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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Bruce, James 'Abyssinian' (1730-94)

Born at Kinnaird House in Stirlingshire, he became a man of immense stature, and a famous traveller and explorer. He travelled on foot to the source of the Blue Nile (which he mistook for the Nile itself) and into the heart of then unknown Abyssinia. His contemporaries at first refused to believe him until, in 1790, on the insistence of Daines Barringotn (the English jurist who produced a paper after examining the prodigious talents of the boy Mozart), Bruce wrote an account of his experiences.

Thereafter, scunnered at the literary world which failed to give him the recognition he thought he deserved, he retired to his estate. There, having grown 'exceedingly heavy and lusty', he would rid slowly over his estate to his collieries, 'mounted on a charger of great power and size'. Now and again, he would dress himself up in his Abyssinian costume, and sit musing on past adventures.

He married, first, Adriana Allen, a Portuguese wine-merchant's daughter, who died in 1754; second, Mary Dundas of Carronhall, who died in 1784.

The manner of his death was gallant. Hurrying to hand a lady to her carriage he missed his footing and pitched down the stairs of his own house, striking his head in the fall.

On Sunday, 26th August 1787, Burns and Nicol, at the beginning of the Highland tour, stopped at Larbert to admire: 'a fine monument of cast iron erected by Mr Bruce, the African traveller, to his second wife. N.B. He used her very ill and I suppose he meant it as much out of gratitude to Heaven as anything else.'

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Robert Burns Store

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Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...


Burns Music & Recordings
Search our huge CD and music store for any Burns-related phrase!
Hint: Type "lang syne" or "peck maut" etc. into the Search box there for all artists, titles, descriptions or track listings with the words entered.
Burns Chess Sets

Burns Chess SetsUnique collectors' pieces based on Burns' life and works. (The ideal gift for your Burns Supper guests!) Click here...

Scotweb Store

ScotwebThe finest Scottish shopping site in the world, with the world's largest choice of kilts and tartans, exclusive jewelry, Highland Dress, Bagpipes and piping supplies, cashmere, and much more. Buying from these sites helps pay for the upkeep of Burns Country! Click here...