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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Carlisle

The county town of Cumberland, England. While on his Border Tour, Burns stayed at the Malt Shovel Inn, Rickergate. From there, on 1st June 1787 — 'or I believe the 39th o' May rather' — Burns wrote a letter entirely in Scots the only example of its kind to survive — addressed to 'Kind Honest-Hearted Willie' Nicol. It recounts the hardship of the day's journey and the virtues of his mare. It goes on: 'I hae dander'd owre a' the kintra frae Dumbar to Selcraig, and hae forgather'd wi' monie a guid fallow, and monie a weel-far'd hizzie, I met wi' twa dink quines in particular, ane o' them a sonsie, fine fodgel lass, baith braw and bonie; the tither was a clean-shankit, straught, tight, weel-far'd winch, as blythe's a lintwhite on a flowerie thorn, and as sweet and modest's a new blawn plumrose in a hazle shaw. They were baith bred to mainers by the beuk, and onie ane o' them has as muckle smeddum and rumblegumtion as the half o' some Presbytries that you and I baith ken. They play'd me sik a deevil o' a shavie that I dair say if my harigals were turn'd out ye wad see twa nicks I' the heart o' me like the mark o' a kail-whittle in a castock.'

In The Journal of the Border Tour edited by Professor Fitzhugh, part of Burns's entry (taken however, from Cunningham, this portion of the original manuscript having apparently disappeared) for Thursday, 31st May reads:

'I came to Carlisle. (Meet a strange enough romantic adventure by the way in falling in with a girl and her married sister — the girl, after some overtures of gallantry on my side, sees me a little cut with the bottle, and offers to take me in for a Gretna-green affair. I, not being quite such a gull as she imagines, make an appointment with her, by way of vive la bagatelle, to hold a conference on it when we reach town. I meet her in town and give her a brush of caressing and a bottle of cyder; but finding herself un peu trompee in her man, she sheers off) Next day I meet my good friend Mr Mitchell and walk with him round the town and its environs, and through his printing works, etc — four or five hundred people employed, many of them women and children. Dine with Mr Mitchell and leave Carlisle.'

The printing works Burns visited may well have been the printfield of Messrs Mitchell, Ellwood and Co., one of four then in the city, and his host the partner in the firm.

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