Tuesday, 26 July 2011

East Lothian and the forgotten Burns

Yesterday the 25 July was the anniversary of the funeral of Scotland's national poet,Robert Burns who died on 21 July 1796 and was buried in Dumfries. Less well known is Robert's younger brother Gilbert and the family connection to East Lothian.I stumbled across this while visiting Bolton Church in one of East Lothian's smallest parishes. A small plaque on the roadside wall is all that reveals who is buried within.

In 1800 some four years after the death of Robert Burns,Gilbert along with their mother Agnes Broun and his large family,made their way to Morham West Mains in East Lothian to take up position of farm manager.After four years,he was appointed Factor of Lennoxlove Estate and to the tenancy of Grants Braes. They lived here for 23 years and the family attended the church at Bolton where he was instrumental as clerk of works in the construction of the present church (1809).

Gilbert and his wife Jean Breckenridge had 11 children.Surprisingly her name is omitted from the stone,dying in 1841 aged 77 at the residence of her son James in Erskine,Renfrewshire. Gilbert Burns died on 8 April 1827 in his 67th year and was laid to rest beside six of his children.

One son, Rev Dr Thomas Burns was one of the founders of the city of Dunedin in New Zealand in 1848 where a suburb Mosgiel commemorates the Burns connection with the farm of Mossgiel. A nephew Sir James Shaw,became Lord Mayor of London. The grave and locations commemorating the family if less well known than The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum  www.burnsmuseum.org.uk   are well cared for by East Lothian Council. While walking through the countryside surrounding Bolton one imagines that perhaps some things would still be familiar to Gilbert and Robert Burns

But pleasures are like poppies spread
You seize the flower it's bloom is shed....
Tam o'Shanter  Robert Burns


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