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the owners, on the one hand, and the Committee of subscribers to the monument, on the other; and the first narrated notice of a difference between them is contained in a minute of a meeting of the Incorporation held on 14th February, 1820. The minute is as follows :
“The Trade this day met to take into consideration some disputes which have arisen among themselves and the public as to the site of the monument presently erecting at the Bridge of Doon to the memory of Burns. A motion was made by Robert Davidson, and seconded by John M‘Creath, that the Corporation should set a subscription on foot to have a monument raised to the memory of the Bard upon their own property, being the spot where he was born; and he further moved, and it was seconded, and unanimously carried, that this Incorporation should subscribe a sum of £100 sterling for this purpose, for which it is understood the tenant of the property will pay, according to a rate, interest along with his rent, and the meeting authorised the present committee to insert an advertisement in the Ayr newspapers for the purpose of obtaining subscriptions to effect this desirable object. (Sgd.) Rubert Mann."
Robert Mann was deacon of the Incorporation for the time being
During the six months that followed, the “disputes” do not seem to have come any nearer an amicable settlement, as we gather from a subsequent minute of the Incorporation's proceedings and a somewhat lengthy correspondence :
At a meeting of the Committee held on 28th September, 1820, “ Deacon Mann laid before the meeting sundry letters he had received from Mr Boswell, Auchinleck, on the subject of the erection of a monument to Burns, in terms of the resolution of the last minute, which were read to the Committee, with copies of the answers sent by the Deacon, which the Committee approved, and directed the letters with the copy answers to be backed up and lodged in the books, which the clerk accordingly did ; among which letters there is one dated 29th March last from Mr Hamilton Boswell in name of the Committee of subscribers for the monument now erecting at Alloway, 'conveying the thanks of the gentlemen of that Committee to the Incorporation for the offer originally made by them at the commencement of the subscription, of a piece of ground on their property for the site of the monument now erecting, but which, after being visited by that Committee, was found unsuitable.?"
The letter of Deacon Mann is for the most part as follows:--.“ Air, 16th February, 1820.-A rumour having gone forth that the Incorporation of Shoemakers of Air, who are proprietors of the ground on which the cottage stands where Burns first drew his breath, had either refused to give the ground necessary for the site of the monument, or required such compensation, or proposed such terms, as put it beyond the power of the Committee appointed
by the subscribers to the monument to accede to, the Incorporation feel it but a duty to themselves, and requisite explanation to the public, to lay before then this statement :—The resolution to erect a monument had scarcely been formed when the Incorporation communicated to the Convener of the Com• mittee their desire to make a grant of land necessary for the site of the nionu
This communication was made known in the first instance verbally, when the subscription was in a state of considerable forwardness. They received this communication from the Convener :-'I was only made acquainted verbally with the perfect willingness of the Company of Shoemakers to give the necessary ground, but it is requested that there should be a written declaration to that effect, which I may lay before the Committee, which may be a ground for further procedure.' In consequence of this letter they immediately applied for and obtained from their tenant of the ground, at some expense and trouble, a relinquishment of tack of the ground in so far as it would be required for the monument ; and this the meeting willingly and formally tender to the Committee, absolutely and unconditionally, and without the least pecuniary consideration. This ground, cheerfully and generously as it was bestowed, they had every reason to believe, was received with those eelings it was calculated to excite ; and in a short time the ground was examined, and the exact spot chosen and marked off by a gentleman employed by the Committee for this purpose. Throughout the whole transaction the wishes of the Committee were in nu way counteracted ; but, on the contrary, the actions and dispositions of the Incorporation were of such a nature as clearly to evince their cordiality in seconding the views of the Committee, not simply without desire of gain, but at some sacrifice in a pecuniary point of view to themselves. The transaction being thus willingly entered into, and closely adhered to on their part, the Committee having solicited, accepted of, selected, and marked off the ground for the situation of the monument, and matters remaining in this state for years, they could not fail to be surprised at finding from the late advertisement, that the monument was not raised at the piace thus granted, accepted, chosen, and prepared ; but at another and totally different place upwards of a quarter of a mile from thence ; and that surprise has not been diminished by any explanation made to them on the subject, for in reality, and up to this date no communication whatever, direct or indirect, has been made. Whilst the Incorporation of Shoemakers trust they have shown that their conduct, so far from being any subject of reprobation, has been, on the contrary, worthy of commendation, they cannot deny that the unexpected and abrupt change of the site has given much ground for rumour. The reason for preferring a place where Burns was not born to one where he was born, and which belonged to his father, ... are very far from being obvious.
Though the Incorporation are inclined to think this statement of their conduct will serve the purpose of preventing any further aspersions of their conduct, yet to put it beyond question they have resolved to give, and now offer to give, not only the ground, but a grant of £100 out of their funds, . . . provided the monument is built on the place where Burns was born, with suitable dinner hall for the accommodation of the admirers of the poet, a thing that may possibly still be done, as no materials have hitherto
led to the situaticn, and not one stone has been placed above another. .-ROBERT MANN, Deacon."
Then follors a letter from the Secretary on behalf of the Committee of Subscribers, dated, it will be observed, about a tortnight after the first minute of the Incorporation on the subject :
“An advertisement having appeared in the Ayr newspapers of 17th February last signed wit'i the signature of the Deacon-Convener of the Incorporation of Shoemakers of Ayr, in which, among other circumstances unnecessary to be noticed, it is asserted that a site for the monument to Burns was 'accepted and marked off' on the property of the Incorporation, I am authorised to give a direct contrưliction to this statement. And having at the desire of the Convener of the Committee of Subscribers to the monument, applied to the Convener himself to know on what supposed foundation this assertion was hazarded, I have obtained no answer but that they remained of the same opinion.'
“It is certainly true that the Convener of the Committee, and two other gentlemen, before any plans were given in, had a preliminary communication with the Deacon, with a view to erecting the monument on the property of the Incorporation, but the majority of the Committee who have taken an active part in carrying the matter into effect, having examined the ground, expressed a very decided opinion that a fit position could not be selected on the property of the Incorporation, and suggested two other; which appeared much more eligible – one on the Rozelle estate, and the other (which has been finally adopted) on Alloway Croft, near Alloway Kirk. The consent of the proprietor was, however only lately conclusively obtained.
“The Committee have always entertained an appropriate sense of the readiness which the Incorporation evinced to accommodate them with the ground for the monument, as they understood their communications, and certainly regret that the Incorporation feel any disappointment. But I am authorised to say that although it was at one time proposed to have a room in the monument, it never could have entered into the contemplation of the Committee that the monument to Burns should become an appendage to an alehouse. I conclude by stating that a site for the monument to Burns was never selected nor marked off on the property of the Incorporation of Shoemakers by the Committee or by any member of the Committee. -- (Signed) HAM. D. BOSWELL, Secretary to the Committee of Suliscribers for the monument to Burns. Ayr, 2nd March, 1820.”
The reply of the Incorporation is essentially as follows:
“That no part of their statement had been denied but one, and that an ordinary and unimportant part. It has not been disputed that the property belonging to the Incorporation is the exact spot where Burns was born, or that it was the sole inheritance of his father. . . . They complain that ground for which a ransom has to be paid and obtained with difficulty is preferred to ground to be got for nothing and obtained with ease. . . They repeat that the ground was positively and ostensibly selected and marked off in the most direct and positive manner. The subscription was not far advanced before an actual survey and measurement of the ground was made by a land surveyor, a plan was made out, and the spot on which it was proposed to erect the monument actually marked on the plan. This was done by express direction of the Committee. The place thus marked off was at the well about twelve feet from the south gable of the cottage. Again, two of the most respectable and active gentlemen of the Committee went personally to and inspected the ground, and actually made choice of the same spot marked on the plan, and intimated this in a formal and distinct manner not only to the tenant of the ground, but to the proprietor and tenant of the ground on the opposite side of the road on the Rozelle estate, these two last having some expectation that their ground and service would be required. And, still further, the Convener himself shortly thereafter also inspected the ground and confirmed the choice made by his precursors, with a slight deviation of a few feet, where the view was conjectured to be still better, and actually gave the wife of the tenant special instructions for her guidance as to the keeping and use of the monument. . . . Having thus shown it is quite unavailing in the Committee to. betake themselves to this subterfuge, the Incorporation might rest satisfied that the public would screen them from the abuse and misrepresentation attempted to be fastened on them. But they cannot withstand the temptation to lay before the public in addition copy of a letter with which they have been honoured from the Committee, which although of even date with their public answer, bears a strong contrast to it. It is almost impossible to believe that the spirit which gave birth to the one should have dictated the other :—Air, 29th February, 1820. Sir,-At a meeting of the subscribers for the erecting of a monument to the memory of Burns, the poet, held here on Thursday last, I was directed to communicate to you, as Deacon of the Incorporation of Shoemakers in Air, the thanks of the Committee for themselves, and in name of the subscribers, for the offer originally made by the Incorporation of a piece of ground on their property at the birthplace of the Bard for the site of the monument, but which, after being visited by the Committee, was found unsuitable from the confined situation of the spot and other circumstances. I am, sir, your most obedient humble servant, Ham. D. BOSWELL, Secretary to the Committee.' The Committee cannot but think it is marvellous that four years should have been allowed to pass over between the receipt of the ground and the letter of thanks for the ground. . . . It is not easy certainly to understand what is alluded to by the concluding expression 'other circumstances,' lut if taken in connection with the sneer at the letter in the newspapers about Burns's Cottage being used as an ale-house, and the fear of the monument being contaminated by that circumstance, the Incorporation have to answer that there was no restriction whatever laid on the Committee to place the monument immediately adjoining the Cottage, or use it in any other particular mode, and it was even possible the Cottage might be used otherwise at the lapse of the current lease, and at any rate the antipathy of the Committee to the ale-house might have given place to their love of the place where Burns was born. They suggest that a meeting of the subscribers might have been called on the subject, which indeed the third resolution of the original meeting of subscribers on 24th March, 1814, bound them to do.