Friday, 28 January 2011

Burns stuff in Ayr

It's some weeks now since I visited my sister just outside Ayr and since then the world has warmed up considerably. I may have been a bit on the negligent side in not posting this blog some time ago but at least now it has landed at a rather appropriate time of the year, Burns Night being only two days ago. Burns was born and brought up just outside Ayr and it's no surprise that on a wee walk about the town, while I was waiting for my train, that I spotted a few things relating to the bard.

Here is a statue of the great man commissioned from sculptor George Anderson Lawson and unveiled in 1891 which can be seen near the station.

Below is one of the two plaques on the base of the statue also produced by Mr Lawson. This one features a scene from Tam O' Shanter, the other one, not pictured here shows a scene from the Cotters Saturday Night. For completeness there is also a plaque with a scene from the Jolly Beggars by David McGill and a plaque featuring Burns and Highland Mary by George E Bissell gifted by some citizens of the United States. 

Now here's a thing. Shortly after I'd been to Ayr, I received an e-mail from Mrs Wright showing me some pictures she had taken in Melbourne, Australia. Amongst them was a picture of the Burns statue you see below. Not so much similar as identical - apart from the fact old Bob has his head in a tree.

Seen this plaque from the Melbourne statue somewhere before?

Melbourne is not alone. It seems the Ayr statue is a very popular model for statues of Burns from around the world. Melbourne's copy was unveiled in 1904, but there's also one in Detroit from 1928, Montreal in 1930, Winnipeg in 1936 and a smaller version in the Sorbonne in Paris. That's not to say that there aren't a few that I didn't find on my wee surf.
We're going to carry on from the plaque of Tam O' Shanter to the pub bearing his name, the Tam O' Shanter Inn. It also bears his image on the wall outside (right) and by the look of the eyes there, he's well on the way to getting fou and unco happy. Tam O Shanter is indeed a work of  fiction but there are, as you might expect, claimants to the real Tam O Shanter. One possible contender, and the excuse for naming this pub, is Douglas Graham who was the farmer at Shanter farm just outside Ayr. His cousin at the time was a brewer in the building that is now the Tam O' Shanter Inn and Douglas provided him with malted barley and, it seems, he also received some hospitality from his cousin, quite a lot of hospitality. Read the cautionary tale here - it really is a cracker.

The pub itself is one of the few thatched buildings left in Ayr - quite frankly, I'd be surprised if there are any other thatched buildings in Ayr but maybe the internet knows better and just isn't letting on. It's also got a muckle great oil painting bolted on to the outside of it by J.A.Patterson painted in 1956. Photos of the building from a much earlier period also have an oil painting on, and if you look carefully you can see it's not the same picture but I've had a good investigate about this and I can't find out a thing about it.

I did go in though and had a reaming swat (singular) (darn nabbit! it was poured before I noticed they had Hobgoblin on tap) and a plate of mince and tatties. It was very nice mince and tatties but twice as much would have been good - possibly even three or four times as much would have stayed on the plate without a great problem - the pub has no kitchen so it had to be carried in from next door (through the front door) covered in tin foil - still no excuse for meagre portions.

Lastly in this blog, is a picture of an old bridge that predates Burns by quite a long time. It was built in 1470 and is known as the Auld Brig. It features in a Burns poem called The Brigs Of Ayr in which Oor Bob imagines a conversation between this bridge and a newer bridge which is known as The New Brig. At one point the old bridge says to the new bridge, "I'll be a brig when ye're a shapeless cairn", which turned out to be pretty much as it happened. The New Brig, built in 1788, lasted barely 100 years when it was destroyed in a flood. A New New Brig was built in 1878 and the original Auld brig still stands.

Jings it was a cold day!


Shundo said...

Maybe the Melbourne statue was hiding under a tree so it wouldn't have so many pigeons crapping on its head.

Chip "Rocket Man" Allen said...

Better head in a tree than head in the clouds?

Sandy's witterings said...

Shundo, there's a bit of logic in there - do the Aussies have pigeon. Aberdeen majors on seagulls and their statue of Burns is a disaster area.

Chip when your as short as me you dream about getting your head in the clouds - banging your head on something is a cause for celebration.

Denise said...

What a great post, loved all the historical info and the photographs.
Always remember meeting a Scottish lady, a friend of a friend, who was staying at their house and she recited his poetry for a good part of the night. She told it so well we were all enthralled.

The Glebe Blog said...

In the Octagon in Dunedin,New Zealand near Claremont House is a wonderful statue to the bard.My 80 year plus uncle, been there since he was 15 loves to recite the bards poetry in his broadest Scots accent.
Jings is right oor wullie

Light-In-A-Box said...

Thanks for the history & the great photos Sandy, oh & did you get blogger of the year award for 2010?
If not you should have!

Sandy's witterings said...

Denise - Burns sounds great read out - it is of course where all poetry comes from, designed to be listened to and passed down from bard to bard without ever landing on a piece of paper.

Help ma Bob Jim! I've seen pictures of Dunedin Burns statue - it looks very like the on on the embankment in London, though I've never checked out if there's more than a passing resemblance.

I'm almost (though not quite) award free Michael, but that's not why I do it - the rewards in people enjoying it. Thank you for your confidence though. It's been a bit sparce here of late because I've not been doing much, but this week I've been out and about and a half so a big raft of blogs coming up soon.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I had no idea that particular Burns statue had been copies that often!

Sandy's witterings said...

Neither had I Juliet, until last month when I received the pictures from Melbourne and did a wee bit of investigation.