the paintings page
Known throughout the world, the painting titled 'Burns in Edinburgh' is on display to visitors. Painted in 1887 by Charles M Hardie, A.R.S.A. (1858-1916), it commemorates Burns' stay in Edinburgh in 1787, and depicts many of the eminent people whom the poet met in Scotland's capital - the scene is the drawing room of the Edinburgh home of the Duchess of Gordon.
The "Edinburgh Dispatch" of 24 Jan., 1888 commented: "The picture, which took two years to complete, brings vividly before us the crowning recognition of this farmer-poet by the beauty, wealth and learning of the Scottish capital." Irvine Burns Club purchased it (in about 1970) from a Glasgow art dealer.
Irvine Burns Club holds the reproduction rights for this and other paintings.
More 'Tam o' Shanter' --»
Six woodcuts which tell the story - view (on another page)
'Tam o' Shanter - The Comic', read by Hamish MacDonald and illustrated by Gary Welsh, for a project led by Matthew Fitt - view the YouTube cartoon (of the full poem)
Read more about Angus Scott in the panel lower down this page - among other imaginative work, he used to draw the Eagle strip 'Riders of the Range'.
'The Vision' by J E Christie
The Vision, by James Elder Christie (1847-1914), is inspired by the poem in which Burns describes seeing his Muse, Coila, the spirit of Kyle, the district in which he was born. In this painting, you see her behind the poet.
Christie received his artistic training in Paisley and South Kensington. He became known for his portraits, paintings of children, moral allegories and illustrations to the poetry of Robert Burns. In 1882 he was elected an artist member of Glasgow Art Club, and was elected as an honorary member of that Club in 1913.
Irvine Burns Club holds the reproduction rights for this and other paintings.
The scene is the drawing room of the Edinburgh residence of Her Grace, Jane, the Duchess of Gordon. The poet is in the costume of the time - blue coat with brass buttons, yellow striped vest, buckskin breeches and top boots - as he recites his poem "A Winter Night". Hardie obviously went to great research to do this work and used some artistic licence in, for example, portraying the Duchess of Gordon as slightly younger (she was 38/39). She wears a stylish gown of rose-coloured silk and rich brocade, her cheek propped by her hand, intently listening. Over the back of her chair appears the eager out-stretched face of the fair Peggy Chalmers, and the raven-locked Miss Burnett leans upon a harp; while on the right is the seated figure of the pallid and snow-haired poet, Dr Blacklock, and on the other, the erect, slim, soldierly shape of the Earl of Glencairn.
Nearer the poet, seated at the dark old-fashioned table in the centre of the room, is the portly form of William Fraser Tytler, the defender of Mary, Queen of Scots, and, beside him, the alert little figure of Lord Monboddo, the eccentric author of the 'Origin and Progress of Language', his grotesque face given much as it was drawn by his friend John Brown, the excellent portraitist of the time, of whose art the Society of Antiquaries possesses many fine examples. A little more remote, a little less engrossed, is the critic and rhetorician, Dr Hugh Blair, in wig and clerical bands; and near him Henry Mackenzie, "The Man of Feeling"; William Creech, the publisher; and Alexander Nasmyth, the portrait painter; while to the left, behind the poet, are seated Dr Adam Ferguson; the placid, grey-haired Dowager-Countess of Glencairn; and the meditative Dugald Stewart.
The extreme left corner is occupied by a card table, over which the young keen-faced Harry Erskine bends, directing the attention of the players to the marvellous recital; and this group is balanced on the right by a pair of servants in the Gordon liveries of white and red, set in the soft light of a curtained window, stopping their punch-brewing to listen to the poet; while in the centre of the room the eye is led away through an half-open door, thronged with the heads of eager domestics, into a remote passage, with a vista of staircase window and a gleam of sharp clear daylight.
Text by Past President
William ('Bill') Cowan
The Duchess of Gordon invited Burns to several of her dinner-parties; she frequently asked him to recite for her guests; she also once commented that the poet was "the only man whose conversation ever fairly carried her off her feet".
Mrs Margaret ('Peggy') Chalmers first met Burns at Dr Blacklock's in Edinburgh. A relative once wrote: "I have often been told that her gentleness and vivacity had a favourable influence on the manners of Burns."
Miss Elizabeth Burnett was the youngest daughter of Lord Monboddo, whom Burns frequently visited; she was a young lady of exquisite beauty and grace; unfortunately she died of consumption in her 25th year.
Dr Blacklock lost his eyesight through smallpox at six months old. It was on his advice that Burns proceeded to Edinburgh instead of going to the West Indies. One of Burns' best epistles is directed to him.
James, Earl of Glencairn, was the first of the nobility to welcome the poet on his arrival in the capital. Burns named his fourth son after him.
William Tytler, later Lord Woodhouselee, was a sincere admirer of Burns. He collaborated with Johnson in the 'Scots Musical Museum' project. Burns wrote an Address to him (CW276).
James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, was prominent in Masonic circles; his daughter is mentioned above.
Dr Hugh Blair corresponded with Burns.
Henry Mackenzie's praise of Burns served to introduce his poems to the fashionable and higher ranks of society throughout Scotland and England.
William Creech published the Edinburgh edition of Burns' works. He served as Lord Provost of Edinburgh 1811-13.
Alexander Nasmyth painted the only authentic portrait of Burns, one which was engraved by Beugo for the Edinburgh edition.
Dr Adam Ferguson was Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh from 1764. It was at his house that the young Walter Scott saw Burns for the first and only time.
The Countess of Glencairn, the mother of James, the 14th Earl, resided at Coates House in Edinburgh.
Professor Dugald Stewart met Burns at Catrine, when introduced to him there by Henry Mackenzie in 1786.
The Hon. Henry Erskine, a kind and generous man, was a friend and patron of Burns as well as a brother Mason.
An 1863 copy of a pre-1850 portrait by John Graham Gilbert RSA, a renowned Scottish portrait-painter of his day. It was "Presented to the Burgh out of a General Subscription raised as a memorial to his Lordship". He is here portrayed as Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire before 1850. [copyist A Dick; image: copyright North Ayrshire Council and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence]
More about the portrait below . . .
Bailie Robert Fullarton (1740-1835) is the Irvine councillor (for 42 years) immortalised by Irvine-born John Galt as his model for Provost Pawkie in 'The Provost' (1822). In 1814, Bailie Fullarton lamented that people were "strolling through the streets and fields in an idle and disorderly manner upon the Lord's day". Every day he had some public duty to perform, so every afternoon he could claim a dram at the expense of the Common Good Fund. [artist unknown; photo: I J Dickson] [Galt link still to be added]
Provost John Paterson (1827-1898) was a bank agent in Irvine, living in the previous house on this site. In 1904, his widow and family bought the adjoining property and built 'Wellwood', named after the farm near Muirkirk where John's grandfather had lived and died. His sons, neither having family, bequeathed the house to Irvine Burns Club.
Discover more about the family and the property
Archibald William Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton, 1821-1861, was a patron of archery, horse racing, curling, bowls and golf, and organised the last medieval tournament held in the British Isles in 1839 at Irvine. He believed that "free mingling of classes" in physical recreation would "raise the self-respect of the humble" and "fortify them against intemperance and vicious courses". Though he later served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1852 and 1858, the portrait was painted of him, before 1850, as Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire.
(We are indebted to the late Col G P Wood MC DL, of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, for the following supplementary notes, prepared in 1999, using records of the Stirlingshire Militia, his own experience as a Deputy Lieutenant, and his life-long interest in military history; and also to his daughter, Fiona Lee, for passing them to Irvine Burns Club.)
The Earl’s uniform
The uniform of a Lord Lieutenant’s uniform was (and still is) the same as a Major General’s uniform. However, although the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, and other military campaigns were happening when the Earl’s portrait was painted, he wears no medals. This confirms he had no military connections. It was fashionable at the time to wear military uniform at social occasions, as can be seen in the painting downstairs in the Club; it depicts an Edinburgh drawing room full of guests listening to Burns, and Lord Glencairn is shown wearing uniform.
The Earl wears a scarlet coatee, which had long tails at the back, similar to a modern tailcoat. Military fashion follows civilian fashion. As a style, the Victorian coatee with its high collar comes between the Georgian cutaway coat and the later longer length jackets. The buttons are embossed with the Royal crest. The cocked hat has white swan feathers, and is still worn by Guards Major Generals today on ceremonial duties in London. At each end of the hat are crimson and gold bullion tassels. A Scottish Lord Lieutenant has a thistle on his epaulets, and a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland would probably have had a harp on his epaulets, although we cannot see this on the portrait. He wears a decorative gold waist sash with tassel, and also a sword belt with buckle. The sword is “the 1831 pattern scimitar” or Mameluke sword, a copy of an Arab scimitar, with a white ivory handle. This is still carried today by Generals wearing full dress uniform.
The rôle of the Lord Lieutenant and the Militia
Each County had (and still has to this day) one Lord Lieutenant, who was (and is) the monarch’s representative. At the time of this portrait, the monarch was Queen Victoria. When Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl was therefore the most senior person in Ireland after the Queen. His main rôle would be to take over local administration if the government broke down, and he would be, as now, assisted in his duties by several Deputy Lieutenants (DLs). DLs, and presumably Ldx Lt become ‘inactive’ at the age of 75.
Each Lord Lieutenant was also responsible for raising his county’s Militia by Ballot. Only a certain number of men were required to be attested into the Militia for five years, so the names of the men that were eligible would be drawn. Those men who wished to avoid the commitment, and who could afford to do so, found and paid a substitute to stand in for them if they were balloted. Militia Clubs developed, and if a member’s name was drawn, the club funds paid for a substitute. As an example, the Stirlingshire Militia was only called out for training four times between 1820 and 1831. But they were mobilised at the time of the Crimean War to replace regular garrison regiments.
Militia Acts were passed and dropped as required, the last one being passed in 1852. This Act introduced voluntary enlistment into the Militia, although the Ballot could still be used in the event of an emergency and there continued to be a laid-down quota from each County. At the time of this Act, the Irish Militia were amalgamated with those of Great Britain, and the Militia were renumbered.
The various Volunteer regiments date from 1859, with the rise of military patriotism in Britain, but they have no connection with the Militia.
The civilian Home Office controlled the Militias until the Cardwell army reforms of 1870, when they passed to the War Office. Thereafter, the Ldx Lt ceased to be responsible for the Militia. The Militia came into the Regiments in 1881, and the Militia Battalions of regular regiments served, for example, in the South African War 1899-1902, and served as reinforcing units for the British Expeditionary Force in WW1. The Militia then vanished in 1918.
The 13th Earl is descended from the Earl that raised the Montgomery’s Highlanders (the 77th Regiment) in Stirling in 1757 to fight in the American Wars and the West Indies. The Regiment was recruited from the defeated Jacobite clans, and when it disbanded in Canada in 1763, they were offered a return passage home, or land for themselves in Canada. In the course of a long speech in Parliament in 1766, William Pitt the Elder praised the men of the then new Highland regiments. Paraphrased, he said:
“I sought for merit wherever it was to be found … and found it in the mountains of the North. I drew into your service a hardy and intrepid race of men … they fought with valour and conquered for you in every part of the world.”
More about Angus Scott:
Following his education at Glasgow School Of Art, this Scottish born artist spent most of his life living and working in England, primarily as a prolific illustrator of magazines, newspapers and comics - including sketches for the satirical magazine "Punch", cartoon strips for newspapers and story strips for comic books such as the "Eagle", and illustrating a series of articles by dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse later published as "Walkies: Dog Care the Woodhouse Way". Read more, and view some fun sketches, on the web at bearalley.blogspot.com. He published two books on pen and ink drawing.
In 1970, Angus Scott approached Irvine Burns Club with a view to selling some of his work. His visit to 'Wellwood' resulted in the Directors commissioning the five large paintings on the theme of Tam o' Shanter, completed in 1971 and on permanent display in Wellwood. Two other works - 'The Cottar's Saturday Night' and 'The Jolly Beggars' - were bought by Andrew Hood (Club President 1968) for himself and his business partner William Paterson respectively. Prints of other works by Scott were displayed in the premises of the Bank of Scotland in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
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