Bank Street, Dumfries
Dumfries in Burns’ day was a lively town of some 5600 inhabitants, living
in houses of sandstone or red brick. It was described at the time as
"beautiful and advantageous ... neat ... well built ... well lighted and
Market Place, Dumfries
Burns' Burgess Ticket
He moved into a small flat in Bank Street, then called the Wee or Stinking
Vennel. Below him was the office of his Excise superior and friend, John
Syme. Burns was soon playing a full part in town life. His burgess
ticket presented four years previously allowed him to claim reduced fees
for his childrens’ education. In February 1792 he was promoted to the
Dumfries Port Division with an increase in salary to £70 a year. This
allowed him more leisure time and the days in Bank Street were a period of
prolific song writing for him. In August Volume IV of the ‘Scots Musical
Museum’ was published, containing another 50 of his songs. His favourite
walks in town were beside the Nith, upriver to Lincluden and along the
Dock to Castledykes.
Lincluden Abbey, Dumfries
Mrs Burns described his domestic habits:- "Burns was not an early riser
excepting when he had anything particular to do in the way of his
profession. Even tho’ he had dined out, he never lay after nine o’clock.
The family breakfasted at nine. If he lay long in bed awake he was always
reading. At all meals he had a book beside him on the table. He did his
work in the forenoon and was seldom engaged professionally in the
evening. He was fond of plain things and hated tarts, pies and puddings.
When at home in the evening he employed his time in writing and reading
with the children playing around him. Their prattle never distracted him
in the least."
Dr William Maxwell
He made many friends in the town, Dr Maxwell was one, he had been in the
Republican army in the French Revolution and was one of the guards at the
execution of Louis XVI. Burns made many visits to Ryedale, the home of
John Syme who had the sinecure of Collector of Stamps for Dumfries and
their close friendship brought him much pleasure. Another friend was
Burns’ supervisor Alexander Findlater, a minister’s son who later became
the Collector for Glasgow, a top position in the Excise. Despite their
friendship Findlater checked Burns’ work strictly.
Globe Inn, High Street, Dumfries
Among his women friends was the beautiful Maria Riddell, wife of Robert
Riddell’s younger brother Walter. She lived at the estate of Goldielea,
near Dumfries, which her husband renamed Woodley Park after her maiden
name. Burns wrote her many letters and often visited her. Goldielea still
stands today, in an imposing setting.
In Dumfries his favourite inn or "howff" was the Globe in the High Street. The innkeepers were Mr and Mrs Hyslop.