The above picture has some artistic license associated with it. The gentlemen depicted are unlikely to have all been in the same place at the same time. A short narrative on each of those depicted follows:
|Alex. Ferguson esq, of Craigdarroch. Master||16||George Spankie. Treasurer|
|Alexander Campbell, Organist||46||Francis Grose Esq, F.A.S. London & Perth (Capt. Grose)|
|2||Hon. Francis Charteris, Lord Elcho. Grand Master||17||Baron Norton||32||John Campbell, Undertaker and Teacher of Music||47||James Gregory M.D.|
|3||James Sandilands, ninth Lord Torphichen||18||Henry Mackenzie, author of "The Man of Feeling"||33||Samuel Clark, Organist of the Cowgate Chapel||48||Alexander Wood, Surgeon|
|4||Archibald, eleventh Earl of Eglinton||19||The Hon. William Gordon, Lord Kenmure||34||Geordie Cranstoun, Vocalist||49||David Ramsey, of the " Edinburgh Evening Courant"|
|5||James Cunningham, fourteenth Earl of Glencairn||20||Alexander Cunningham, Jeweller||35||J.G.C. Schetky, Music Teacher||50||John Gray W.S. City Clerk|
|6||David, Earl of Buchan||21||William Dunbar. WS, Senior Warden||36||Professor Dugald Stewart||51||John Miller, Advocate, Junior Warden|
|7||Charles More, of the Royal Bank. Depute Master||22||Kenneth Love, Tailor, Serving Brother||37||William Creech, Bookseller||52||Captain Fr Bartlett, of Milton House|
|8||Patrick Miller, of Dalswinton||23||William Nicol, Teacher||38||Peter Williamson, a man of "Curious Adventures"||53||Robert Ainslie. W.S.|
|9||James Dalrymple. Of Orangefield||24||William Cruickshank, Teacher||39||William Smellie, Printer||54||William Woods, Tragedian|
|10||Sir John Whitefoord||25||Louis Cauvin, French Teacher||40||Peter Hill, Bookseller||55||A Visiting Brother|
|11||Sir William Forbes, of Pitsligo, bart||26||Allan Masterton, Writing Master and Composer of Music||41||Sir James Hunter Blair, Grand Treasurer||56||The Tyler|
|12||John Mercer, Writer. Secretary||27||Signior Stabilini, a celebrated player on the violin||42||Francis, seventh Lord Napier||57||Figure representing Secrecy|
|13||William Mason. Grand Secretary||28||James Tytler, Apothecary||43||James Boswell, of Auchenleck, Esq, Advocate||58||Figure representing Light of Masonry|
|14||James Burnet, Lord Monboddo||29||Thomas Neil, Undertaker||44||Alexander Nasmyth, Limner||59||St. Clair of Roslin, (William) Her.Gr. Master|
|15||The Hon. Henry Erskine||30||John Dhu, Corporal of the Town Guard, Grand Tyler||45||James Johnson, Engraver||60||Henry Sedgefield, aged 108, Seaman|
Alexander Ferguson Esq, of Craigdarroch. Advocate. 1746 - 1796
Alexander Ferguson held the office of Master of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2 from June 1784 to June 1787. He is shown in the painting presenting the bard with a wreath of laurels.
Ferguson, who was noted for his convivial habits was the winner of the contest which gave rise to Burns's racy ballad, 'The Whistle'. This was a drinking contest that took place at Friar's Carse on 16th October 1789. 'the little ebony whistle' itself, according to Burns was supposed to have been brought over to Scotland by a 'matchless champion of Bacchus', who accompanied Anne, James VI's Danish queen. It was laid on the table before the start of a drinking orgy, and whoever was able to blow it after his companions were below the table, retained it as a trophy. The Dane lost it to Sir Robert Lawrie of Maxwelton, the Member of Parliament for Dumfriesshire, who in turn lost it to a member of the Riddell family. The competitors during the bout at which Burns was present were Sir Robert Lawrie, Robert Riddell and Fergusson of Craigdarroch, who blew the winning blast. John M'Murdo of Drumlanrig was the judge. The poet describes how the first two contestants withdrew, then:
Lord Elcho. Grand Master. 1749 - 1808
The Honourable Francis Charteris, 36th Grand Mastermason of Scotland from 1786 to 1788. He was a member of the Lodge Harrington St John, and an affiliated member of Canongate Kilwinning.
In a letter to John Ballantine, dated 14th January 1787, Burns referred to a masonic meeting, where the 'Most Worshipful Grand Master Charters, and all the Grand Lodge of Scotland visited, "I went to a Mason Lodge yesternight where the Most Worshipful Grand Master Charteris and all the Grand Lodge of Scotland visited. The meeting was most numerous and elegant; all the different lodges about town were present in all their pomp. The Grand Master who presided with great solemnity, and honour to himself as a Gentleman and Mason, among other general toasts gave "Caledonia and Caledonia's Bard, Brother Burns," which rung through the whole Assembly with multiplied honours and repeated acclamations. As I had no idea such a thing would happen, I was downright thunderstruck, and trembling in every nerve made the best return in my power. Just as I finished, some of the Grand Officers said so loud as I could hear, with a most comforting accent, "Very well indeed," which set me something to rights again." (This was in The Lodge of Edinburgh St Andrew No48 on the 13th January 1787)
The life of Burns records the event, 'How we wish that Wilkie or some other genuine Scottish painter had given us this scene in colours—"Burns at a Grand Mason-lodge Meeting!" Alas! that of this splendid meeting, with all its grand worshipfuls and grand officers, nobles, lawyers, squires, and merchants, that one trembling figure, Brother Burns, sitting down bashful and blushing to the toe-points, and comforted by a friendly compliment accented aloud for his ear, is the only figure that would now be recognized!'
James Sandilands 9th Lord Torphichen 1759 - 1815
Lord Torphichen was elected as the Master of Canongate Kilwinning No.2 on June 1787.
James Sandilands was in initiated into Lodge Canongate Kilwinng No. 2 on the 7th December 1786. the night Robert Burns paid his first visit to the Lodge, and was nominated as Depute Grand Master the same night.
Archibald 11th Earl of Eliginton 1726 - 1796
Archibald Montgomerie Soldier and MP for Ayrshire.
Eglinton sent ten guineas to Burns on his arrival in Edinburgh as a subscription for two copies of the Edinburgh Edition of the Poems. Replying on 11th January 1787, Burns said:
'Your Munificence, my Lord, certainly deserved my very grateful acknowledgements, but your Patronage is a bounty peculiarly suited to my feelings.'
James Cunningham 14th Earl of Glencairn 1749 - 1791
Scottish Nobleman and Representative Peer in the House of Lords.
The Earl of Glencairn was the poet's principal patron on his arrival in Edinburgh. It was by his influence that the Edinburgh establishment subscribed so enthusiastically to the Edinburgh edition. It was through the Earl of Glencairn that Burns was introduced to the publisher William Creech.
In the letter Burns sent to Dalziel on 10th March he says 'God knows what I have suffered at the loss of my best Friend, my first my dearest Patron and Benefactor; the man to whom I owe all that I am and have!' he included in the letter his 'Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn',
Erskine, David Stewart, Earl of Buchan 1742 - 1849
34th Grand Master Mason 1782-84
During the evening of the inauguration the Earl gave a patronising note to Burns, this is represented in the painting with the Earl of Buchan handing a note to Alexander Cunningham (number 20 in the painting) who is occupying the seat next to where Burns sat when he visited the Lodge. Burn wrote back;
'Your Lordship touches the darling chord of my heart when you advise me to fire my muse at Scottish story and scenes. I wish for nothing more than to make a leisurely Pilgrimage through my native country; to sit and muse on those once hard contended fields, where Caledonia, rejoicing, saw her bloody lion borne through broken ranks to victory and fame; and catching the inspiration, to pour the deathless Names in Song.' But, Burns reminded the Earl, he had to live, and for that reason: 'must return to my rustic station, and, in my wonted way woo my rustic Muse at the Ploughtail.'
In August 1791, the Earl invited Burns to the crowning of a bust of the poet Thomson, and suggested that Burns might write an appropriate poem. Burns replied that he could not attend because of the harvest. However, he sent the stanzas 'Address to the Shade of Thomson, on Crowning his Bust at Ednam, Roxburghshire, with a Wreath of Bays'. In the event, the bust was smashed in a drunken frolic before the ceremony could take place, and the Earl had to lay the wreath on a volume of Thomson's poems! Burns sent him a copy of 'Scots Wha Hae' in January 1794.
Charles More of the Royal Bank
Depute Master of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2.
Mr More at the time of the inauguration was the Depute Master of the Lodge and was present the night that Burns was admitted a member of Canongate Kilwinning. Charles More is one of the signatories of thet minute of that evening.
Patrick Miller of Dalswinton 1731 - 1815
The landlord of Ellisland Farm.
Patrick Miller entered Burns's life in December 1786, ten days after his arrival in Edinburgh. On 13th December Burns wrote to John Ballantine: 'An unknown hand left ten guineas for the Ayrshire Bard in Mr Sibbald's hand, which I got. I have since discovered my generous unknown friend to be Patrick Miller, Esq. Brother to the Justice Clerk; and drank a glass of claret with him by invitation at his own house yesternight.' A month later, on 14th January, Burns wrote to Ballantine prophetically: 'My generous friend, Mr Miller... has been talking with me about the lease of some farm or other in a n estate called Dalswinton which he has lately brought near Dumfries. Some life-rented, embittering Recollections whisper to me that I will be happier anywhere than in my old neighbourhood, but Mr Miller is no Judge of land; and although I dare say he means to favour me, yet he may give me, in his opinion, an advantageous bargain that may ruin me.'
The arrangement between Miller and Burns was that Miller gave the poet £300 with which to build a farmhouse and fence the fields. The rental was to be fifty pounds annually for three years, and thereafter, seventy pounds during the seventy-six term. Burns was to take possession on Whitsunday, 25th May 1788. The building of the farmhouse took about a year, and was only achieved after numerous delays.
By September 1788, with his first harvest in, Burns's doubts about Ellisland were already growing. By July 1789, he was 'deliberating whether I had not better give up farming altogether, and go into the Excise wherever I can find employment.' By 11th January 1790, he had had enough. 'This Farm had undone my enjoyment of myself', he burst to his brother, Gilbert: 'It is a ruinous affair on all hands. But let it go to hell! I'll fight it out and be off with it!'
It might not have been so easy for Burns to 'be off with it', had not John Morin, the owner of the adjoining estate of Laggan, offered Miller £1,900 for it. Burns wrote to Peter Hill early in the autumn of 1791: 'I may perhaps seee you about Martinmass. I have sold to My Landlord the lease of my farm, and as I roup off everything then, I have a mind to take a week's excursing to see old acquaintances.'
Not unnaturally, relations between Burns and Miller, during the latter part of Burns's Ellisland tenancy, became strained, and Burns told Hill: 'Mr Miller's kindness has been just such another as Creech's was, but this for your private ear.'
Once the business relationship was ended, however, Burns and Miller became friendly again.
James Dalrymple of Orangefield 1752 - 95
Cousin of the Earl of Glencairn.
Dalrymple also gave Burns a letter of introduction to the Earl of Glencairn, who exerted himself most generously on the poet's behalf. 'I have found a worthy warm friend in Mr Dalrymple of Orangefield' the poet wrote John Ballantine from Edinburgh on 13th December 1796, 'who introduced me to Lord Glencairn, a man whose worth and brotherly kindness to me I shall remember when time will be no more.' And in one of the suppressed stanzas of 'The Vision', Burns described Dalrymple as:
Sir John Whitefoord of Ballochmyle
Senior Grand Warden 1765-66
Master of St James's, Tarbolton
Writing to Whitefoord on 1st December 1786, soon after he arrived in Edinburgh, Burns said, abouthis own position: 'the situation of poets is generally such, to a proverb, as may, in some measure, palliate that prostitution of heart and talents they have at times been guilty of. I do not think prodigality is, by ant means, a necessary concomitant of a poetic turn, but I believe a careless, indolent attention to economy is almost inseparable from it; then there must be in the heart of every bard of Nature's making, a certain modest sensibility, mixed with a kind of pride, that will ever keep him out of the way of those windfalls of fortune which frequently light on hardy impudence and foot-licking servility. It is not easy to imagine a more helpless state than his whose poetic fancy unfits him for the world, and whose character as a scholar gives him some pretensions to the politesse of life — yet is as poor as I am.'
The advice he got from Whitefoord was that 'your character as a man (forgive my reversing your order) as well as a poet, entitles you, I think, to the assistance of every inhabitant of Ayrshire... If a sum could be raised by subscription for a second edition of your poems... lay it out in the stocking of a small farm,' advice which, of course, Burns took.
'Farewell to Ballochmyle' was written by the poet when the estate was sold. He enclosed his 'Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn' with the 'Lines to Sir John Whitefoord Bart'. The Whitefoord lines are hardly among the poets best.
Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo 1739 - 1806
Past Master Canongate and Kilwinning
Banker and Author
Initiated in Canongate Kilwinning on the 16th November 1759 and at subsequent periods served as Master and other offices as well as in Grand Lodge. He subscribed to 40 copies of Burns 'Second Edition.'
He entered the bank of Coutts & Co. in Edinburgh as an apprentice in 1754, rising to become a partner. When one of the Coutts died, another retired and the remining two settled in London, the bank changed its name to Forbes, Hunter & Co. (1763), reflecting a new partnership which included Sir James Hunter Blair. It became the Union Bank in 1830.
Forbes supported many charitable works on Edinburgh, including an orphan's hospital, blind asylum and a work-house. He was also central to the building of a new High School in 1777. He acquired the lands of the Barony of Pitsligo in 1781 and greatly improved the area, laying out the village of New Pitsligo in 1783 and giving generously to the local people.
Secretary of Canongate Kilwinning
Writer of the Signet
James Mercer was the secretary of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning at the time of Burns inauguration, he is shown in the painting with his face turned to the Bard.
Writer of the Signet
William Mason in his capacity as Grand Secretary (1779-94) accompanied the Grand Master on all his Masonic visits. He was well known for writing his minutes with a flourish, and would rather use a dozen words where one would have been enough. He recorded the famous minute when the Most Worshipful Grand Master Francis Charteris acknowledged Burns as Caledonia's Bard.
William Mason was always in the company of the Grand Clerk Robert Meikle (1779-94), the two were known as the 'fat pair' and never missed a meeting, however, Meikle is not included in the painting. One source says that the artist excluded him in the painting and left his chair empty, (behind number 14) however a later Grand Secretary said that Meikle had been painted out!
James Burnet. Lord Monboddo 1714 - 1799
Court of Session Judge
In the painting he is seen conversing with Henry Erskine (number 15) on Burns appearance. Burn wrote that he had the pleasure of being entertained more than once at Monboddo's house. The first night he was there, he met Hugh Chisholm who had followed Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746. The same night he composed the lines to 'Fair Burnet' to his Lordship's daughter, which would become on her death 'The Elegy On The Late Miss Burnet of Monboddo.'
Lord Monboddo was widely known to be an eccentric One day when he came out of court to be met with a downpour, he calmly placed his wig in his sedan chair and walked home. Another time after a decision went against him regarding the value of a horse, he refused to sit with the other judges and assumed a seat below the bench with the court clerks. When Burnett was visiting the King's Court in London in 1787, part of the ceiling of the courtroom started to collapse. People rushed out of the building but Burnett who, at the age of 71, was partially deaf and shortsighted, was the only one not to move. When he was later asked for a reason, he stated that he thought it "an annual ceremony, with which, as an alien, he had nothing to do". One of his more eccentric views was that babies were born with tails, and the midwife cut then off at birth!
The Honourable Henry Erskine 1746 -1817
Master of Canaongate Kilwinning 1780
Politician and Advocate
Burns first meet Henry Erskine (known as Harry) at a meeting of the Canongate Kilwinning Lodge, when Dalrymple of Orangefield introduced the poet to Erskine as the Past Master. His brother David is number 6 in the painting.
On the 7th December 1786, Burns wrote his famous letter to Gavin Hamilton in Mauchline, regarding meeting Erskine, 'I am in a fair way of becoming as eminent as Thomas a Kempis or John Bunyan..... My Lord Glencairn and the Dean of Faculty, Mr. H. Erskine, have taken me under their wing; and by all probability I shall soon be the tenth worthy, and the eighth wise man of the world.'
In his 'Extempore in the Court of Session' Burns humorously compares Erskine's style with that of Sir Ilay Campbell, the Lord Advocate, who was a poor orator.
Treasurer of Canongate Kilwinning
Grocer, High Street, Edinburgh
George Spankie at the time of the inauguration was the Treasurer of Cananogate Kilwinning, he was also the Treasurer of the Charity Work-House of Edinburgh.
Baron Norton 1744 - 1820
Baron of the Court of the Scottish Exchequer
Fletcher Norton was the son of Fletcher Norton the speaker of the House of Commons. The night Burns was recognised by the Grand Master as Caledonia's Bard, Baron Norton served as the Grand Warden.
Henry Mackenzie 1745 - 1831
Novelist and writer (The Man of Feeling)
Mackenzie to whom Sir Walter Scott had dedicated 'Waverly' was an accomplished author, and when Burns Kilmarnock Edition was published he wrote an article commending Burns's Poems, which helped considerably to make Burns's name known among the Edinburgh literati. 'Though I am far from meaning to compare our rustic bard to Shakespeare', Mackenzie wrote, 'yet whoever will read his lighter and more humourous poems... will perceive with what uncommon penetration and sagacity this Heaven-taught ploughman, from his humble and unlettered station, has looked upon men and manners. '
Even before the appearance of this review, Burns held an extraordinarily high opinion of Mackenzie. Writing to Murdoch on 15th January 1783, Burns told his old teacher that The Man of Feeling was 'a book I prize next to the Bible'.
Lord Kenmure 1750 - 1840
10th Viscount Kenmure
John* Gordon, 10th Viscount Kenmure was a grandson of the Jacobite Viscount Kenmure, who 'came out' in 1715 and lost his head in consequence, but became the subject of Burns's delightful song — or revision of an old song — 'O, Kenmure's on and awa, Willie,' John Gordon's brother, father and uncle having thus been Viscounts only by courtesy. This Gordon managed to get parliament to restore the title to the family, and thus became the actual 7th Viscount, although styled the 10th Viscount by courtesy. Gordon was a member of Canongate Kilwinning and was there the night of the 7th December, he subscribed largely to Burns second edition.
*(note; in the book 'A Winter With Robert Burns' by James Marshall, the author cites the name as William Gordon)
Alexander Cunningham 1763 - 1814
Writer to the Signet & Jeweller
Alexander Cunningham was a writer to the Signet, but on the death of his brother, a jewller, he took over the business. When Burns arrived in Edinburgh, Cunningham was practising law. It is not known exactly when or where they met, but it may well have been at a meeting of the Crochallan Fencibles. Cunningham's chambers were in St James's Square, where the poet lodged for a time with William Cruikshank, so the neighbourly proximity may equally possibly have given rise to the friendship. Burns and Cunningham corresponded on numerous occasions throughout the poet's life, and Burns thought highly of him. It was to Cunningham that Burns sent the earliest proof of 'Tam o' Shanter'.
It was Cunningham to whom 'The Red, Red Rose' was sent in the autumn of 1794. And from 'Brow-Sea-bathing quarters' on 7th July 1796, Burns wrote to him:
As late as 12th July, Burns sent Cunningham a song 'Here's a Health to Ane I lo'e dear', with a mention of his plan to get Excise promotion, Burns died nine days after this letter to Cunningham was written!
William Dunbar d1807
Writer to the Signet
William Dunbar was a Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh, and 'Colonel' of the Crochallan Fencibles, a convivial club which he helped to found, each of whose members assumed a military title. He was Senior Warden of the Canongate Kilwinning Lodge at the time Burns visited, and Dunbar presented the poet with an edition of Spenser's works, which Burns much appreciated. Writing from his lodgings in the Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, on 30th April 1787, Burns told Dunbar: 'The time is approaching when i shal return to my shades; and I am afraid my numerous Edinburgh friendships are of so tender a construction that they will not bear carriage with me, Yours is one of the few that i could wish of a more robust constitution.' Burns celebrated Dunbar's rumbustious good humour by adapting the Border Ballad 'Rattling, Rovin' Willie';
Love made and repaired the clothing of the Lodge and held the office of serving brother. He is shown in the painting preparing to hand over to the Senior Warden an apron for Robert Burns with a wreath on it.
William Nicol 1747 - 1797
William Nicol was one of the teachers of Latin in the High School. No one knows how or when the two men first met. Though a good teacher Nicol, because of his irascibility, was no favourite in Edinburgh society, and he does not feature among the lists of celebrities and friends whom Burns met at Edinburgh parties and whose names he recounted in his letters. But on 1st June 1787, Burns, on his Border tour, addressed his only surviving letter in Scots to 'Kind honest hearted Willie'. Nicol accompanied Burns on his Highland tour when, by Nicol's wish, they travelled in a chaise. He proved a tiresome travelling companion, for when Burns was invited to dine at Castle Gordon, Nicol, piqued at having been kept waiting at Fochabers inn before being invited to join the party, insisted on pressing on with their journey immediately, if necessary alone.
Burns called one of his sons William Nicol, because, as he told George Thomson in a letter of May 1795, of: 'that propensity to witty wickedness and manfu' mischief, which even at twa days auld I foresaw would form the striking features of his disposition....'
William Cruickshank d1795
William Cruickshank like William Nicol (number 23) was a teacher of Latin at the High School. On his return from his northern tour, Burns lived with the Cruikshank family in No 2 St James's Square from Autumn 1787 until his departure from the capital in February 1788. Their 12 year old daughter Jane, or Jeany, caught Burns's affection and for her he wrote 'The Rosebud', and 'Beauteous Rosebud, young and gay'. Burns wrote a kindly epitaph on Cruikshank:
Louis Cauvin 1754 - 1825
Taught Burns French in Edinburgh, along with Beugo, the engraver. He said that the poet made as much progress in three months as any of his ordinary pupils did in three years.
Allan Masterton d1799
Allan Masterton was the writing Master in Stevenlaw's Close in the High Street, he was a composer of music, and in a letter to Captain Riddell, dated 16th October 1789, Burns described Masterton as 'one of the worthiest men in the world, and a man of real genius'. William Nicol introduced him to Burns. They visited Nicol in the autumn of 1789 at lodgings he had taken near Moffat. The jollification resulted in that splendid drinking song, 'Willie brew'd a peck o' maut', for which Masterton wrote the music. The song appeared in the Scots Musical Museum, 1790. He also wrote the music for several other Burns songs, including the airs for 'Strathallan's Lament', 'The Braes o' Ballochmyle', 'the Bonnie Birks o' ayr', 'On hearing a Young Lady Sing', and 'Ye gallants bright, I rede ye right', the last of which Burns wrote for Masterton's daughter, Ann.
Signior Stabilini and Italian was a celebrated violin player and held concerts during the winter of that 1786, Burns makes reference to attending some of them. He was the conductor of the Gentlemen's Orchestra in Edinburgh. It was usual for a gentleman to play an instrument at Masonic gatherings.
James Tytler 1747 - 1805
James Tytler studied medicine but was unsuccessful in setting up a practice. He got himself into debt, and only escaped being arrested by taking sanctuary at Holyrood Abbey, where he wrote a ballad called 'The Pleasures of the Abbey'. He edited the second and third editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica for some years, and Burns made use of him in compiling the Scots Musical Museum. Tytler himself contributed several songs to this collection, including 'The Young Man's Dream', and two others, based on older songs, 'I hae laid a herring in saut', and 'The Bonnie Brucket Lassie'. James Tytler commonly known by the name of "Balloon Tytler", from him having been the first person in Scotland to rise in a fire balloon. Politically a radical, he was accused of publishing seditious material and fled to Ireland c.1793 and then to the USA c.1796, where he published a newspaper. He accidentally drowned near Salem (Massachusetts).
Thomas Neil 1730 - 1800
Tam Neil, a carpenter in Edinburgh, who was well known for singing Scottish Songs, gave Burns a copy of the song. Burns stated that the expression "Up and warn a', Willie" alluded to the crantara, or warning, of a Highland clan to arms and that Lowlanders of the West use the expression, "Up and waur them, a." Burns adds that the Lowland expression, does not refer to summoning a clan, because "waur" means to surpass or excel at something.
John Dhu (Shon Dow) was the Corporal of the Town Guard, and is shown in the painting in his capacity as the Grand Tyler of the Grand Lodge attending Canongate Kilwinning. Sir Walter Scott in 'The Heart of Midlothian' says, "John Dhu (the fiercest-looking fellow I ever saw)."
Alexander Campbell 1764 - 1824
Alexander, brother of John (number 32) was a composer, musician, poet and author. Born at Tombea (by Loch Lubnaig, Stirling), Campbell attended school in nearby Callandar. He left home for Edinburgh, where he studied singing and counterpoint with the singer Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci. Campbell taught singing and the harpsichord in Edinburgh (c.1782) and became organist in the Nicholson Street Scottish Episcopal Chapel. He became friends with Robert Burns and struggled to give music lessons to the young Walter Scott, who lacked any talent in that direction.
John Campbell c1750 - 1795
Undertaker and Teacher of Music
John Campbell was known as the jolly Precentor of the Canongate Church, he was also a teacher of music. A few days after the 1st of March meeting, Burns called upon Campbell to get him to introduce the Poet to Bailie Gentle of the Canongate, in order to get permission to raise a monument to the Poet Robert Fergusson who was interred in the Canongate cemetery. On the 6th of March, Burns wrote to the Baillie's of the Canongate — who passed on his request to the authorities in charge of the Cemetery — for permission to put a stone on Fergusson's unmarked grave. Permission given, Burns commissioned an architect Robert Burn, to erect the stone, on which appeared the lines:
Samuel Clark d1797
Organist of the Cowgate Chapel
Clarke was an Edinburgh musician and music teacher whom James Johnson had brought in to harmonise the airs for his Scots Musical Museum. In 1787, when Burns became involved in the project, Clarke was organist of the Episcopal Chapel in the Cowgate, Edinburgh. In July 1792, Burns undertook to get Clark to come to Drumlanrig to give singing lessons to two of the M'Murdo girls, Clarke seems to have ignored the first request, and on 16th July Burns followed it up with a humorous letter:
Geordie Cranstoun was a dwarf who lived at Shoemakers Close, Canongate. he was well known in the community and attended all the Masonic meetings. It was his passion to sing on the top of benches or walls and sing his song.
J. G. C. Schetky 1740 - 1824
Born at Darmstadt, he was intended for the law, but was determined to make music his career. He studied under Filtz and became 'cellist at the court of Hesse. In 1773, he was engaged for the St Cecilia Concerts in Edinburgh, where he afterwards settled permanently as a music teacher. Burns met Schetky when he was in Edinburgh, and remarked in a letter of 24th January 1788, to 'Clarinda' that he had been drinking with 'Mr Schetky, the musician, and he has set the song finely'. The song was 'Clarinda, mistress of my soul'. He is represented in the painting with his instrument.
Professor Dugald Stewart 1753 - 1828
Professor of Mathematics
In August 1786, Dr Mackenzie of Mauchline sent a copy of the Kilmarnock Edition to Dugald Stewart, then in vacation at his country seat, Catrine Bank, Catrine, near Mauchline. Stewart was much impressed by Burns's genius, and on 23rd October, had Burns to dinner with him at Catrine. Dugald Stewart wrote of Burns;
William Creech 1745 - 1815
Burns was introduced to Creech by Lord Glencairn soon after his arrival from Ayrshire in 1786. His Lordship asked Creech whether he would undertake to produce a second and enlarged edition of Mr Burns's poems. Creech, however, recommended a subscription edition, for which he undertook to subscribe 500 copies. On 17th April 1787, at the house of Henry Mackenzie, Burns and Creech drew up a 'Memorandum of Agreement' whereby on Mackenzie's advice, Burns received 100 guineas for the 'property' of his poems in addition to his subscription money: an agreement which, in the light of Burns's posthumous fame, seems ridiculous, but at the time must have seemed fair, even generous! Creech tried to get Cadell of London to take up some of the edition of about 3,000 copies. Cadell, however, delayed replying, and on 23rd April Creech agreed 'to take the whole upon himself'. Burns later commemorated Creech in two poems. One the 'Lament for the Absence of William Creech, publisher' written on the Border Tour, reflects their relationship before the quarrel over a delayed payment. Creech was then in London on business and Burns laments the fact that the levees are suspended:
In the painting Creech is depicted as pointing out in the list of his individual subscription for 400 copies in order to shame Peter Williamson (number 38) who would not subscribe.
Peter Williamson 1730 - 1799
Writer and Publisher
One of the most famous eighteenth-century taverns in Edinburgh was Peter Williamson’s, (he was known as Indian Peter)a tiny pub hard up against the entrance to Parliament House. A great place it was with the lawyers. The signboard, outside, had the inscription :—‘ Peter Williamson, vintner from the other world’ and the tale behind that is very strange. Peter, at the age of eight, was kidnapped on Aberdeen Pier and sold into slavery in America. But a kind master left him, on his death, money and a horse, and Peter’s adventures continued. He was captured by the Red Indians, had many adventures with them, escaped, and finally returned to Scotland, where he fought a famous court case against the magistrates of Aberdeen, and with the damages he received, he opened his famous tavern. Later, he started up as a writer and publisher, ran a Scottish weekly newspaper, started the Edinburgh Penny Post, and published the first Edinburgh Directory ! He is. reputed to have been one of his own best clients. Peter Williamson died in Edinburgh in 1799 and was buried in the moccasins, fringed leggings, blanket and feathered headdress of a Delaware Indian.
William Smellie 1740 - 1795
It was Smellie who founded the Crochallan Fencibles and introduced Burns to that convivial club, whose recorder of proceedings and 'hangman' the naturalist was. It was the custom of the Club to submit any new entrant to a barrage of raillery to test his temper, and the contest between Smellie and Burns was said to have been remarkable. Burns said on his installation that he was 'thrashed' beyond anything he had formerly experienced.
Peter Hill 1754 - 1837
When Burns met Peter Hill in 1787, he was still a clerk in Creech's bookshop, but in 1788, he set up his own bookselling business. Hill acted as a kind of Edinburgh banker for Burns, and a number of the poet's letters to him deal solely with business matters. Others deal in part with the ordering of books, either for Burns's own personal library, or for the Monkland Friendly Society, which Burns and Robert Riddell organised early in 1789. But there are many personal observations in Burns's side of the correspondence, and sometimes double entendres. Writing from Mauchline on 18th July 1788, when Hill had complained of Burns's neglect of him, the poet said: 'You injured me, my dear Sir, in your construction of the cause of my silence. From Ellisland in Nithsdale to Mauchline in Kyle, is forty and five miles; there, a house a-building, and farm enclosures and improvements to tend; here, a new — not so much indeed a new as a young wife — Good God, sir, could my dearest Brother expect a regular correspondence from me! I who am busied with the sacred Pen of Nature, in the mystic Volume of Creation, can I dishonour my hand with a dirty goose feather, on a parcel of washed old rags? I who am "called as was Aaron" to offer in the Sanctum Sanctorum, not indeed the mysterious bloody types of future MURDER but the thrice hallowed quintessence of future EXISTENCE; can I — but I have apologised enough...'
Sir James Hunter Blair 1741 - 1787
He was Member of Parliament for Edinburgh from 1780 to 1784 and the Lord Provost of the City in 1784. He was created a baronet in 1786. As Lord Provost, he carried through various reforms, including the beginning of work on rebuilding the University and the construction of the bridge over the Cowgate. The foundation stone of this bridge was laid by Lord Haddo, as Grand Master Mason of Scotland in 1785, after Parliament had passed an Act giving permission for the plans to be executed. Blair was knighted the following year. Burns was cordially received by him when he arrived in Edinburgh. On Blair's death, the poet drafted a somewhat stilted elegy, beginning: 'The lamp of day, with ill-presaging glare', which extols rather laboriously Blair's public virtues. Burns called it 'just mediocre' but Ferguson describes it, justifiably as 'the disastrous Elegy on the Death of Sir James Hunter Blair'. Blair was an enthusiastic Freemason. Hunter Square and Blair Street in Edinburgh are both named after him.
Francis 8th Lord Napier 1758 - 1823
37th Grand Master 1788-90
Francis the 8th Lord Napier succeeded Lord Elcho as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. In 1789 he laid the foundation stone of the College of Edinburgh. During the American Revolutionary war he served under General Burgoyne.
James Boswell of Auchinleck 1740 - 1795
James Boswell is probably better known as the biographer of Dr. Johnson, served twice as the Master of Canongate Kilwinning, but declined the nomination for the Grand Master of Scotland, but became the Depute Grand Master in 1776-78.
Though they were both Ayrshiremen, Burns and Boswell never met. That Burns hoped for such a meeting is shown by the letter he wrote to Bruce Campbell on 13th November 1788: 'I inclose you, for Mr Boswell, the ballad you mentioned; and as I hate sending waste paper or mutilating a sheet, I have filled it up with one or two of my fugitive Pieces that occurred. Should they procure me the honour of being introduced to Mr Boswell, I shall think they have great merit. There are few pleasures my late will-o'-wisp character has given me, equal to that of having seen many of the extraordinary men, the Heroes of Wit & Literature in my Country; & as I had the honour of drawing my first breath almost in the same Parish with Mr Boswell, my Pride plumes itself on the connection. To crouch in the train of meer stupid Wealth Greatness, except where the commercial interests of worldly Prudence find their account in it, I hold to be Prostitution in any on that is not born a Slave; but to have been acquainted with such a man as Mr Boswell, I would hand down to my Posterity as one of the honours of their Ancestor.'
Alexander Naysmith 1758 - 1840
Burns's publisher, Creech, asked Nasmyth to paint a portrait of the poet to illustrate the first Edinburgh Edition, a service which the painter performed gratis. Burns visited Nasmyth frequently at his studio in Wardrop's Court. The portrait was given to John Beugo to engrave. The original by Nasmyth was given to Burns, whose son, Colonel William Nicol Burns, presented it to the Scottish National Gallery, where it now hangs.
Robert Burns and the painter Alexander Nasmyth visited Roslin early one summer's morning in 1787. Nasmyth's son James recounted the story of their visit in his autobiography: On one occasion my father and a few choice spirits had been spending a nicht wi' Burns. The place of resort was a tavern in the High Street, Edinburgh. As Burns was a brilliant talker, full of spirit and humour, time fled until the 'wee sma' hours ayont the twal'' arrived. The party broke up about three o'clock. At that time of the year the night is very short, and morning comes early. Burns, on reaching the street, looked up to the sky. It was perfectly clear, and the rising sun was beginning to brighten the mural crown of St Giles's Cathedral. Burns was so much struck with the beauty of the morning that he put his hand on my father's arm and said, 'It'll never do to go to bed in such a lovely morning as this! Let's awa' to Roslin Castle.' No sooner said than done. The poet and the painter set out. Nature lay bright and lovely before them in that delicious summer morning. After an eight-miles walk they reached the castle at Roslin. Burns went down under the great Norman arch, where he stood rapt in speechless admiration of the scene. The thought of the eternal renewal of youth and freshness of nature, contrasted with the crumbling decay of man's efforts to perpetuate his work, even when founded upon a rock, as Roslin Castle is, seemed greatly to affect him. My father was so much impressed with the scene that, while Burns was standing under the arch, he took out his pencil and a scrap of paper and made a hasty sketch of the subject. This sketch was highly treasured by my father, in remembrance of what must have been one of the most memorable days of his life.
After a serious night in Edinburgh's taverns, an eight mile walk in the small hours, and a roam around Roslin Glen, Burns and Naysmith sat down to breakfast at the Roslin Inn. They took tea, eggs and some whiskey. Naysmith noted in a letter that 'the charge was very moderate in our opinion.'
James Johnson 1750 -1811
James Johnson was an engraver, music-seller and copperplate printer. Sometime before 1787, this poorly educated man, whose spelling was atrocious, and whose engraving shop was in Bell's Wynd, conceived the idea of collecting the words and music of all the existing Scots songs and publishing them through his music shop in the LawnMarket. By the time he met Burns , the first volume of his Scots Musical Museum containing the first hundred songs, was already in the press. Johnson invited Burns's collaboration, and the poet's enthusiasm eventually outdid even that of Johnson. Thereafter, until his death, Burns was virtually the real editor of the Museum contributing about 160 songs of his own, and mending and patching many others. Three further volumes of the Museum were published during Burns's lifetime, and a fifth was ready for the press at the time of his death, in 1796. It took Johnson, on his own again, until 1803 to produce the 6th and last volume. Throughout Burns life he corresponded with Johnson, the last letter to him only 7 weeks before the Poet's death urging Johnson to keep going: 'you may probably think that for some time past I have neglected you and your work; but, Alas, the hand of pain, and sorrow, and care has these many months lain heavy on me! Personal and domestic affliction have almost entirely banished that alacrity and life with which I used to woo the rural Muse of Scotia. In the meantime, let us finish what we have so well begun...
'Many a merry meeting this Publication has given us, and possibly it may give us more, though, alas! I fear it. This protracting, slow, consuming illness which hangs over me, will I doubt much , my ever dear friend, arrest my sun before he has well reached his middle career, and will turn over the Poet to far other and more important concerns than studying the brilliancy of Wit or the pathos of Sentiment. Your Work is a great one; and though, now that it is near finished, I see if we were to begin again, two or three things that might be mended, yet I will venture to prophesy, that to future ages your Publication will be the textbook and standard of Scottish Song and Music'.
Captain Francis Grose Esq. 1731 - 1791
Antiquarian and Lexicographer
Captain Grose published his Antiquities of England and Wales in 6 volumes between 1773 — 87 and The Antiquities of Scotland in 2 volumes, in 1789 and 1791. Burns met him while he was in Scotland collecting material for his Scottish work. Writing to Mrs Dunlop from Ellisland on 17th July 1789, Burns told her: 'Captn Grose, the well known Author of the Antiquities of England and Wales has been through Annandale, Nithsdale and Galloway, in the view of commencing another publication, The Antiquities of Scotland. As he has made his headquarters with Captn Riddel my nearest neighbour, for these two months, I am intimately acquainted with him; and I have never seen a man of more original observation, anecdote and remark. Thrown into the army from the Nursery, and now that he is the father of a numerous family who are all settled in respectable situation in life, he has mingled in all societies and known everybody. His delight is to steal thro' the country almost unknown, both as most favourable to his humour and his business... if you discover a cheerful looking grig of an old, fat fellow, the precise figure of Dr Slop, wheeling about your avenue in his own carriage with a pencil and paper in his hand, you may conclude: "Thou art the man!"'
Burns took to this fat, jovial man with an inexhaustible fund of stories, and suggested to him that he should include Alloway Kirk in his forthcoming volume. Grose agreed, but, Gilbert Burns recorded on condition that Burns provided a witch tale to go with his drawing. In June 1790, Burns sent Grose a prose witch tale with a variant in a letter to Grose, following it up with a rhymed version, the superb 'Tam o' Shanter'. Grose naturarlly preferred the poetic version, and 'Tam o' Shanter' was published in the second volume of Grose's The Antiquities of Scotland. It had, however, already appeared in the Edinburgh Magazine for March 1791. Grose also inspired Burns to write the witty lines 'On Captain Grose's Peregrinations through Scotland':
James Gregory 1753 - 1821
In 1776 he became Professor of Physick in Edinburgh University, and in 1790 he was appointed Professor of the Practice of Medicine. His Conspectus Medicinae Theoreticae (widely read in its day) was published in 1780. He disliked 'meddlesome medicine', believed in fresh air and exercise, and was an able lecturer. He was the inventor of 'Gregory's Powder', long prescribed as a laxative. Burns submitted his poem 'The Wounded Hare' to Dr Gregory for criticism, which he gave freely, complaining both of the stanza form and the 'coarseness' of the language. Burns seems to have been quite taken aback by his strictures. In one of Burns's letters to Dugald Stewart from Ellisland, 20th January 1789, the poet mentioned 'the justness (iron justice, for he has no bowels of compassion for a poor poetic sinner) of Dr Gregory's remarks'. In 'Willie's Aw', Burns listed 'worthy Gregory's Latin Face' as one of those to be seen habitually at Creech's levees.
Alexander Wood 1725 -1807
An Edinburgh surgeon and 'character' who was nicknamed 'Lang Sandy' Wood, because of his lanky figure. Burns greatly liked the warmth and generosity of Wood's nature. He had a high reputation as a doctor in Edinburgh, and attended Burns when he hurt his leg badly falling from his coach. For his part, Wood admired Burns's genius and recommended him for a post to the Excise Commissioners. He was the first man in Edinburgh, Henry Mackenzie tells us, to own and umbrella, about 1780. When he was seized one night by a rioting mob, he cried: 'I'm lang Sandy Wood; tak me to the licht and ye'll see.' He was at once released.
The Edinburgh Evening Courant
Proprietor in Burns's day of the Edinburgh Courant. Burns mentioned him humorously in a letter to Peter Hill from Ellisland, 2nd April 1789: 'I beg you will sit down and either compose or borrow a panegyric (If you are going to borrow, apply to our friend, Ramsay, for the assistance of the author of those pretty little buttering paragraphs of eulogiums on your thrice-honoured and never-enough-to-be-praised MAGISTRACY — how they hunt down a housebreaker with the sanguinary perseverance of a bloodhound — how they outdo a terrier in a badger-hole, in unearthing a Resettor of stolen goods — how they steal on a thoughtless troop of Night-nymphs as a spaniel winds the unsuspecting Covey —or how they riot o'er a ravaged B-dyhouse as a cat does o'er a plundered Mousenest — how they new-vamp old churches, aiming at appearances of Piety — plan Squares & Colledges, to pass for men of taste & learning, etc. etc. etc. — while old Edinburgh, like the doting Mother of a parcel of rakehelly Prodigals, may sing 'Hooly & fairly', or cry, 'Waes me that e'er I saw ye', but still must put her hand in her pocket & pay whatever scores the young dogs think it proper to contract) — I was going to say, but this d-mn'd Parenthesis has put me out of breath, that you should get that manufacturer of the tinselled crockery of magistratial reputations, who makes so distinguished & distinguishing a figure in the Ev: Courant to compose, or rather to compound, something very clever on my remarkable frugality; that I write to one of my most esteemed friends on this wretched paper, which was originally intended for the venal fist of some drunken Exciseman, to take dirty notes in a miserable vault of an ale-cellar.'
Writer to the Signet
John Gray the City Clerk, who along with Mr Buchan the City Chamberlain, was initiated into Canongate Kilwinning on the evening of the Inauguration.
John Millar had recently before this period been called to the bar, and was elected Junior Warden of Canongate Kilwinning in 1786.
Captain Fr. Bartlett
of Milton House
Was one of those men who were initiated into Canongate Kilwinning at the meeting preceding the inauguration on the 1st of February when the Poet was affiliated. The officer is introduced into the painting as a representative of the absent new members.
Robert Ainslie 1766- 1838
Writer to the Signet
Robert Ainslie was a law student in the Edinburgh office of Samuel Mitchelson when Burns met him early in 1787. His carefree disposition and his zestful pleasure in wine, women and the poet's song, endeared him to Burns, and Ainslie accompanied the poet on the first part of the Border tour of May 1787. At Eyemouth they were both made 'Royal Arch Masons' of the local lodge, Ainslie on payment of a guinea fee, Burns without fee. Continuing the tour alone, Burns wrote to him regretting the absence of the laughter his presence had ensured. On 23rd July 1787, writing from Mauchline, Burns told Ainslie: 'There is one thing for which I set great store by you as a friend, and it is this - that I have not a friend upon earth, besides yourself, to whom I can talk nonsense without forfeiting some degree of his esteem'.
The poet introduced Ainslie to Mrs M'Lehose, and made him an early confidant in his affair with her, and in his final farming transaction. The 'horse-litter' letter, in which Burns describes having intercourse with Jean Armour when she was far advanced in pregnancy, was written to Ainslie from Mauchline on 3rd March 1788. It was therefore naturally to Ainslie that Burns wrote from Dumfries on 1st June 1788 asking him to call on May Cameron, an Edinburgh servant girl whom the poet had seduced, and 'give her ten or twelve shillings', adding the significant injunction, 'but don't for Heaven's sake meddle with her as a Piece'.
William Woods 1751 - 1802
An English actor who settled in Edinburgh early in the 1770s. Robert Burns probably met Woods at the Cannongate Kilwinning Lodge. He was a member of the Edinburgh Company of players for thirty-one years, a close friend of Robert Fergusson, the poet, and is said to have given him regular free seats at the theatre. On his retiral he taught elocution. He is buried in Calton cemetery. Burns wrote a prologue for him for his benefit night, beginning, 'When by a generous Public's kind acclaim'. The play was Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor. He is represented in the painting making an offer from the 'Waissal bowl' in welcome of the stranger or visiting brother who had just come into the Lodge.
A Visiting Brother
It was intended to introduce into the painting Gavin Turnbull, a contemporary of Burns, who Burns acknowledges as "an old friend of mine". In 1789, he published from the press of David Niven, a Glasgow publisher, his Poetical Essays. This book included a poem, 'The Bard', inscribed to Mr R(obert) B(urns). Burns, incidentally, had some difficulty in transmitting the money for five of the six copies he distributed of the book by his 'brother Poet'.
The Tyler is shown here admitting into the Lodge a gentleman who has been recognised as a Brother of the Order.
The figure in the painting represents secrecy.
The Light of Masonry
The figure in the painting represents the Light of Masonry.
William St. Clair of Roslin 1700 - 1778
1st Grand Master
In 1736 when a first Grand Master was to be chosen for the Scottish Grand Lodge, William St. Clair was made a Freemason in the Lodge Canongate Kilwinning and he also formally resigned all claims to be Patron and Protector of the Freemasons in Scotland on November 30 of the same year at a meeting held at Edinburgh. William Saint Clair died in 1778.
Henry Sedgefield 1678 - 1787
Henry Sedgefield is shown in the painting having just been admitted into the Lodge by the Tyler. In December 1786 he was aged 108, and had been a seaman for 80 years. Twice taken prisoner by the French, he died in 1787.
These short biographies of the Brethren represented in Stewart Watson's painting are taken from a variety of sources the main ones being, James Marshall's book, "A Winter with Robert Burns", and William Harvey's book, "Robert Burns as a Freemason", also I have used quotes from the website 'Robert Burns Country'. The other sources are too numerous to mention, but where any faults occur regarding these Brethren the blame is mine alone.