Ten places are within a short walk, and another two are slightly further. Here you see senior pupils and headteachers, with Provost Ian Clarkson, at the statue - our starting point.
Robert Burns looks south, “in contemplative mood”, towards his birthplace at Alloway. Erected in 1896, the statue is by James Pittendrigh Macgillivray.
'Wellwood', the home of Irvine Burns Club, with many unique exhibits.
Irvine Burns Club was formed by twelve Irvine men in 1826, meeting at what was then Milne’s Inn.
When Burns suffered a high fever in 1781, Dr Fleeming visited him five times in eight days. The drugs prescribed feature in the pavement outside the ‘Carrick’ hostelry.
frequented by Burns.
Turning left at the Porthead Tavern into Glasgow Vennel, on the right is the location of the house where Robert found decent lodgings.
Further up, on the left, is the meeting house of the Buchanites – fanatics whose leader, Mrs Elspeth Buchan, told her followers to be ready to ascend to heaven.
Then, on the right, take the short lane to see the Heckling Shed, where Robert Burns worked at flax-dressing, until a Hogmanay fire left the building a shell.
It is believed that Burns first took communion here. In 1995, the bicentenary of his death, Irvine Burns Club raised funds for a window of commemoration.
This is the grave of Helen Miller Mackenzie, one of the Mauchline Lasses made famous for all time in the poetry of Burns, and the wife of Irvine Burns Club's first President, Dr John Mackenzie.
Wordly-wise seafarer Captain Richard Brown became a good friend of Robert Burns.
This cairn, erected by Irvine Burns Club in 1927, commemorates the walk of Burns and Brown in Eglinton Woods, where Brown urged Burns to consider publication.
In 1826, David Sillar helped Robert Chambers to identify where Robert Burns lodged in 1781. Chambers wrote: "A great deal of doubt unfortunately hangs over this interesting point. After a tedious and anxious inquiry, however, [I have] come to the conclusion that the spot is now occupied by a new house, marked 4, in a narrow street called the Glasgow Vennel. The other situation pointed out is in the Seagate." ('The Picture of Scotland', Vol. 1, 2nd ed., 1828, p.311)
The street underwent conservation in the early 1980's, some buildings needing much restoration, others just a coat of paint, and the tarmac on the street was removed to reveal the cobbles. Originally known as Smiddy or Smithy Bar, by the middle of the 1700s Glasgow Vennel was part of the main road from Irvine Harbour to Glasgow and an important thoroughfare.
In 1926, the year of the centenary of Irvine Burns Club, the wife of President John N Hall unveiled a commemorative tablet, donated by Mr Hall, on the outer wall, reading "Robert Burns lodged here 1781-82. Irvine Burns Club, 25th January, 1926." A more recent tablet is in its place.
Return to no. 6 on the walk
Mrs Elspeth Buchan (1738-1791) was invited to Irvine by a local minister, Rev Hugh White, in 1783, and soon had enough followers to hold meetings - first in a tent in White's Seagate garden, then in the Glasgow Vennel house (pictured) of Patrick Hunter ('Humphy Hunter'), a prosperous lawyer and merchant. She and her followers were twice driven out of Irvine by mobs, and twice returned, to be formally banished by the Town Council in 1784. Robert Burns wrote: "She pretends to give [her followers] the Holy Ghost by breathing on them, which she does with postures and practices that are scandalously indecent."
The Buchanites were “waiting for the second coming of the Lord” and believed “that they, alive, shall be changed and translated into the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and to be ever with the Lord”. For more details, see John Strawhorn, 'History of Irvine', pp.88-89 and the fuller account in Alexander Chalmer's 1812 Biographical Dictionary. Elspeth Buchan convinced White that she was "the woman clothed with the sun" referred to in the Book of Revelation 12:1 ("And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars."). White assumed for himself the role of "man child" referred to a little later in the same text. On her death, her followers, awaiting a resurrection, preserved her corpse!
Return to no. 7 on the walk
Off Bank Street, at Mackinnon Terrace, a cairn records the Drukken Steps in the Eglinton woods - a favourite walk of Burns and Richard Brown. The bypass referred to in the later inscription is visible behind the monument. The Drukken Steps crossed the Red Burn, in the old Eglinton Woods near Stanecastle, was at grid ref. NS 329 404.
The original 1927 (lower) inscription says:
Eglinton Woods, Drukken Steps (St Bryde's Well), Favourite Walk (1781-82) of Robert Burns and his sailor friend Richard Brown. "Do you recollect a Sunday we spent together in Eglinton Woods? R.B." 30th Dec., 1787. Irvine Burns Club, 25th January 1927.
The later 1976 (upper) inscription reads:
This cairn was erected for Irvine Burns Club to mark their 150th anniversary and to re-locate the plaque originally placed at the Drukken Steps 700 yards north west of this spot by W & C French (Construction) Ltd, builders of Irvine by-pass, January 1976.
For more information, see the Wikipedia entries on Robert Burns and the Eglinton Estate, and on The Drukken Steps, both by past Eglinton Park ranger and Irvine Burns Club Past President Roger Griffith.
Return to no. 12 on the walk
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