FIRST CONTACT

Robert Burns' first contact with Dumfries and Galloway came in 1787 during a short tour of the Borders with his friend Bob Ainslie, a law student. Following the success of the Kilmarnock edition of his poems he found himself acclaimed as ‘Caledonia’s Bard’ by Edinburgh Society. The 3000 copies of the new Edinburgh edition were selling well and his fame had been further increased by an article about him in the ‘Lounger’, a weekly magazine.
Portrait of Robert Burns
Robert Burns by Archibald Skirving
He arrived in Dumfries from Carlisle on 4th June. Dumfries Town Council immediately made him an honorary burgess, little knowing that one day he would come here to live. The main reason for his visit was to look at a farm offered to him by Patrick Miller, a director of the Bank of Scotland and chairman of the Carron Company in Falkirk.
Book of Poems
Kilmarnock Edition, 1786
Miller, an admirer of Burns, had recently purchased the estate of Dalswinton, 6 miles north of Dumfries. He offered him the tenancy of one of the farms, Ellisland, on the banks of the Nith, at an advantageous rent:- seventy pounds a year restricted to £50 for the first three years. Burns had always been doubtful of earning his living by his pen and was looking for another means but when he saw the farm he was not impressed and was worried that the ‘bargain’ might ruin him.
Photograph of the River Nith
River Nith at Dumfries
In March 1788, despite his misgivings, he signed the lease. Shortly before, however, he had written to Robert Graham of Fintry, a Commissioner of the Scottish Board of Excise, that he "wished to get into the Excise". Graham, another admirer, used his influence and arranged for Burns to receive a position in the Dumfries area as soon as one became available.


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