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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Russell, The Reverend John (1740 -1817)

A native of Moray, who, after a period of teaching in the Parish School at Cromarty, was ordained minister of the High Church in Kilmarnock in 1744. He was called to Stirling in 1800. He was a staunch supporter of the Auld Licht teaching, and a powerful preacher of the roaring hellfire-threatening sort. Burns was vigorously opposed to his teaching. Russell figures as 'Black Russell' in 'The Holy Fair', and 'wordy Russell' in 'The Twa Herds'. There is a reference to him in 'The Ordination', as being opposed to the common-sense view of the 'New Licht' party: 'An' Russell sair misca'd her'. He also appeared as 'Rumble John' in 'The Kirk's Alarm':
"Rumble John, Rumble John, mount the steps with a groan,
Cry, '.,The Book is with heresy cramm'd;
Then lug out your ladle, deal brimstone like aidle, And roar every note o' the Damn'd,
Rumble John, and roar every note o' the Damn'd."

The author of several books and pamphlets on religion no doubt of interest in his own day, he became involved in a wordy doctrinal battle with a fellow 'Auld Licht' Minister, the Reverend Alexander Moodie of Riccarton. It was the undignified spectacle of two members of the 'unco guid' fighting between themselves that inspired Burns to write 'The Twa Herds'.

Hugh Miller, the geologist and writer, was one of Russell's pupils at Cromarty. Miller recalled Russell as being 'a large, robust, dark-complexioned man — imperturbably grave, and with a sullen expression seated in the deep folds of his forehead'. Miller tells the story of a lady, years after she had left school, who suddenly saw Russell in a pulpit, and was 'so overcome with terror that she fainted away'.

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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

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Scotweb Store

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