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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Burns's Lease on the Farm at Ellisland

The Burns Lease was first printer by Snyder, who saw it in the possession of its then owner, Mr O. R. Barrett. Snyder tells us that it 'occupies three and a half pages of a folio of stamped paper. At the bottom of each page the two principals signed their names as well as at the conclusion of the document. The last half of page 4 is occupied by Burns's renunciation of the lease written in his own hand.'

The text is as follows:

'It is contracted and agreed between the parties following viz. Patrick Miller of Dalswinton Esqr. on the one part, and Robert Burns late in Mossgavill in the parish of Mauchline in Airshire on the other part in manner and to the effect underwritten; that is to say, the said Patrick Miller by these presents sets and in tack and assedation Lets to the said Robert Burns, his heirs and assignees whatsoever but secluding subtenants in all events, and also secluding assignees during the natural life of the said Robert Burns, but reserving to him power to assign by any deed to take affect after his death, all and whole that part of the lands of Elliesland lying on the South side of the river Nith in the parish of Dunscore and Sherrifdom of Dumfries, and that for the space of four nineteen years and crops from and after his entry thereto which is hereby declared in every respect to commence at the term of Martinmas next seventeen hundred and eighty eight; Reserving expressly from the lands above mentioned two acres of any part or parts thereof which the said Patrick Miller pleases, for the purpose of planting, the planting and inclosing which two acres to be at the said Patrick Miller's sole expence, and reseruing also to be planted and inclosed a Belt of twenty yards in breadth along the mark which divides the aboue mentioned lands from those of Captain Riddel of the Carse, the expence of planting the said belt to be defrayed by the said Patrick Miller, but the expence of inclosing the same to be disbursed by the tenant out of the three hundred pounds after mentioned. And reserving further for planting the Bank along to riuer side, the expence of planting which shall be defrayed by the said Patrick Miller. And, In respect that it is agreed upon between the said parties that the said Robert Burns shall build a dwelling house, Barn, byre, and stable on the said farm, on a plan to be approuen of by the said Patrick Miller, and shall inclose the said lands. For these purposes the said Patrick Miller Binds and obliges him and his heirs and successors to pay to the said Robert Burns the sum of Three hundred pounds Sterling; of which sum he is, in the course of the ensuing summer, to advance him



(page second)

him one hundred and fifty pounds Sterling, on condition of at least building a dwelling in the course of the said summer; and to pay to him the remaining one hundred and fifty pounds afterwards in whole or in parts as the said Robert Burns shall find it necessary to receive it, upon the said Robert Burns always giuing the said Patrick Miller euidence that he has expended, in carrying on the building and inclosing, sums equal to those which he shall from time to time ask and claim; and also vouching to him that he has laid out one hundred pounds of the sum first stipulated for the purposes for which he received it. And it is also prouided that, should the said Robert Burns get the building and inclosures completed for less than three hundred pounds, then the remainder of the said sum given to the said Robert Burns shall be laid out by him in the improvement of the farm as to him shall seem most expediend; Which take aboue written, with and under the reservations foresaid the said Patrick Miller binds and obliges himself and his foresaids to warrant to the said Robert Burns and his aboue written at all hands and against all deadly (?) as his will. For which causes and on the other part The said Robert Burns Binds and obliges himself and his heirs, Executors and successors whomsoeuer to content and pay to the said Patrick Miller and his heirs or assignees the sum of Seuenty pounds Sterling yearly in name of tack duty, but to be restricted for the first three years and crops to fifty pounds Sterling yearly payable at two terms in the year Whitsunday and Martinmas by equal portions, beginning the first payment of the said tack duty at the term of Whitsunday seventeen hundred and eighty nine, and the next term's payment at Martinmas thereafter for the fist crop and year of his said possession, and so on thereafter during the currency of this lease, with a fifth part or more of each of said termly payments in liquidate penalty in case of faillie and the legal interest thereof from the respective terms when the same became due and during the not payment of the same. And further as it is agreed by the said parties that the



(page third)

the said Robert Burns shall be allowed to make use of the houses and pasture the grass of the said farm from Whitsunday to the said term of Martinmas next, which is aboue declared to be the commencement of this lease, therefore the said Robert Burns hereby Binds and obliges him and his foresaids to pay to the said Patrick Miller and his foresaids, for the said houses and grass, so to be used by him, such a sum as shall at the time be agreed upon by the said parties, and, failing such agreement, then the said Robert Burns and his foresaids shall pay for the same such sum as shall be fixed upon by an Arbiter mutually chose by the parties. And also the said Robert Burns Binds and obliges him and his foresaids to labour and manure the lands hereby let in a proper manner during the currency of this lease; and, during the last six years thereof, not to keep more than one third of the said lands in crop each year, and during that period to use a sufficient quantity of manure with whatever crop he lays down the lands. Moreouer he binds and obliges himself and his foresaids to build and complete the aforesaid dwelling house and the other buildings and execute the inclosing on this said farm in manner aboue mentioned, and particularly of the Belt of planting aboue specified, Declaring always that the inclosures to be made on said farm shall consist of Six — in number, or of any other number which the said parties shall afterwards agree upon, the said Robert Burns and his foresaids being always obliged to make the said inclosures sufficient and to leaue to same in that state at the issue of the lease; and which dwelling house the said Robert Burns becomes bound to finish and complete during the course of the ensuing summer. And further that he or his foresaids shall make no encroachments on the said riuer Nith, by making any Caul, pier or embankment, throwing in stones or rubbish or by driuing piles or in any other manner of way whateuer. And the said Robert Burns Binds and obliges himself and his foresaids to remoue himself, his family servants, goods and gear forth of the



(page fourth)

the said lands at the exipiry of this lease without any previous warning or process of remouing to that effect, and leaue the houses and offices in a tenantable condition at his said remoual; And further, Both parties Bind and oblige themselves and their foresails to implement and perform their respective parts of the premises to each other under the penalty of one hundred pounds Sterling to be paid by the party failing to the part performing or willing to perform ouer and above performance, And they consent to the registration hereof in the books of Council and session or any other Competent that letters of horning on six days charge and other necessary execution may pass on evidence to be Interponed hereto in form as others and to that effect they Constitute their pro [manuscript illegible] &c.

In witness thereof they haue subscribed these presents consisting of this and the three preceding pages and likewise a duplicate hereof all written on stampt paper by Thomas Walker Baird Clerk to John Gordon writer to the Signet at Edinburgh this Eighteenth day of March one thousand seven hundred and eighty eight years before these witnesses the said Thomas Walker Baird and John Murray one of the Clerks in the Bank of Scotland's office.

(signed) John Murray Witness


(signed) Thos. W. Baird Witness


Whereas, I have paid the rents of the farm of Ellisland to the term of Martinmas first, & settled my accounts relating thereto with Mr Miller of Dalswinton the proprietor of said farm, & have agreed to give up my tack of the said farm at Martinmas first I accordingly hereby give up and renounce for ever the said Tack; in witness whereof I write and subscribe these presents at Dalswinton, this tenth of September, in the year one thousand, seven hundred and ninety one —'


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