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Any ! 5 Sifo Con. Congrand Robert Burns with Sigen Amour!) Igod Spouse They both Acknowledge their and thin sovvors for that irregularly and will take Punch Stepo in order to the solemn Confirmation
Marriage desiring that the Session
Doar to them proper of the said marriage
Mr Burns gov
nice note for behoof of the fore
Mr Burns gave a quined Ausf. Interration way Wade from the ting that the steals the Area of the Church be sett upon Monday first for behoof of
be taken solemnly engaged to adhere faithfully to one another as husband and wife all the days of their life.
In regard the session have a tittle [sic] in Law to some fine for behoof of the Poor, they agree to refer to Mr. Burns his own generosity. The above sentence was accordingly executed, and the Session absolved the said parties from any scandal on this account.
Mr. Burns gave a guinea note for behoof of the poor."
The reproduction here given shows Jean Armour's signature, which is not in our judgment in Mr. Auld's style of writing, nor in that of Burns, though Scott Douglas states his conviction that it is in the handwriting of the latter. Her autograph here is one of several facts that might be adduced to disprove the too common belief that Jean was illiterate when Burns married her.
Mrs. Lucas, a Mauchline dame of 92 years, replied as follows to my queries regarding the house in the "Elbow":"I mind people keepin' cows in it, and I had heard that it had been a public-house." Mrs. Lucas remembers Jean Armour coming from Dumfriesshire to visit Janet Armour, the wife of one Lees, a joiner. "Mrs. Burns" she continued "was a decent, auldish woman, when I saw her-dark in the complexion." Since these words were taken down from Mrs. Lucas' lips, the old lady has died.
Mr. Hugh Gibb (aged 80), once a leader of "free-thought movements in the district, spoke of a friend of his, Matthew Leerie, dead twenty years ago. He said Matthew had known Mary Campbell, when "she was a servant at Gavin Hamilton's, and reported her not a beauty, but decent-looking; slightly pox-marked." From Mr. Gibb's data it would be difficult to conclude that Matthew Leerie had indeed seen Mary. I find, however, that the Kirk Session books, under the date of "Jan. 11, 1787," mention "Matthew Leerie" as cited for being in debt. This may be Mr. Gibb's friend; and in that case we must suppose that Mr. Gibb, who is very infirm, makes an error of a good many years in calculating the date of Leerie's death.
Burns frequented Mauchline town, "off and on," from Martinmas, 1783, when he and his brother Gilbert entered on
possession of the Mossgiel Farm, (the farm-house has been recently modernised), until the Poet settled at Ellisland in Dumfriesshire. We may take it as certain that his acquaintance with Jean Armour and the other "Mauchline Belles" began in 1783, for the first thing he would do on entering a new district, would be to form the acquaintance of all the charming "fillettes" of the place. The most graphic picture of Burns in Mauchline is given in Hew Ainslie's lately reprinted "Pilgrimage." The scene referred to took place when Burns was in bad odour with the "Belles" and their parents. "When Burns was coming," said Jasper, "to get fun wi' the young fellows, he gaed aye at a braw spanking step, his staff in his han', an' his head heigh; but when ought black was in the win', his oak was in his oxter, the rim o' his hat laigh-wi' a look, bless us would turn milk. I hae met him this gait mysel', an' then, by my certy, it would taen a buirdly chiel to say boo to him." "One night"-Hugh Anslie himself continues-"during the time his name was 'teased about in kintra clatter,' he met in the village a female friend, for whom he entertained a high respect; and understanding she had some distance to walk without any trysted companion, he offered to accompany her, provided she could get another to join them, 'for,' said he, 'I must not be seen with you alone, as I'm looked on just now in the country as tar.""
This incident probably took place about the time of the first scandal regarding Jean Armour. In the Mauchline Parish Register I lately found the entry of Jean's birth, which occurred on the 25th of February, 1765.* In the same Register is to be found an entry about Burns's brother John. Scott-Douglas tells us that John died in 1783 (Vol. VI. 408), and that "Mrs. Begg believed his remains were carried to Kirk Alloway for interment; and when her own remains were laid there in 1853, the gravedigger is said to have unearthed the bones of the boy, John, along with those of his father." All this appears to be a mistake. The Mauchline Register says:-" Died John Burns, Mossgiel, buried Nov. 1st, 1785"; and it adds that a second quality mortcloth was used at his funeral.
In "The Land of Burns" and several other books, pictures
* In the Family Register of Burns, the date given is February 27th, 1767. (See Summary.)
are given of the Montgomery Castle towards which Burns at Mossgiel would often turn longingly with thoughts of Highland Mary serving there. A ludicrous error has been made with regard to these pictures. They represent Coilsfield or Montgomery Castle, a building of semi-Italian design, begun in 1806 and finished in 1809. When the foundations of this structure were laid, the old historic castle of Montgomery, a hundred yards off, was razed to the ground. The current pictures represent nothing with which Mary Campbell can have had any association. Montgomery Castle lay in Tarbolton Parish. Beyond persistent local tradition, and a remark made by Mrs. Dunlop's daughter, there is little proof that Mary ever served in the place; yet I hold generally to the old tradition. I do believe, for reasons which it is not my intention or duty to give fully at present, that Mary spent some time in service at Stairaird, a farm in the parish of Stair, near Montgomery Castle, and just divided from Mauchline parish by the river Ayr. To show that this belief is not due to mere assumption, I may quote one of the proofs I possess, namely, part of a letter from the Rev J. K. Hewison, of Rothesay, formerly Parish Minister of Stair. "In 1881, when Minister of Stair Parish, I was told of Highland Mary by an aged woman, Mrs. Janet M'Clymont, who died at Wyndford, Stair, on the 30th December, 1883. She said her mother was at school in that neighbourhood with Robert Burns, knew him intimately, and kept up her acquaintance with him in Tarbolton and Mauchline. I asked Mrs.