Welcome to
Burns Country - Home
 
Search This Site
 

Everything you wanted to know about Robert Burns, Scotland's national bard (and lots more besides). Please let us know if anything's missing, wrong, or just plain wonderful

Burns Country Collage

AULD LANG SYNE
Words | Karaoke!

Burns Shop
Poems and Songs
Burns Encyclopaedia
Burns Suppers
Burns Cottage and Park
Burns in English
Burns Chess Set
Burns Links
Scotweb Mall
 
robert burns store
View our exclusive range of distinctive Robert Burns related products.

Register with our Shopping Club for further offers and unique member offers.

Contact us:
info@robertburns.org


The Burns Encyclopedia
Home | Introduction | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Mount Oliphant

The farm of Mount Oliphant, on the estate of Doonholm, lies about three miles from Ayr. At Martinmas (11th November) 1765, William Burnes rented Mount Oliphant, and, at Whitsun 1766, moved into it with his family from the 'Auld Clay Biggin' at Alloway. The farm had just over seventy acres at that time, and the rent was to be forty pounds for the first six years, and thereafter, for the remaining six years, forty-five pounds. In order to stock his farm, William Burnes tried, unsuccessfully, to dispose of the lease of his property at Alloway in which his capital was tied up, so his new landlord, Provost William Fergusson of Ayr, by whom he was still employed as a gardener, lent him one hundred pounds.

Gilbert Burns later said that the soil at Mount Oliphant was almost the poorest that he ever knew of in a state of cultivation. Because of this, William. Burnes soon got into difficulties, which were increased by the loss of several of his beasts as a result of accident and disease. The family lived with the utmost economy, and for several years, butcher meat was a rarity on their table. In these difficult times, the family helped in the fields, in the poet's case to such an extent that he overtaxed his strength and probably caused the initial damage to his heart which resulted in his early death. Wrote Gilbert: 'My brother, at the age of thirteen, assisted in threshing the crop of corn, and at fifteen was the principal labourer on the farm, for we had no hired servants male or female. I doubt not, but the hard labour and sorrow of this period of his life, was in a great measure, the cause of that depression of spirits with which Robert was so often afflicted through his whole fife afterwards.'

To add to the family's troubles, their landlord died, on 7th November 1769, according to his tombstone in Ayr Auld kirkyard. The estate then passed into the control of a factor, who, in accordance with his duty, took a sterner line over delays in rent. As Burns put it in his Autobiographical Letter: 'My father's generous Master died; the farm proved a ruinous bargain; and, to clench the curse, we fell into the hands of a Factor who sat for the picture I have drawn of one in my Tale of two dogs. There was a freedom in his [Burnes's] lease in two years more, and to weather these two years, we retrenched expenses. We lived very poorly.... A Novel-Writer might perhaps have viewed these scenes with some satisfaction. But so did not I: my indignation yet boils at the recollection of the scoundrel tyrant's insolent, threatening epistles, which used to get us all in tears.' If, however, the date on Fergusson's tombstone is correct, Burnes not only did not take advantage of the break in the lease, which occurred in November 1771, but must have endured the factor's 'snash' for almost eight years after Provost Fergusson's death.

In the Autobiographical Letter, however, Burns also related that it was while

working at a Mount Oliphant harvest that he fell in love with his first girl — Nellie Kilpatrick - and wrote for her his first song, 'O once 1 loved a bonnie lass'. He went on: 'My father struggled on till he reached the freedom in his lease, when he entered on a larger farm about ten miles farther in the country.' The larger farm was Lochlea, and the move was made at Whitsun 1777.

Buy the Burns Encyclopedia online
Home | Introduction | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Robert Burns Store

NEW!! robert burns store View our exclusive range of distinctive Robert Burns related products. Register with our Shopping Club for further offers and unique member offers.Click here...


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...