Honorary Members 1869 to 1881

1869 Charles Kingsley, Henry Kingsley, Sir Norman Macleod, P Hately Waddell,
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, General Giuseppe Garibaldi
1870 David Dunbar, Karl Blind, Robert Browning
1871 William Jack
1872 Edward Jenkins
1874 Sir Bartle Frere
1875 James McKie, Rev. George Gilfillan
1880 Sir James Salmon
1881 John White


you can move to the next page of honorary members
without closing
this window,
by clicking next honorary page

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) Honorary member 1869

His life & work:

Charles Kingsley, English clergyman, novelist and poet, became curate of Eversley in 1842 and retained that living of Eversley during his later career, becoming professor of modern history at Cambridge 1860-69, canon of Chester in 1869, and of Westminster in 1873.

His many publications included poetry, sermons, and historical novels (eg 'Westward Ho!' in 1855). His works powerfully expressed his opinions of the social and economic questions of the time. He also greatly admired Darwin and Huxley, maintaining that science (particularly the Darwinian theory) and theology were quite compatible.

His younger brother Henry was also elected an honorary member of Irvine Burns Club. It is possible that Henry's Scottish connections (refer to his entry) were the prompt to nominate Charles.

Kingsley's 'Westward Ho!' was the first noteworthy success of Macmillan & Co., the publishing firm founded in 1843 (and so named in 1850) by brothers Daniel and Alexander, from Irvine.

His "The Water Babies" was written as a serial for Macmillan's Magazine in 1862-63, then at once published in its entirety - extremely popular in its day, it was a mainstay of British literature through to the 1920s.

His letter, written from Eversley Rectory, Winchfield (Hants), on Feb. 20th, 1869:


Dear Sir
     Your letter, & the valuable lithograph facsimile accompanying it, have only just reached me, as I have been away from home, & wandering about. So I beg to thank you & I beg you to present all thanks to the Members of the Irvine Burns Club - (Which I know well by name) for the honour which they have done me in electing me a member.
     Should I ever be in your part of Scotland, it would give me great pleasure to look at the M.s.s. of one whose noble handwriting I know so well - & for whose genius I have so profound a respect - as well as for his magnificent humanity.
     Believe me, my dear Sir,
     Yours faithfully & obliged
     C. Kingsley

His address is embossed on the writing paper, so does not show up in photocopies.

Henry Kingsley (1830-1876) Honorary member 1869

His life & work:

An English novelist, brother of Charles Kingsley, who also accepted honorary membership in 1869. The youngest of the five brothers, Henry enjoyed mixing in literary circles. Although talented, he was a spendthrift and of considerable mixed fortunes. Having socialised rather than studied at Oxford, he used a legacy to go to Australia for five years, cutting himself off from his family. Two books published there in 1859 and 1862 were well received. Returning to England, he married and his entertaining of literary friends drained his finite resources.

The year of his nomination by Irvine Burns Club saw him move to Edinburgh, taking on the editorship of the 'Daily Review' and writing the novel 'Stretton', set in Shropshire and India, the eighth of his thirteen main works. His move to Kentish Town in 1873 was followed by the death of his mother, of his brother Charles, and of himself, with throat cancer, in 1876.

His letter, written from Wargrave, Henley on Thames, on February 7th, 1869:


My dear Sir
     Would you be so kind as to convey to the members of the Irvine Burns Club, my sense of the high renown they have done me, in electing me a member of their body.
     I speak no mere compliment, (I never do that to any one,) when I say that I am extremely flattered and gratified. Had I even written in praise of your glorious poet, I could have understood the honour you have done me, but as I have never, at all events in adequate terms, expressed my intense admiration for him, I take this election as a very high and unsought compliment.
    I say "your poet": but he is as much ours as yours. We love him as you do; See the Burns festival of 1858. Scotch and English arms have been linked together so long now, that nothing will untwine them.
    In my case, of course, the language of Burns is as familiar as that of Devonshire, which is as much marked off from ordinary English as is Scottish. But it has often puzzled me, why so many Englishmen, who will not take the trouble to master the English of Chaucer, should take the trouble to master the Scottish of Burns. My answer to this is, that Burns, of all great poets is Lord and Master of the most gentle beautiful and humanizing side of the Scottish and English Character, their extreme and true tenderness: a quality which these nations possess only in common with the Scandinavian and Teutonic races. This opinion is of course open to Cavil from those who like the sentimentality of the Latin races, which never seems to me to ring true.
     My opinion of Burns as a poet, would be as absurd for me to give, as it would be ridiculous for you to value: save that you must know him even better than myself. His versification is always so perfect that it strikes one with amazement. For his wit! - who can analyse that?, for who can analyse wit? One can only say, that one man's opinion is, "Burns next after Shakespear was our greatest wit. Thackeray and Dickens must be vilipended by no man, I only say, following Shakespear.
     If an Englishman may speak and live, I should say that the culminating point of Burns wit (I have given up the distinction between Wit and Humour - they are either identical qualities or inseparable accidents) is the "Address to the Deil" and in that wonderful lyric the wittiest line to me is,
     "Ayont the Dyke She heard you bummin"
I frankly confess that out of Shakespear I know of nothing so outrageously quaint as that line. It would take a long essay by Charles Lamb to point out the concealed fun in it. His method would be, "What was the Devil doing beyond the ditch at that time of night? No good, of course, but what? It all came to nothing, he was unsuccessful as usual, the old lady gave the alarm, and he flew away. She heard him however. A man with the tender delicate wit of Charles Lamb would turn that single line over and over until he made an immortal essay out of it.
     Thanking you once more for the Compliment you have paid me.
     I remain dear Sir,
     Yours very truly
     Henry Kingsley

P.S. Many thanks for the facsimiles. I hope that the Member for Irvine, Ayr, Campbeltown, Inverary, and Oban, is a sound Liberal. But these new details bother me sadly. Mr Finnie is now member for North Ayr. And Crawfurd for Ayr. I suppose he is in the burghs.

'1858' - Kingsley here refers to the many special events of the Burns centenary in early 1859.

Shakespeare's name here has no final 'e'.

The Burns line is usually appears as: "Aft yont the Dyke she's heard you bummin."

Kingsley twice fails to close quotation marks, so we leave you to decide where he intended them.


Notes on the P.S.:
1) From 1832 to 1950, Irvine, along with the four other burghs named in the PS, formed the Ayr Burghs parliamentary seat, and elected Edward Craufurd (sic), a Liberal, from 1852 to 1874. The 1867 Reform Act extended the franchise to £10 householders (increasing the number of electors in Irvine from 271 to 611), and in 1868, the Ayrshire county seat was split into North and South Ayrshire and William Finnie of Newfield, Dundonald, served as Liberal MP for North Ayrshire until 1874. We do not know what new details bothered Kingsley.
2) Inverary is nowadays spelled Inveraray.

Rev. Norman Macleod (1812-1872) Honorary member 1869

His life & work:

The editor and founder of 'Good Works' had begun his ministry at Loudoun in Ayrshire in 1838; there, as one with Conservative leanings, he gloried in arguing politics with the red-hot Radical weavers of Newmilns. His father was Rev. Norman Macleod (1783-1862), known for his successful advocacy of a Highland Education scheme to teach people to read in their native Gaelic. His grandfather, also Rev. Norman Macleod (1745-1824) was minister of the parish of Morven in Argyll.

Studying at Glasgow University, Norman Macleod enjoyed good discussions, enlivening social gatherings with an apt quotation, a ready story, improvised rhymes and song, displaying a "wondrous versatility, originality and brilliancy of mind". He studied theology at Edinburgh, then visited Weimar, renowned for its stimulating society (imbued with the spirit of the recently-departed Goethe), its theatre, its opera, and the ad lib music of its public gardens and cafes; from there he visited Vienna and Prague.

In the parish of Loudoun, his energetic approach and kindly nature swelled the church congregation. He moved to Dalkeith in 1843; his "missionary labour among the lapsed classes of Dalkeith formed useful training for his future work in Glasgow" (his brother's comment). In 1845, he was one of three members of a deputation to congregations in North America.

In 1851, he was inducted minister of Barony parish in Glasgow, and, in the same year, was married (until then his sister Jane had kept house). His energetic and enthusiastic manner again brought him many friends. He tried to meet many more than simply the spiritual needs of the parish. He initiated adult evening classes, many in basic literacy; he founded the first Congregational Penny Savings Bank in Glasgow; he established a temperance Refreshment-room so that workmen could get cheap and well-cooked food and have a comfortable reading room; he took many steps, with the full involvement of his Kirk Session and parishioners,to promote education, social improvement, and recreational facilities, and his ideas led to similar projects elsewhere in the city. Another innovation was evening services for the poor, open only to people in their everyday working clothes, thus removing the barrier of respectability which dissuaded attendance. His brother wrote: "Many hundreds were reclaimed from lawless habits, some of the more ignorant were educated, and a large number became communicants". He worked tirelessly on behalf of the huge population of what was then perhaps the poorest slum parish in the city.

In 1860, he took on the editorship of "Good Works", this literary effort possibly being the prompt to his nomination as an honorary member. He also presided over the India Mission of the Church. When he visited Palestine in 1864, it was said that "every new event gave him fresh pleasure; every memorable spot, from Malta to Constantinople, stirred his enthusiasm". After his return from a visit to India in 1867, the 1868 General Assembly took him by surprise with an "enthusiastic outburst of welcome". Later, in 1869, Dr Macleod was appointed Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, a position held, 33 years earlier, in 1836, by his father, Rev. Norman Macleod (then of the parish of St Columba in Glasgow).

His letter, written from Adelaide Place, Glasgow, on 1 Feb.:


Dear Sirs
     I beg to acknowledge with many thanks your kind note and its very interesting addition and edition of the famous Poem.
     When I again visit Irvine I shall have peculiar pleasure in availing myself of your kind offers to show me the original M.S. of the Poet.
     I beg also to thank the office bearers of the Club for making me one of its honorary members.
     I remain
     Yours truly
     N Macleod

He lived at 204 Bath Street, a section of the street named Adelaide Place.
Adelaide Place Baptist Church is at no. 209.

P Hately Waddell (1817-1891) Honorary member 1869

His life & work:

P Hately Waddell was nominated soon after his publication, in 1867 at Glasgow, of "The Life and Works of Robert Burns", of which a revised version appeared in 1870. An exceptional orator, he was an independent preacher in Glasgow. Earlier, in 1859, the centenary of the poet's birth, he had presided at the meeting held in Burns Cottage on 25th January, and had there delivered an impassioned eulogy on Burns.

After the Disruption of 1843, at which time he was a student of divinity, he joined the Free Church, first at Rhynie in Aberdeenshire, then at Girvan, Ayrshire. Leaving that church, he founded, at Girvan, the independent chapel styled 'The Church of the Future'. Going to Glasgow in 1862, he gathered a large congregation, but later joined the established church in 1888.

In 1871 he published an edition of the Psalms translated from Hebrew into Scots.

[This honorary member is not to be confused with his son, also P Hately Waddell (1854-1922), minister of Whitekirk in East Lothian 1879-1904 (retiring, to North Berwick, due to ill health), awarded a D.D. in 1901 in recognition of the value of his writings, and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.]

His letter, written from Elmgrove Place, Glasgow, on Jany 30th 1869:


     Your communication of the 25th instant, conveying to me information of the honour that had been unanimously conferred on me by them that evening, in electing me an honorary member, was received last night; and it is with sentiments of the highest respect and gratitude I now acknowledge that compliment.
     I esteem it a special honour that I should have been thus elected to your fellowship when personally unknown to you, and by a society who are the fortunate and privileged possessors of literary treasures so precious as the original Manuscripts of Robert Burns. I have to thank you also for the beautiful facsimile which accompanies the Minute of Election, and which together with that document I shall preserve with grateful care.
     If I have done anything by recent study and investigation to illustrate the life and works of our immortal fellow-countryman - which, by the distinction conferred upon me by your Club, I am warranted to believe is their opinion - I can only say that the highest reward, next to the good opinion of my readers, I can hope to enjoy for that labour is the satisfaction of having so far contributed to verify or explain his existence. I have learned more lessons already of faith, of patience, of humility, and of charity from the study of that life, than I ever expected to learn from the study of any mere mortal history. Surely God was there.
     Do me the favour, Sir, to convey to the Irvine Burns' Club the assurance of my highest respect and gratitude for the honour conferred upon me, and believe me Yours
     most respectfully and Sincerely,
     P. Haty Waddell LL.D.

The letter is addressed to James Dickie, Esq., Honorary Secy. Burns' Club, Irvine

He abbreviates his forename in signing off.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) Honorary member 1869

His life & work:

We do not know why the Directors of Irvine Burns Club elected Longfellow in 1869, but it is interesting to speculate on possible connections. One is that, like Karl Blind (an honorary member in the following year), Longfellow was acquainted with the German poet Ferdinand Freiligrath. A second, perhaps more likely, coincidence is that Longfellow had called on the great Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle (honorary member 1863) in London in 1835. Carlyle was at the time finishing his epic history of the French Revolution, and Longfellow followed Carlyle's career in later years. A third possible connection is that the Glasgow auctioneer Robert McTear, a friend of the Irvine Burns Club, visited Italy in 1868 or 1869 and may have met Longfellow there. All three possibilities remain only that for the time being.

His best known works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and "Evangeline", all published before his nomination as an honorary member. He was also the first American to translate Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy (published later, in 1871) and was one of the five 'Fireside Poets'. He was the most popular American poet of his day; by 1874, he was earning $3,000 per poem; his 70th birthday in 1877 took on the air of a national holiday, with parades, speeches, and the reading of his poetry. His pleasant poem titled 'Robert Burns' was published in 1880, some years after his honorary membership.

His letter, written from Rome, on Feb. 23, 1869:


My Dear Sir,
     Your letter and the facsimile of Burns's "Cottar's Saturday Night" have been forwarded to me at this place, and for both I beg you to accept my cordial thoughts.
     I am also much obliged to the Members of the Burns Club for the honor they have done me, and beg you to express to them the pleasure I feel in accepting this mark of their considerations.
     I remain, my Dear Sir, with great regard
     Yours truly
     Henry W Longfellow


'Robert Burns', by H W Longfellow

I see amid the fields of Ayr
A ploughman, who, in foul and fair,
Sings at his task
So clear, we know not if it is
The laverock's song we hear, or his,
Nor care to ask.

For him the ploughing of those fields
A more ethereal harvest yields
Than sheaves of grain;
Songs flush with purple bloom the rye,
The plover's call, the curlew's cry,
Sing in his brain.

Touched by his hand, the wayside weed
Becomes a flower; the lowliest reed
Beside the stream
Is clothed with beauty; gorse and grass
And heather, where his footsteps pass,
The brighter seem.

He sings of love, whose flame illumes
The darkness of lone cottage rooms;
He feels the force,
The treacherous undertow and stress
Of wayward passions, and no less
The keen remorse.

At moments, wrestling with his fate,
His voice is harsh, but not with hate;
The brushwood, hung
Above the tavern door, lets fall
Its bitter leaf, its drop of gall
Upon his tongue.

But still the music of his song
Rises o'er all, elate and strong;
Its master-chords
Are Manhood, Freedom, Brotherhood,
Its discords but an interlude
Between the words.

And then to die so young and leave
Unfinished what he might achieve!
Yet better sure
Is this, than wandering up and down
An old man in a country town,
Infirm and poor.

For now he haunts his native land
As an immortal youth; his hand
Guides every plough;
He sits beside each ingle-nook,
His voice is in each rushing brook,
Each rustling bough.

His presence haunts this room to-night,
A form of mingled mist and light
From that far coast.
Welcome beneath this roof of mine!
Welcome! this vacant chair is thine,
Dear guest and ghost!

Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) Honorary member 1869

His life & work:

General Giuseppe Garibaldi, the great Italian patriot, was described by the historian AJP Taylor as "the only wholly admirable figure in modern history". One of the four major nationalist leaders in Europe at the time (see our entry for Karl Blind), additional reasons for his nomination to honorary membership included his links with Scotland, with Freemasonry, and with the Burns Club of London. The link between Irvine and Garibaldi was through Robert McTear of Glasgow. That McTear visited Garibaldi in 1869 is indicated by the March 1870 lecture he gave on his return.

In 1834, at 27, as a supporter of Mazzini's Young Italy Movement, he took refuge in South America and there commanded the troops defending Montevideo. Returning to Italy in 1848, he commanded the defence of the Roman Republic against the French, but was again driven into exile, staying in New York City between 1851 and 1853. In 1859 he led guerillas against the Austrians in the region of the Italian lakes. In 1860, he sailed from Genoa in two ships with a thousand 'redshirts'; and conquered Naples and Sicily, forming the nucleus of a united Italy. He then joined forces with Cavour. In 1861, he was offered the position of a major-general in the American Army but refused, wishing a commander's role, and seeking a guaranteed end to slavery. From retirement in Caprera, he made two unsuccessful attempts to capture Rome (1862, 1867) and led volunteers in the Franco-Prussian War.

Scotland had given Garibaldi significant support - a concert in May 1860 raised funds for his cause. Scottish volunteers ('Garibaldi Excursionists') went to Italy and fought for unification. Working men in Glasgow gave up one afternoon a week to manufacture munitions for Garibaldi’s campaign. Reform societies and masonic lodges collected huge sums of money to send to the ‘redshirts’. A Scottish cattle-ship, ‘The City of Aberdeen’, carried (Genoese) reinforcements to meet up with Garibaldi’s ‘Thousand’ at Palermo. Scots joined other nations in the fight against the Royalists in Sicily and on to the mainland of Italy to get rid of the Bourbon tyranny, much as, 84 years later in 1944, Scottish soldiers were among the liberating forces there. When Garibaldi came to thank his British supporters in 1864, a million people thronged the streets of London, but the Duke of Sutherland derailed his planned visit to Glasgow, and the 200,000 applicants for tickets to Garibaldi meetings in Glasgow were, of course, very disappointed.

Garibaldi was the first honorary member of the Burns Club of London - nominated by his personal friend, Ray Brown of Kensington, who conducted many of its meetings. Like Robert Burns and many members of the Burns Clubs of the time, he was a Freemason - openly deprecating the esoteric and ritual trimmings, he saw the masonic organisation as a network able to unite the otherwise dispersed forces of the Italian renewal, encouraging its new leaders to look beyond the petty struggles for power and placing them in an intellectual circuit of worldwide humanity.


His letter, written from Caprera on 2nd March 1869:

Caprera, to which Garibaldi retired (1855-82), is a small island off the coast of Sardinia.

Stimatissimo Signore Dickie

Grazie, per l' onorevole titolo di membro onorario, con cui l' Irvine Burns Club ha voluto fregiare il mio nome; e per il fac-simile litografato, manuscritto, del grande poeta scozzese.
     Sono con gratitudine
     G Garibaldi

Most esteemed Mr Dickie,
Thank you, for the distinguished title of honorary member with which the Irvine Burns Club has been pleased to dignify (1) my name; and for the lithographic facsimile, of the manuscript, of the great Scottish poet.
     I am, with gratitude, Yours, G Garibaldi

(1) 'fregiare': literally: to adorn, as on a frieze

David Dunbar (1828-1873) Honorary member 1870

His life & work:

David Dunbar was a local Dumfries poet and politician, best known for giving his home town its nickname. When he stood as a candidate for Parliament in the General Election of 1857, he lauded the town, in one of his addresses, as "Queen of the South", from the Old Testament tale of the Queen of Sheba, described in the New Testament Gospels of Matthew (12.42) and Luke (11.31) as the Queen of the South (where Jesus indicates that she and the Ninevites will judge the generation of Jesus' contemporaries who rejected him). The moniker thereafter became synonymous with the town.

When several local football sides merged to form one Dumfries team in 1919, various names were suggested, the name Queen of the South was adopted, and the team's first game took place on 16th August 1919, being a 2-all draw with Nithsdale Wanderers.

In 1859, he published his "Poems and Songs - Respectfully dedicated to the Inhabitants of Dumfries by their obliged and grateful townsman" (of which a University of California copy has been digitised by Google*). The first poem in the collection is "Robert Burns: A Centenary Poem - An Invocation to Scotland to Arise and Celebrate the Centenary".
* web link: https://archive.org/details/poemssongs00dunbrich/page/n5/mode/2up

We do not at present have other biographical information, except that the 1871 census records him as a Teacher of Writing, living at 9 Langlands, aged 42. An "In Memoriam" book was published, containing a tribute, newspaper notices, and other items, but we have not yet been able to see its contents.

His letter, written from Langlands, Dumfries on 2nd Feb. 1870:


     It was with lively satisfaction I got your kind intimation of 31st Jany that I had been chosen an Honorary Member of the Irvine Burns Club. I feel myself highly honoured by my admission into so distinguished a body whose efforts in extending the fame and defending the name of Burns have been so extensive and effectual.
     For many years past I have read with great interest the reports of the annual meetings of your Club, from all of which I gather that it possesses many members of high literary attainments who have done good service in strengthening the love and admiration all true Scotsmen feel for the Bard of Coila. These Meetings are productive of much good for they draw us out to the contemplation of what is elevating & ennobling.
     When we meet in honour of Burns, we simply meet to honour what is best and noblest in our country's history!
     I have to thank you for the excellent fac simile of the "Cottar's Saturday Night" - a document which I value exceedingly.
     Thanking you again for the courtesy of the Club,
     I am, Dear Sir,
     Yours most truly,
     D Dunbar


Karl Blind (1826-1907) Honorary member 1870

His life & work:

Karl Blind was one of the four major nationalist leaders in Europe of his day, the others being Garibaldi (1807-82), Mazzini (1805-72) [note 1] and Kossuth (1802-94) [2]. Blind was continually engaged in agitating or in heading risings in the cause of German freedom and union, being tried and condemned on several occasions, and was imprisoned for his part in the Baden Insurrection of 1848.

When he settled in exile in London in 1852, the Blind family home became a regular meeting place for many European revolutionaries and champions of liberty, including Karl Marx (who had settled in London after the 1848 revolutions), Garibaldi and Mazzini. Blind interested himself in democratic movements, and cultivated his literary as well as his political interests, including contributing to magazines. The anti-establishment atmosphere influenced his children. Expelled from school for atheism, his step-daughter, Mathilde Cohen (1841-96) later took her stepfather's surname, and became a noted Anglo-German poet and biographer; her first book of poems was dedicated to Mazzini. In 1866 Blind's son Ferdinand attempted to assassinate Bismarck (who easily disarmed him).

Karl Blind was brought to the notice of Irvine Burns Club by Robert McTear, auctioneer & valuator on Renfield St., Glasgow. In a 1869 letter (regarding Garibaldi), he wrote: "It was he who recommended Freiligrath [3] the great German poet to translate Burns' works into German, since which several translations have appeared in Germany. Mr & Mrs Blind are intimate friends of mine and both of them have an extraordinary knowledge of Burns' works and admire them accordingly. Karl Blind is in the best sense a great man and I know he would appreciate the attention, which should be accompanied by a copy of the fac-simile".

[1] Giuseppe ('Joseph') Mazzini founded the 'Young Italy' movement which aimed to unite Italy as a republic, liberating Rome in 1848 with Garibaldi as his military commander, but disapproving of the Kingdom later created by Garibaldi & Cavour.
[2] Lajos ('Louis') Kossuth led the 1848 independence revolution in Hungary, becoming President briefly until Russian troops helped Austria to crush the rebellion.
[3] The republican Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810-76) took part in the revolutionary movements in Germany in 1848. His writings led to a charge of treason - he was acquitted, in the first jury trial ever held in Prussia. He produced a version of “Is There For Honest Poverty” in 1843 and many other admirable translations of works by several poets, including Burns, Tannahill, Longfellow, Shakespeare, and Victor Hugo.

His letter, written from 2 Winchester Road, South Hampstead, London, N.W. on Feb. 12th, 1870:

Dear Sir,
     Had it not been for a relapse of illness, I would have acknowledged, ere this, your kind letter which contains so gratifying a communication. I feel and prize it as a great distinction to have been elected an honorary member of your old-established Club, which so nobly cultivates the memory of the great Scottish bard.
     Around the town of Irvine, such remembrances of the poet's early life are gathered that I was deeply moved when a fac-simile of his own handwriting, printed there, first met my eye. For years, I, and those around me, have turned with ever-renewed joy to the poems of Burns, whose very language stands even closer to our own than the English tongue, and whose sentiments always touch deep, whether they reflect the feelings of a loving heart, or are the utterance of a patriotic longing for freedom.
     Be kind enough, dear Sir, to convey to all the members of the Club my sincere and respectful thanks for the honour conferred upon me,
     and believe me
     Yours faithfully
     Karl Blind

Robert Browning (1812-1889) Honorary member 1870

His life & work:

A foremost Victorian poet and playwright, Browning had finally, in completing and publishing his long blank-verse poem 'The Ring and the Book' over the previous eighteen months, achieved the significant recognition which he had sought for forty years, though we have no way of knowing whether this was the prompt for his Irvine nomination.

Browning's father was a well-paid clerk for the Bank of England and had amassed a library of about 6,000 books, many of them rare, so Robert was raised in a household of significant literary resources. His father encouraged his interest in literature and the arts, and his mother was a talented musician. By the age of fourteen, Robert was fluent in French, Greek, Italian and Latin.

In 1846, he married, initially in secret, Elizabeth Barrett. Their only child, Robert, was born in 1849. He remained relatively obscure as a poet till his middle age, and it was only after his wife's death in 1861 that his reputation started to take off, particularly on the publication in 1868 of 'The Ring and the Book'.

Buried in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, his grave now lies immediately adjacent to that of Alfred Tennyson (an honorary member of 1863), who died three years later.

His letter, written from 19 Warwick Crescent, Upper Westbourne Terrace, London W., on March 14, '70, the letter bearing a crest with the motto 'Virtute':


Dear Sir,
     Allow me to apologise both to you and to the Members of the Irvine Burns Club for some delay in acknowledging the flattering intimation that I have received the signal honor of being constituted one of the Body, - an honor indeed should be counted any association with those who thus interest themselves in the transcendent genius of the Poet. My delay in saying thus much, - or rather thus little, was caused by unforseen circumstances: pray offer my excuses for these, together with all thanks to the Club for what - I repeat is a signal honor conferred, however unworthily, upon,
    My dear Sir,
    Yours very obediently & faithfully
    Robert Browning

We do not know what the 'unforseen [sic] circumstances' of the delay were, but we can suggest a possibility. The admission of his only child, Robert, nicknamed 'Penini' or 'Pen', to Oxford University in 1869 had not ended his father's worry about him. Browning was happier by 24th Feb. 1870, writing in a letter: "Pen is at last round the corner of his career and fairly with his head in the right way - I do trust." Yet he was later to be disappointed, as his son did not succeed and left Oxford in June that year. Perhaps concern for his son had delayed Browning's answer to our invitation.

We also possess a copy of the letter of Election of Robert Browning to Honorary Membership of Irvine Burns Club, dated 8 February 1870. This was sent to us in August 2000 by the Wedgestone Press, Kansas, during their preparation of a book on the Robert Browning correspondence.

William Jack (1834-1924) Honorary member 1871

His life & work:

This honorary member is one of the younger nominees, being only 36 (or 37) at the time of his nomination. He would have been nominated by his former teacher Dr John White (hon. member 1881, see notes there), the Club President in 1871.

Born in Ayrshire, at Stewarton, and brought up in Irvine, William Jack studied at Glasgow and Cambridge. He was appointed HM Inspector of Schools in the South West of Scotland District in 1860, then Professor of Natural History at Owen's College, Manchester 1866-70, before moving to the editorship of the 'Glasgow Herald' in 1870. His Ayrshire birth and the newspaper editorship would presumably be the double-prompt for his nomination by Irvine Burns Club in 1871. (Some years later, he sent the Club copies of the two editions of MacMillan's Magazine containing his articles on Burns' Common Place Book.) He was editor until 1875.

In 1876, he became a member of the publishing firm Macmillan & Co., thereby creating another link between Irvine Burns Club and that Irvine-born publisher. Finally, in 1879, he was appointed Professor of Mathematics at Glasgow, a chair he held for 30 years up to the age of 65.

His letter, from 7 Janefield Terrace, Hillhead, Glasgow, on Feb. 1st, 1871:


My dear Sir,
     I have to ask you to express to the members of the Irvine Burns Club, my sense of the high honour they have done me, in electing me an honorary member. You are perfectly right in saying that I am not disposed to ungenerous reserves in my estimate of the most gifted Scotchman whom we have known for perhaps a couple of centuries.
     Very truly yours,
     William Jack

His address is embossed on the writing paper, so does not show up in photocopies.

The letter is addressed to James Dickie, Esq., Secretary, Irvine Burns Club

Another 1871 nomination:
The 1871 minutes also record the nomination for Honorary Membership of Robert Buchanan, the Scottish author and poet, though no acceptance letter is known. Robert Williams Buchanan (1841-1901) was only 29 at the time. His father was a native of Ayr, Robert was educated in Glasgow, and by the end of 1870 he had published five volumes.

Edward Jenkins (1838-1910) Honorary member 1872

His life & work:

John Edward Jenkins was nominated following the success of his 1870 novel 'Ginx's Baby: his birth and other misfortunes; a satire' (reprinted in 1872 and/or 1876). [The Club minutes erroneously record "Edwin Jenkins, author of 'Jink's Baby'"; Project Gutenberg and newspapers digitised by the National Library of Australia proved valuable sources for this summary.] In 'Ginx's Baby', a baby, born in a London slum and abandoned by its parents, is "tossed about and quarrelled over by various officials and charitable associations of London - a healthful warning against red-tape methods of exercising charity". [A 1917 silent film with a similar-sounding title is not connected.] Jenkins later wrote many more novels. He also forsook his legal career for a political one.

Jenkins' visit to Australia in 1889 was well reported. His imminent lecture tour followed that of David Christie Murray (an honorary member in 1888). In the Hobart 'Mercury', he is "Edward Jenkins, author of 'Ginx's Baby', 'The Devil's Chain' and other popular works of fiction". The Adelaide 'Advertiser' carried a fuller biography.

He was born at Bangalore, India. His father was minister of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, Montreal, Canada. Educated at Montreal and the University of Pennsylvania, Jenkins was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn In 1864, and practised with success up to 1872-3. In 1874, he was appointed Agent-General for Canada, resigning in January, 1876, when the Canadian Government decided to reduce the office to an emigration agency. While absent in Canada, he was elected a member of the House of Commons for Dundee, and continued to represent Dundee till April, 1880. In January, 1881, he unsuccessfully contested the City of Edinburgh against Mr. McLaren, the Lord Advocate. Mr. Jenkins was "an advanced Liberal, chiefly on social questions, and an anti-Republican, and is in favor of Imperial unity as against the anti colonial party". Best known as the author of "Ginx's Baby", his other works included "Lord Bantam", "The Coolie", " Little Hodge", "The Devil's Chain", "Lutchmee and Dilloo", "The Captain's Cabin", " Fatal Days", "A Paladin of Romance", "Contemporary Manners", and "Jobson's Enemies", besides several political essays. He was also occasional contributor to 'Fraser', 'The Contemporary', and other reviews. In 1870, Jenkins visited British Guiana on the part of the Aborigines' Protection Society to watch the proceedings of the Royal Commission appointed to investigate and report on the condition of the coolies. He was associated with Sir George Grey, Mr. Torrens, and others in the emigration and colonial movement. He was also a member of the Royal Commission on copyrights.

An article in "The West Australian" in 1888, printed below this on our website, lambasted his opposition to the creation of a Responsible Government for Western Australia, and ended: "Mr. Jenkins evidently thinks that West Australians are a set of fools, easily victimised by unscrupulous swindlers. . . . We are certainly no more than a handful of people, but a people who know fairly well how to hold their own, and how to promote the best interests of their adopted country. And if Mr. Jenkins could be made aware of what, with our small resources, we have already done in this direction, he would doubtless confess that we may be safely trusted to walk alone."

His letter, written from 5 Paper Buildings, Temple, London, on January 30, 1872:


     I have to acknowledge with great satisfaction and many thanks the honour done to me by the Irvine Burns Club in electing me an honorary member. I have also to express my gratitude for the interesting memorial of Burns which you have sent me.
     I well remember, as who could ever forget, the profound and pleasurable emotions awakened in me by the reading of the Cotters Saturday Night when a boy, in I think Chambers' Miscellany and the renewed pleasure its reading always affords me. This copy of it will always have a special value to me.
     I may also give expression to the gratification afforded me by the fact that this compliment implies on the part of those who confer it an acquaintance with and approval of some things I have written. I value it much as an evidence of your goodwill that you associate me with yourselves in the duty of doing honour to your matchless poet.
     I am Sir
     Yours truly
     Edward Jenkins

The 'Paper Buildings', part of the Inner Temple, were so called from the 1610 timber and plaster 'paper work' construction of the first building, destroyed by fire in 1838. No. 5 was rebuilt in 1847-49.

The letter was to Jas. Dickie, Esq., Honorary Secy.


Another 1872 nomination: The 1872 minutes also record the nomination for Honorary Membership of A C Swinburne, the poet, though presumably no acceptance letter was received. Unusually, our files contain the Secretary's draft of his letter, with its alterations. It illustrates a typical invitation of the 19th century.

Written to Algernon Charles Swinburne Esq., Care of Messrs E Moxon & Co., Publishers, London, on 26th Jany, 1872, it reads:
I am to intimate that the Members of the Irvine Burns Club at their Annual Meeting held yesterday unanimously elected you as an Honorary Member of the Club, and I am at the same time to beg your acceptance of a lithographic fac-simile sent herewith of the Poet's original manuscript of "The Cottar's Saturday Night".
I may be permitted to mention that this Club which was instituted in 1826 possesses a very valuable collection of the original manuscripts of the Poet's principal Works from which the first edition of his poems was printed.
I have the honour to be,
Your most obed, Servt.
<being a draft, unsigned>


An extra Edward Jenkins item: From the 'Western Mail' (of Perth, West Australia) on 7 Jan., 1888


ELSEWHERE to-day we re-publish a leading article which appeared in the Overland Mail of the 11th Nov., on the subject of "Western Australia and the Colonial Office." The writer, our London correspondent informs us, is Mr. EDWARD JENKINS, the well-known author of "Ginx's Baby," formerly a member of Parliament, and at one time also Agent-General for Canada, and supposed to possess a more than ordinarily large and accurate knowledge of colonial affairs. It will be seen that Mr. JENKINS considers Sir HENRY HOLLAND'S intimation of his willingness to grant Responsible Government to this colony, "one of the most scandalous decisions ever arrived at by a Secretary of State," which, he adds, "is saying a great deal." He regards the proposal to "throw away 750,000 square miles of territory now belonging to the Crown and people of Great Britain" as "an extraordinary thing". In reality, he declares, this "magnificent" province would not be handed over to the "35,000" men, women and children, its present inhabitants - "it would practically be placed at the disposal of a small clique of speculators who would soon get control of the Government of the colony and be free to carry out a gigantic scheme of land jobbery." Apparently Mr. JENKINS bases this assumption upon a passage in Sir FREDERICK BROOME's paper read at the Colonial Institute in which His EXCELLENCY remarked that men of business were turning their attention to our colony, and that capitalists were awakening to the fact that money was to be made on this side of the Australian continent. Already, Mr. JENKINS says, 2,700 square miles of Western Australian territory has been sold out right; already 250,000 square miles have been granted on lease for pasturage. About 747,00 [sic] square miles remain at the disposal of the Crown and this "glorious heritage" it is "on which Australian and English speculators have fixed greedy eyes and which Sir HENRY HOLLAND and his advisers at the Colonial Office are credited with the intention of handing over gratuitously to the entire management and disposal of a trumpery parochial ring to be called a Government, elected by the thirty-five thousand people scattered over Western Australia." The Imperial authorities might indeed retain power over these lands, but "it is perfectly certain", thinks Mr. JENKINS " that if that were made a condition of granting Responsible Government the whole scheme would be dropped like a hot-potato."

That Mr. JENKINS is, or was, a clever man "Ginx's Baby," remains as a standing proof, but, certainly, the article from which we quote displays a singular depth of ignorance of the very subjects stated to be within his special knowledge. No more virulent attack upon the resolve of this colony to accept the responsibility of full self-Government and upon the favourable attitude of the SECRETARY of STATE towards that decision has yet appeared and none showing a more complete misapprehension of the actual facts of the case reviewed. Inaccuracies in regard to figures may be passed over as of minor consequence. The main and absurd blunder which Mr. JENKINS in common with other publicists has made in dealing with the present negotiations between Western Australia and the Colonial Office, is his assumption that this colony "belongs" to the Crown and to the people of Great Britain in a different sense from that in which other colonies of the Empire belong to them and that the granting of Responsible Government will involve abandonment of special privileges and rights. That a man who has made colonial subjects a special study of his life should be under such a strange hallucination tells ill either for the extent of his research or for the clearness of his understanding. It should surely be unnecessary to point ont that Western Australia is no longer governed by Orders in Council and that "the Crown" and "the people of Great Britain" can no longer dispose of her lands and destinies at their own sweet will. There is now it is true a check upon the action of the colonists which under Responsible Government would be considerably relaxed. But, on the other hand, the counter check which the colonists possess upon any arbitrary action of the Crown is already almost as complete as it will be when the Executive is locally appointed. The colonists through a Legislature in which their strength is practically as twenty one to four have been endowed with full control of the public purse. Mr. JENKINS when he becomes acquainted with this fact may possibly consider it "a scandal" but we must assume his reading of constitutional lore sufficiently wide to enable him to realize the full extent of what it means and that the "Crown and people of Great Britain'' can no more dictate in the present the uses to which our territory shall be put than they will be able to do when full blown Parliamentary Government shall have taken the place of the existing form.

What Mr. JENKINS and his like are apparently afraid of is that a future West Australian "parochial" Parliament will apportion the vast lands of the colony amongst its members and put a stop to immigration. Mr. JENKINS has not informed us how he conceives that jobbery of the kind might be rendered profitable and why he is of opinion that the conspiring ring which he has induced himself to believe is in league to acquire this colony should wish to keep it unproductive and unsettled. When 27,000 colonists undertook the Government of Queensland did they parcel the land amongst themselves? When any other British colony entered upon the sole management of its affairs were the evils Mr. JENKINS anticipates ever known? Are not the Crown lands in every self governing British colony open to the world, and on more liberal terms than when their control was vested in Downing Street officials? Why then should it absurdly be taken as a matter of course that Western Australia will prove the one exception and fall into the hands of a disreputable and unscrupulous jobbing gang? And what, we should like to know, are these Imperial emigration schemes of which we have heard so much of late? Instead of denouncing us anticipatorily for interfering with them, let them be stated. Mr. JENKINS does not know, of course, that only a little corner of the "glorious heritage" he writes of is fitted to support a population living by tillage of the soil. But to the extent of our resources there is nothing of which we stand so much in need as increased settlement, and the expenditure of capital in bringing labour and our lands together. And of this Mr JENKINS may rest assured, that we shall always warmly welcome any Imperial or other emigration scheme worked so as to contribute to our wealth and our production, Mr. JENKINS evidently thinks that West Australians are a set of fools, easily victimised by unscrupulous swindlers. He, perhaps, may be surprised to learn that hitherto there has been much gnashing of teeth amongst gentry of this description, because the suspiciousness of our colonists leaves less than ordinary room for the exercise of their evil craft. We are certainly no more than a handful of people, but a people who know fairly well how to hold their own, and how to promote the best interests of their adopted country. And if Mr. JENKINS could be made aware of what, with our small resources, we have already done in this direction, he would doubtless confess that we may be safely trusted to walk alone. Difficulties we know we shall encounter, but amongst them we need not reckon assaults from Mr JENKINS' imaginary land sharks.

Sir Bartle Frere (1815-1884) Honorary member 1874

His life & work:

At age 19, Henry Bartle Edwards Frere graduated from the East India Company's college and began a long career in the Indian Civil Service. Rising to Commissioner in Sind (1850-59), he suppressed the Indian Mutiny (War of Indian Independence) and was knighted. As Governor of Bombay (Mumbai) (1862-67), he restructured the town along modern lines. The prompt for his Honorary Membership is most interesting

In 1865-66, Livingstone had stayed with Sir Bartle in Bombay - both were determined opponents of the east African slave-trade, Livingstone from his knowledge of the African interior around Lake Nyasa, and Frere from the Anglo-Indians of Bombay who traded with the Zanzibar Arabs. Frere arranged for Livingstone to take some freed slaves from a Bombay government school, and a dozen sepoys from the Bombay Marine Battalion, for his next expedition, and in 1870 Livingstone named a river after Bartle Frere. In 1872 Gladstone's government decided to abolish the sale of all slaves, and Sir Bartle was appointed to sign a treaty with the Sultan of Zanzibar to that effect. After Sir Bartle threatened a British naval blockade, the Sultan signed on 5 June 1873, from which day the slave market in Zanzibar was closed for ever.

While Sir Bartle had indeed instigated the blockade, it was actually Dr John Kirk, the only companion of David Livingstone to emerge unscathed from the explorer's disastrous Zambezi expedition of 1959-63, and resident in Zanzibar from 1866, who persuaded Sultan Barghash to yield to British pressure. Hazell's book (v. infra) is a compelling account of how Dr Kirk's persistence and diplomacy won the day, even though the self-important Frere, who had failed to close the deal with the Sultan, had ensured through a barrage of press publicity that he received the credit. A mountain in N E Queensland was named in his honour by Scottish explorer George A F E Dalrymple.

It is likely that the Irvine Burns Club, approaching Frere six months after the treaty, was not so much honouring "the distinguished traveller" (the phrase in our minutes), as recognising an outstanding humanitarian achievement which Burns would have celebrated - the ending of the last outpost of the trade in human beings - the cumulative result of Livingstone's reports, Stanley's reports, a British Government decision, Sir Bartle's intervention, and the unsung work of John Kirk. Sadly, Livingstone, having died in April, did not see the closure of the slave market.

In 1875, Frere accompanied the Prince of Wales to Egypt and India, a trip so successful that he was created a baronet. In 1877, appointed Governor of Cape Province to implement the policy of confederation, he provoked a war with Zulu tribes, causing a disastrous British defeat in 1879, though eventually winning the trust of the Boers before recall to London in 1880. He died in 1884, while preparing to answer his critics with a vindication of his actions regarding Afghanistan as well as South Africa. In 1888, a statue of Frere, paid for by public subscription, was unveiled in the Victoria Embankment Gardens by the Prince of Wales.

IJD, including information from Tim Jeal, 'Livingstone' (Yale, 1973), p.353 & passim,
and Alastair Hazell, "The Last Slave Market" (Constable, 2011)

His letter, written from 22 Princes Gardens, South Kensington, London, on 2nd February 1874:

Dear Sir
     Will you return my warmest thanks to the members of the Irvine Burns Club for the honor they have done me in electing me an honorary member of their Club - Whenever I am in the neighbourhood of Irvine I shall hope to thank you and the other members of the Club in person - and to express to you how gratefully I appreciate the honor you have done me.
   Believe me,
     My dear Sir,
     Very faithfully and sincerely yours
     H B E Frere

Another 1874 nomination: The 1874 minutes also record the nomination for Honorary Membership of Sir William Montgomery Cuninghame, Bart, MP, of Corsehill, though no acceptance letter is recorded.

James McKie (1816-1891) Honorary member 1875

His life & work:

James McKie was a printer and bookseller at 2 King Street in Kilmarnock. He collected rare editions of Burns and published facsimiles. His 'Bibliotheca Burnsiana' of 1866 listed all the various editions in his private library (the University of Michigan copy is viewable on the Web). In 1867, McKie published 600 copies of a facsimile of the Kilmarnock Edition, and in 1868-70, he published 600 copies of a 4-volume set titled the "Kilmarnock Complete Edition of Burns' Poems & Songs".

James McKie also published the poems of Kilmarnock poetess Marion P Aird in the 1840s and 1860s, as well as starting the 'Kilmarnock Journal' (1844-1857) and the 'Kilmarnock Weekly Post' (1856-1865). His 'Plan of the Town of Kilmarnock' of 1868, showing the newly constructed John Finnie Street, is still of use to planners..

East Ayrshire's 2009 'Burns First Edition Project' aimed, inter alia, to ensure that his important collection of Burns memorabilia, by then in storage for 30 years, is made available to the public.

In our minute book, James McKie is wrongly listed in the list of "gentlemen elected ordinary members of the Club", though there is a faint pencil cross in the margin opposite. From his letter of acceptance, we know that this enthusiastic Burnsian and literary publisher was indeed honoured by Irvine Burns Club in 1875, along with the Rev George Gilfillan (see next entry).

His letter, written from Kilmarnock, on 6th February 1875:


My Dear Sir
     I should & would have written you on receipt of your note I received with the pleasing intelligence that I was elected a member of the Irvine Burns Club.
     I delayed expecting to be in your Royal Burgh personally & in accepting the honour thank you across a dram - however although I have threatened over & over again to visit Irvine for the past fortnight I have not been able to accomplish it & hence my now writing you to say "thank you" for the honour your Club has conferred upon me by electing me one of your Members.
     Allow me to remark at same time that in the reports of your last Anniversary you note as to me having presented you with an "Edition of Burns" while the expression ought to be a copy of the "Burns Calendar".
     I certainly am very sorry at the overlook & omission of not noticing the ring presented to the Monument at the Brig O' Doon by Mr Dick [?] but shall take the earliest possible opportunity I can place to remedy the omission.
     Do you know if Mr Murchland is alive & in his usual health as when I was last in Irvine I paid him half a guinea for a picture which he has never yet sent me ! ! !    I am
     My Dear Sir
     Yours faithfully
     James McKie
     P.S. no word of Mr Balsillie yet.

The letter heading bears the town name and a portrait of the Bard, as suited a Burns collector and a printer. His 'Burns Calendar' is not mentioned in our minutes.

Is the 'ring' the wedding ring of Jean Armour (1788) (still displayed there)?

Charles Murchland was Club President in 1879, while Provost of Irvine Burgh Council.

William Balsillie was a local businessman, perhaps by then retired (he had given up the lease of Duntonknoll Quarry in 1867)

Rev George Gilfillan (1813-1878) Honorary member 1875

His life & work:

Our minute book clearly records the reason for Rev Gilfillan's nomination, that he "had recently edited an Edition of the Works of Burns with a comprehensive Biography and criticism of the man and the Poet". 'The National Burns, edited by Rev. George Gilfillan, including the Airs of all the Songs and an original life of Burns by the Editor' had been published in 1872 by William Mackenzie of Edinburgh. Illustrated throughout, both by engraved plates and within the text, it was published in 15 parts, costing two shillings each, making it an affordable way for people to purchase the complete works of Robert Burns. He was a leading figure in the Burns movement in the latter part of the nineteenth century. He was also instrumental in having the statue of Robert Burns by Sir John Steell erected in Albert Square, Dundee. Born in Comrie, Perthshire, and educated at Glasgow University, he had been ordained pastor of a Secession congregation in Dundee in 1836.

His earlier set of volumes, 'The Poetical Works of Robert Burns, with Memoir, Critical Dissertation and Explanatory Notes, by Rev. George Gilfillan' was published in 1856 by James Nichol, Edinburgh - it opens with the words: "Robert Burns, the greatest poet, save Shakespeare, . . ". In his work on Shakespeare, he names the two greatest of all poets as Homer and Shakespeare.

In fact, Gilfillan wrote commentaries on, and produced editions of, many poets - Alexander Pope, about eight other lesser-known poets, and many minor poets. From 1853 to 1860, he edited the 48-volume 'Library Edition of the British Poets'. He died having just finished a new life of Burns designed to accompany a new edition of the works of that poet; it was published shortly after his death.

In his own poetic compositions, Gilfillan can be categorised as a Spasmodic poet - a term applied by William Edmonstoune Aytoun (an honorary member in 1854) to a group of British poets of the Victorian era, certainly with some derogatory as well as humorous intention. Their brief floruit closely followed (writes F S Boos, in 'Victorian Poetry', winter 2004) one of 19th century British radicalism's most signal defeats, the rejection of the 1848 People's Charter; spasmodic poems often took as their subject a young poet's struggle to achieve fame; poets such as Alexander Smith (also an honorary member in1854) were working- or lower-middle class in their origins. In this spirit, Gilfillan encouraged, in general, the young Spasmodics in his literary reviews written under the pseudonym Apollodorus, and, in particular, his friend William McGonagall, whose first poetic production in 1877 was 'An Address to the Rev. George Gilfillan', quoted in the preface to 'Poetic Gems' (1890) ("My blessing on his noble form, / And on his lofty head, / May all good angels guard him while living, / And hereafter when he's dead."). The Reverend's testimonial is also printed there: "I have heard him [McGonagall] speak, he has a strong proclivity for the elocutionary department, a strong voice, and great enthusiasm." One of the 'Poetic Gems' is 'Burial of the Rev. George Gilfillan' ("It was a most solemn sight to see, / Not fewer than thirty thousand people assembled in Dundee, / All watching the funeral procession of Gilfillan that day, / That death had suddenly taken away.").

His letter, written from Dundee, on 28th Janry, 1875:

Dear Sir
     Please return my warm thanks to the Irvine Burns Club for the great honour they have done me in electing me a member of their body and also for their kindness in sending me a facsimile of the Poet's Masterpiece which I gladly receive and highly value.
     I am
     Dear Sir,
     Yours very truly
     George Gilfillan

Another 1876 nomination: The 1876 minutes record the nomination for Honorary Membership of Col. E B Hamley, R E, an eminent Literary man and distinguished Soldier, though presumably no letter of acceptance was received.

Sir James Salmon (1811-1886) Honorary member 1880

His life & work:

Our minute book makes clear the reason for Sir James Salmon's nomination in these terms: "H M Inspector General of Hospitals and Fleets at Gosport and an Honorary Physician to the Queen, a native of Irvine". Thus, in two successive years, 1880 and 1881, the Club honoured two Irvine natives, the second (Dr White) having made his mark in his own town, the first (Sir James, recently knighted in 1878) having made his mark nationally.

Dr Salmon held the post at Gosport from 1869 to 1873, at that time being only "J Salmon MD". The details of his career appear in his obituary in the British Medical Journal of Jan. 1st, 1887, which it is best simply to quote verbatim:

Sir James Salmon, Knt., M.D., Inspector-General of Hospitals and Fleets, and Honorary Physician to the Queen, died at Anglesey Crescent, near Gosport, on December 17th, at the age of 75. Sir James entered the Royal Navy, August 1st, 1833; was made Fleet-Surgeon, August 1st, 1840; Deputy Inspector-General, June 30th, 1855; and Inspector-General, December 2nd, 1868; he retired, February 4th, 1875. He served on the coast of Spain during the first Carlist war, 1837-38, promoted; in ‘Neptune’, in the Baltic expedition, 1854; present at the operations in the Gulf of Bothnia (Baltic medal); Deputy Inspector-General, Malta Hospital, during part of the Crimean war; Inspector-General of Haslar, for four years, being the first medical officer entrusted with the general superintendence of the hospital; Sir Gilbert Blane’s Gold Medal, 1852; knighted, November 27th, 1878; granted a pension for good and meritorious service, July 24th, 1874.

[His birth is not recorded in the Old Parish Records - this and his joining the Navy in 1833 suggest he was the son of shipmaster James Salmon, married 1811, of Montgomery Street, a member of the Relief Church, and we are unable to link him with William Salmon, master saddler, a Bailie of the Burgh when President of Irvine Burns Club in 1840, and Provost from 1841 to 1845, whose family were members of the Established Church.]

His letter, written from 10 Anglesey Crescent, Gosport (Hants), on 16 February 1880:


My Dear Sir
     I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your kind letter of the 12th instant, conveying to me the honor done me by my fellow townsmen in electing me an Honorary Member of Irvine Burns' Club.
     I beg to assure you that I highly appreciate this kind remembrance of me, and I thank you very much for your own considerate kindness in sending me the fac simile of that beautiful poem, The Cotter's Saturday Night. - so true to nature and the character of our forefathers.
     I would wish to revisit once more my native town, but I fear much I can only visit it in memory for I am not likely to be able to travel so far.
     I am obliged to live by rule and to guard myself as much as possible from every thing that might produce a cold and I can only go out when the sun is shining and the wind moderate.
     I have been able however to go out more this winter than the one before, and in summer time. My walks extend to 4 miles a day.
     Till my illness 2 years ago I was an active I may say young man, but heavy disease has made me feel my years.
     I beg to remain with Every kind expression
     My Dear Sir
     Yours very truly
     J A Salmon

The letter is adressed to Jas. Dickie, Esquire, Town Clerk, Irvine (the Club's Honorary Secretary).

Dr John White (1817/18-1896) Honorary member 1881

His life & work:

John White was commercial and later mathematics master for thirty-two years, from 1834 to 1866, at Irvine Academy (opened in 1816; the royal grant to the former burgh school justified the new title Irvine Royal Academy when the new building opened in 1901). Like the Rector and the English master, White was not a graduate, but was so outstanding as to be awarded an honorary doctorate. He was the son of James White, coal merchant.

White was the author of several textbooks as well as slim volumes of verse and essays. Taking the rector's mathematics classes from 1845, he taught so successfully that he had inscribed on a board a list of former pupils who had distinguished themselves, including thirty-six prize-winners at Glasgow University - among them was William Jack (hon. member 1871, see notes there). He was an enthusiast for archery, fishing and music, a Conservative and a churchman, fond of snuff and practical jokes. He was also a hard taskmaster who kept the pupils who boarded at his home in Bank Street at their studies even on Marymass Saturdays till after noon (John Strawhorn, "The History of Irvine", 1985).

Dr White had served as Irvine Burns Club President in 1871. He was the son of James White, coal merchant, and had married Grace Welsh. His house on Bank Street was "Cosie Ha'", more recently, until 2008, the office of T E Docherty, the coach hirers. He died in March 1896, a few months before the arrival in Irvine of the statue of Robert Burns.

His letter, written from Bank Street, Irvine, on February 3rd, 1881:


My dear Sir,
     I duly received your official note informing me that I was, at a recent meeting of the Irvine Burns' Club, elected an Honorary Member. The honour I duly appreciate and I hope that you will, at your convenience, intimate to the members that I am proud of the compliment conferred upon me. I am
     My dear Sir,
     Yours Very(?) Truly
     John White

The letter is adressed to James Dickie, Esq., Solicitor, Irvine (the Club's Honorary Secretary).

return to top

you can move to the next page of honorary
members without closing this window,
by clicking next honorary page