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father so humorous and fanciful a description of his experiences and difficulties in his journey homewards, that the father not only forgot the intended rebuke, but actually became so interested in and amused at his son's recital, that he continued sitting at the kitchen fireside for fully two hours enjoying his son's fascinating conversation.
The operations on the farm of Lochlea seem to have been of a more than usually arduous character, for there was a house and barn to build, and waste land—referred to in William Burness's jottings as "the loch," extending to 21 acres—to drain and dress with lime, so as to make it suitable for cultivation. These operations seem to have extended over the earlier years of the occupancy of Lochlea, and before they were fully completed a dispute seems to have arisen between William Burness and his landlord, Mr. MʻLure, and impending misfortune like an ever-darkening cloud began to gather around the household. This vexatious and troublesome matter seems to have painfully harassed and distressed William Burness, and his health becoming more and more undermined, he, after a lingering illness, departed this life on the 13th February, 1784, in the 64th year of his age. Mrs. Begg has left a touching and graphic sketch of the melancholy scene around her father's bedside on the day of his death. “She remembered being at her father's bedside on that morning with no other company besides her brother Robert. Seeing her cry bitterly at the thought of the impending parting, her father endeavoured to speak, but could only murmur a few words of comfort, such as might be suitable to a child (she was then only twelve years of age), concluding with an injunction to walk in virtue's paths and to shun
After a pause he said there was one of his family for whose future conduct he feared. He repeated the same expression when the young Poet came up and said, 'Oh, father, is it me that you mean?' The old man said that it was. Robert turned to the window with the tears running down his cheeks, and his bosom heaving as if it would burst from the very restraint he put upon himself.”
Actuated by that strong attachment to locality, which forms so marked a characteristic of the Celtic race, the Burns family resolved to inter their father's remains in the burying ground attached to " Alloway's Auld Haunted Kirk," the burying ground
of the parish in which William Burness and his wife had spent the first years of their wedded life. Accordingly at considerable expense and inconvenience, the funeral procession wended its weary way over the eight miles which intervened between Lochlea and the place of interment—the coffin, according to the then prevailing custom, being supported by two horses, placed one after the other. On the tombstone, shortly afterwards erected to mark the site of his father's grave, Burns inscribed the following genuine and touching tribute to his father's worth--lines which, inartistic as they are, express more sincerely the true sentiments of his heart, than the most impassioned stanza he ever composed:
“O! Ye whose cheek the tear of pity stains,
Draw near in pious rev’rence and attend !
The tender father, and the gen'rous friend,
The dauntless heart that feared no human pride,
*For e'en his failings leaned to virtue's side.:)
GREENOCK BURNS CLUB.
(HELD OVER FROM LAST YEAR.)
HE Greenock Burns Club, of which it is here proposed
to give a short historical account, dates from 1801,
when the Poet was but five years in the grave. Several Greenock gentlemen, some of whose names and poetical productions have been preserved, constituted themselves in that year into a Burns Society, holding their deliberations in a tavern conducted by a Mrs. Cottar, a circumstance which gave rise to a witticism of the time, jocularly describing their weekly gatherings as Cottar's Saturday Nights. That Burns worship in Greenock should thus early have a local habitation and a name, might reasonably be expected when it is known that fully 50 copies of Creech's Edinburgh Edition were purchased by Greenock subscribers; and that the Poet himself (as the diligent antiquary, Weir, relates) was, during his single visit to Greenock, surprised and overjoyed to find that his fame had preceded him, and that his book had a ready sale at all the shops. Weir's historical sketch was published in 1829, and in his volume he mentions it as a well-known fact that Greenock was the first place to establish a society specifically named after Robert Burns. Intellectual conversation, and the fostering of a taste for the poetry of the country, were represented as the objects of this earliest of Scottish Burns Clubs. Acting, probably, on the principle that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and homage, the members were in the habit of writing verses, good, bad, and indifferent, in the favourite metres of Burns. The first meeting of the Club of which any account is extant, was held on the 21st of July, 1801, and on that occasion Mr. Neil Dougal, a well-known local musician and poet, read a lengthy poem to the memory of Burns, which he had himself composed, and which is not devoid of considerable merit. The first Anniversary meeting was held on 29th January, 1802; forty members were present, and the customary ode specially composed for the occasion was recited from the chair. On Saturday, 29th January, 1803, the bulk of the members remained in Greenock to celebrate the anniversary in the White Hart Hotel, while a detachment travelled by coach to Ayr, in order to join other admirers of the Poet from all parts of the country in celebrating his anniversary in the cottage where he was born. As the result of an examination of the registry of births for the parish of Ayr, it was, in that year, discovered that the 25th, and not the 29th, was the correct natal day of the Bard. This discovery does not, however, appear to have caused the members in the succeeding years to confine their anniversary to the 25th, for we find various dates in January (evidently chosen mainly for convenience) given in the minute-book as the evenings of celebration. Very full reports of many of these early anniversary celebrations are to be found in the local paper of the town, and corroborate the lengthier records of the official minute-book. The Club, even in the early period of its existence, was evidently a power in the town, and, besides numbering on its roll some of Highland Mary's kin, it also included many of the leading citizens of Greenock in its active membership. Mr. Galbreath, president in 1812, proposed at one of the meetings in that year that a subscription should be opened for the purpose of erecting a monument to Mary Campbell. The substance of his eloquent remarks are still to be seen in the carefully collected “Notes On Renfrewshire Topics,” excerpted from the files of the old Greenock journals by Allan Park Paton, Esq., the famous Shakesperian scholar. In the early, as in the later years, of the Club's history, special efforts were made to spend the anniversary evening in as splendid and discreetly hilarious a style as possible. At the seventh celebration the members seem to have outstripped all their previous doings. Over sixty gentlemen sat down to supper, and the celebrated band of the Ayrshire Militia was brought to Greenock specially for the occasion, and regaled the members with a “superior musical performance” with great applause. Considering the means of transit then available, and the season of the year at which the meeting took place, it cannot be said that the members of the Club were lacking in enthusiasm or enterprise. On another of the early anniversaries held when this century was just in its teens, a motion was proposed and carried “that a correspondence be entered into with the friends and admirers of the National Bard in Ayrshire, requesting them to set apart a subscription to erect a monument to his distinguished memory at the place of his birth.” In subsequent
reports of the proceedings this matter is frequently referred to and emphasised.
With the exception of certain outstanding events, the history of the Club during the five decades after 1820 is not of such great importance as to require very minute chronicling. The present work of the Club must call for more copious details. The Greenock Club is strongly of opinion that it is by present and actual services for the promulgation of literature that any Burns Society, deserving of the name, must base its claims to regard. January 25th, 1842, is, however, worthy of commemoration. On that day-the christening day, as the papers relate, of the Prince of Wales—the foundation stone of the monument to Highland Mary was laid in the corner of the Old West Kirkyard. The procession, consisting largely of “ “ brethren of the mystic tie,” and enthusiastic devotees of Burns worship, from all corners of the land, proceeded with due reverence to the hallowed spot where the imposing ceremony was performed. So many years thus elapsed before the proposition of Mr. Galbreath had practical issue. The celebration in the great year of '59 was a magnificent affair. The Provost of the time—Mr Duff-presided over a gathering of more than 200 gentlemen, and there was no lack of rhetoric and brilliancy. The speeches delivered on the occasion are well preserved in the official records of the centenary. The president of that time—Mr. Macfarlane—did much good work which is not yet forgotten.
It is not from any want of materials in the shape of recorded speech, deliberation, and song, that we hasten to give an account of the present work of the Club, rather than utilise our small vailable space in transcribing minutes, which, though often shrewd and witty,* have mainly but a parochial interest. Everywhere in the records we read of nights of social glee, copiously seasoned with intellectual conversation; of able critical papers minutely commented on by the assembled members; and of happy gatherings unsurpassed in the records of sociality. Of more importance than those evenings of
* Under 26th December, 1861, we read :-"Mr. Kenneth M‘Lauchlan, the poetpoliceman, was appointed treasurer in room of Mr Sword, retiring ; after which the members entered into a general conversation, which was becoming instructive when that political bugbear, Forbes Mackenzie, entered his veto against having any more of it. The members, one and all, however, protested in loud and unmistakable terms against the interference of a fellow like him, who was not a member of the Club."