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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Clarke, James (1761? — 1825)

Born at Closeburnk, Dumfriesshire, he became a schoolmaster at Moffat Grammar school in 1786, and first librarian of the Subscription Library there.

About 1790 he married Jane Simpson, a native of Cumberland. They had 3 daughters. IN 1791 he was charged with cruelty to his pupils by the authorities of Moffat, who, with Lord Hopetoun behind them, did all they could to have him discredited. Burns took up his cause, writing to Alexander Cunningham on 11th June 1791, on Clarke's behalf. Burns also drafted the letter for Clarke to send to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, one of the patrons of the school, asking for a fair hearing; and in 1792, when the row was at its worst, Burns tried to get Clarke another position through the good offices of Robert Riddell. Clarke remained at Moffat, vindicated, until he was appointed, in 1794, master of the Burgh School at Forfar. There he remained, apparently successful and respected, until 1802, when he became rector at the grammar school in Cupar, Fife. He finally retired to Dollar, where he kept a boarding house and had as a neighbour William Tennant, the author of 'Anster Fair'. Clarke was apparently a good musician and fiddler. Though at the time of Clarke's trouble, Burns himself was hard-pressed, he seems to have lent the schoolmaster a considerable sum of money, which the schoolmaster was still paying back in small sums at the time of the poet's death. Burns's last letter to him, written on 26th June 1796 from Dumfries, is an acknowledgement of one such repayment, and an appeal for another 'by return of post'.

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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
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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

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