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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Muirhead of Logan, The Reverend Dr James (1742-1805)

Minister of Urr. He was a landed proprietor, and claimed to be chief of Clan Muirhead. According to Young, he was a man of considerable humour', but also of the irritable genus, and nowise disposed to submit to the abuse and sarcastic ballads of Burns, whom he purposed to hunt out of society as a public nuisance.'

Burns described him as being 'as guid as he's true' in the Second Heron Election Ballad. There is an even more pointed reference in the third election ballad:

"And by our banners march'd Muirhead,
And Buittle was na slack,
Whase haly priesthood nane could stain,
For wha could dye the black?"

Muirhead himself scribbled epigrams and lampoons. As part of his hounding of Burns, he printed a brochure in Edinburgh, which began:

"The ancient poets, all agree,
Sang sweeter far than modem we,
In this, besides, their racy rhymes
Were told in far, far fewer lines..."

Then he quoted Martial's epigram 'In Vacerram', which he paraphrased thus:

"Vacerra, shabby son of whore,
Why do thy patrons keep thee poor?
Bribe-worthy service thou canst boast
At once their bulwark and their post;
Thou art a sycophant, a traitor,
A liar, a calumniator,
Who conscience (hadst thou that) would'st sell,
Nay, lave the common shores of hell,
For whisky; eke, most precious imp,
Thou art a rhymster, gauger, pimp;
Whence comes it, then, Vacerra, that
Thou still art poor as a church-rat?"

Alexander Young, an Edinburgh lawyer, wrote of Muirhead's verses: 'It consists with my knowledge, that no publication in answer to the scurrilities of Burns ever did him so much harm in public opinion, or made Burns himself feel so sore, as Dr Muirhead's translation of Martial's epigram. When I remonstrated with the doctor against his printing and circulating that translation, I asked him how he proved that Vacerra was a gauger as well as Burns. He answered: "Martial calls him fellator, which means sucker, or a man who drinks from the cask."

Buy the Burns Encyclopedia online
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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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