Funeral of Robert Burns, The
William Grierson (1773 1811?), a draper in Dumfries and a citizen of credit and reknown, kept a diary from 1794 1811, the original manuscript of which is now in the Dumfries Museum. In it, he recorded his attendance at Burns's funeral.
'25th July 1796
Showrie forenoon, pleasant afternoon, wet evening and night.
This day a 12 o'clock went to the Burial of Robert Burns who died on the 21st aged 38 years, in respect to the Memory of such a genius as Mr Burns, his funeral was uncomonly splendid the Military here consisting of the Cinque Ports Cavalry and Angusshire Fencibles who having handsomely tendered their services lined the streets on both sides from the Court House to the burial ground. The corpse was carried from the place where Mr Burns lived to the Court House last night.
The firing party which consisted of 20 of the Royal Dumfries Volunteers, of which Mr Burns was a member, in full uniform with crapes on the left arm, marched in front with there Arms reversed moving in a slow and solemn time to the Death March in Saul which was played by the Military Band belonging to the Cinque Ports Cavalry. Next to the firing party was the band. Then the bier and corpse supported by 6 of the volunteers who changed at intervals. The relations of the deceased and a number of respectable inhabitants of both Town and Country followed next then the remainder of the volunteers followed in rank and the procession closed with a guard of the Angusshire Fencibles. The great Bells of the Churches tolled at intervals during the time of the procession. When arrived at the Churchyard gate the funeral party formed two lines and leaned their heads on their firelocks pointed to the ground. Through this space the corpse was carried and borne forward to the grave. The party then drew up alongside of it and fired three vollies over the coffin when deposited in the earth, this closing a ceremony which on the whole presented a solemn grand and affecting spectacle and accorded with the general sorrow and regrate for the loss of a man whose like we can scarce see again.
As for his private caricture [character] and behaviour, it might not have been so fair as could have been wished, but whatever faults he had I believe he was always worst for himself and it becomes us to pass over his failings in silence, and with veneration and esteem look to him immortal works which will live for ever. I believe his extraordinary genius may be said to have been the cause of bringing him so soon to his end, his company being courted by all ranks of people and being of too easy and accommodating a temper which often involved him in scenes of Dissipation and Intoxication which by slow degrees impared his health and at last total ruined his constitution.
For originality of wit, rapidity of conception and fluency of phraseology he was unrivalled.
He has left a wife and five children in very indigent circumstances but I understand very liberal and extensive superscriptions are to be made for them, his wife was delivred of a child about an hour after he was removed from the house.'