“And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind," issued from the interior as I entered and was shown into a small whitewashed, plainly-furnished apartment on the right, from which a company of holiday seekers were making their exit. The place was impregnated with the fumes of tobacco and whisky, but with my mind full of its associations I threw myself into a chair, laid aside my hat and stick, and began to look round.
The tables were strewn with empty measures and glasses, and swam with spilled liquor; but the most noticeable feature was that every portion of walls and ceiling were covered with names and addresses in pencil. Indeed, the very furniture was cut and initialed with jack-knives in a very wanton manner, and one table was so much hacked that it would have been difficult to have found space for another letter of the alphabet. Notwithstanding this
scrawling on the walls, and the fact that repeated layers of whitewash concealed coatings of names, the room scrupulously clean, and presented a rather tidy appearance.
A glance at the neatly-attired damsel who entered to attend to my wants was sufficient to convince me we had met before, but where I could not call to mind, nor did I until she mentioned the name of my family physician. In this instance the simple fact of being known was of immense service, for it not only procured a formal introduction to the amiable landlady, but the liberty of viewing the house and gathering such information regarding it and the district as is not usually accorded to strangers.
From the room described I passed into the memorial, or shrowroom, for it is fitted up with a counter and glass cases, in which are displayed photographs of the poet, albums, and a great assortment of ornaments “made of wood which grew on the banks of Doon,” any of which can be purchased by visitors for a trifle, and carried away as souvenirs of a visit to a Mecca to which thousands of pilgrims annually flock. Here also is kept a ponderous "visitors' book," whose closelywritten pages contain names by the thousand, which have been inscribed by individuals in all ranks of life and from all parts of the world. Truly great indeed is the genius of the peasant poet when the noble, the wise, and the beautiful come from all countries as pilgrims to the place of his birth.
After looking round the memorial chamber, I was next conducted to the most hallowed part of the cottage--namely, the kitchen, for in it, on a humble pallet, Robert Burns was ushered into the world. Its walls echoed the first tones of his voice, and its spacious hearth was the altar round which William Burness and his family assembled to hymn the Creator's praise. The bed in which the poet was born is in a recess in the wall, it being in Scotch parlance “set in.” The fireplace is in its original form, but otherwise alterations of all kinds have been made in and about the cottage, which have materially interfered with its original appearance. With the exception of an old dresser which belonged to the poet's father there are no relics of importance shown. This lowly kitchen has many associations. In it
“ A blast o' Janwar win'
Blew hansel in on Robin."
and that so lustily that it threw down the gable of the house and whistled through the apartment in which the new-born poet lay in his mother's bosom. In it, too, the wayfaring gipsy “keekit” in his tiny loof, and predicted that whoever lived would
“ See the proof, The waly boy wad be nae coof,
And thought they'd ca' him Robin.” Yes, and chalked out his future career pretty accurately—that is, if we are to believe what tradition and the “rantin', rovin' boy” have told us about the evert. In it he spent the first seven years of his life, and gambolled and sported on its floor with youthful companions, and when his mind began to expand listened to old Betty Davidson as she unfolded her legendary store of ghost and witch stories.
While standing on the centre of the floor in silent contemplation I felt ashamed and humiliated that this humble but celebrated shrine of genius is converted into a common drinking shop—that it is the resort of the drunken, the thoughtless : yea of people who are incited by no higher feeling than that of vulgar curiosity. One freight of boisterous visitors no sooner left than another arrived. They wandered unceremoniously through the rooms, smoked, spat, and drank whisky in the kitchen, and behaved in such an unbecoming manner that I felt glad when the obliging hostess beckoned and ushered me into a handsome apartment designated “ the hall.” This spacious and beautifully fitted up room is an addition to the cottage, and was added with the idea of increasing its accommodation and extending its usefulness as an inn or house of entertainment. Its first stone was laid with masonic honours by the late much respected Maxwell Dick, Esq., Deputy Grand Master of Mother Kilwinning, on the 25th January, 1849, and since then its walls have rung with the mirth and plaudits of many a social gathering, and echoed many a eulogistic piece of eloquence in honour of the bard.
A very notable, and, it may be added, one of the most enthusiastic companies ever assembled in it was that which celebrated the Burns Centenary in 1859. The Rev. Hately Waddell presided on the occasion, and delivered a long and
eloquent speech on the genius and character of him who could
alternately impart Wisdom and rapture in his page,
And brand each vice with satire strong." Besides a copy of the above oration, and six portraits and a bust of Burns, the walls are crowded with pictures illustrative of his writings, and with neatly framed pieces of verse composed in his honour or to his memory. Many of these are of considerable merit, but the most noteworthy are,
“ To a rose from Alloway Kirk,” by Fitz Green Hallock; “Stanzas to the memory of Burns,” by Eliza Cook; and “Lines written in Burns Cottage,” by R. S. Bowie, V.D.M., Dunfermline, which I quote.
LINES WRITTEN IN BURNS' COTTAGE.
It need scarce be chronicled that I lingered some time in this apartment examining the many interesting objects which it contains, or that I drank to the immortal memory of of Burns before leaving.
nae man can tether time or tide," I was compelled reluctantly to depart, for several miles had to be traversed before "a blink o' my ain fireside" would be obtained. When taking leave of my new friends at the cottage door, I was surprised at the number of
* Besides this neat sonnet, Mr. Bowie is the author of many highly meritorious pieces of verse, and has given to the world a small volume, entitled “Fireside Lyrics ;" also, a Hymnal respectfully dedicated to all who believe in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man,
,” which contains many pieces from his pen of a truly graceful and devotional character which will bear favourable comparison with the productions of our best hymn writers. It is a pity that he is so little known.