In May 1793 the family moved to a better quality house in Mill Street (now
Burns Street). Their standard of living was good and they employed a maid
servant. The house had two bedrooms, a parlour, a kitchen and even a small
study. It was well furnished and carpeted. Wellwishers would often send
Burns game or country produce and occasionally, barrels of oysters. He
was always anxious that Mrs Burns should be well dressed. She was one of
the first women in Dumfries to have a dress of gingham, at that time an
Scullery at Burns House
Burns House, Dumfries
Burns had a great curiosity about Scotland and this prompted him, in July
1793, to embark on a tour of Galloway with his friend John Syme. They set
out on two highland ponies, passing through Castle Douglas, Crossmichael
with its attractive church, Parton and on to Kenmure Castle at the head of
Loch Ken, where they spent three happy days. This was the home of the
Gordons of Lochinvar whose ancestors had helped Mary Queen of Scots. The
travellers then went on to Gatehouse where they stayed at the Murray Arms
and returned via Kirkcudbright.
Mid Garrary, Clatteringshaws
He was now writing songs for a new book ‘A Select Collection of
Original Scottish Airs’ produced by George Thomson, a clerk to the Board
of Trustees for the Encouragement of Art and Manufacture in Scotland.
This task was to occupy him for the remaining years of his life.
Drawing of Mill on the Fleet, Gatehouse
Buchan Bridge, Glentrool
In September Burns wrote to Thomson describing his method of song
composition:- “My way is this: I consider the poetic Sentiment,
correspondent to my idea of the Musical expression; then chuse my theme;
begin one Stanza; when that it composed, which is generally the most
difficult part of the business, I walk out, sit down now & then, look out
for objects in Nature around me that are in unison or harmony with the
cogitations of my fancy & workings of my bosom; humming every now & then
the air with the verses I have framed: when I feel my Muse beginning to
jade, I retire to the solitary fireside of my study, & there commit my
effusions to paper: swinging, at intervals on the hindlegs of my elbow
chair by way of calling forth my own critical strictures, as my pen goes.
- Seriously, this at home, is almost invariably my way.”
A Select Collection of Scottish Airs
Book of Essays
Song writing gave him great enjoyment and in all Burns, provided over one
hundred songs for Thomson. Songs written in Mill Street include ‘My Luve
Is Like A Red Red Rose’,’ A Man’s A Man for A’ That’ and ‘Scots Wha Hae’.