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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Stewart, William (1749? - 1812)

The son of a publican in Closeburn. When Burns knew him he was the factor of the Closeburn estate of the Rev. James Stuart Menteith of Barrowby, Lincolnshire. He was also the father of 'lovely Polly Stewart'. When on Excise business, Burns frequently visited him. and cut the song 'You're welcome Willie Stewart' for him on a crystal tumbler, later acquired by Sir Walter Scott and now preserved at Abbotsford.

His sister, Catherine, was the wife of the Owner of Brownhill Inn, Mr Bacon, a few miles south of Ellisland, from where on a 'Monday even' in 1789, Burns sent Stewart a rhymed epistle beginning:

"In honest Bacon's ingle-neuk,
Here maun I sit and think;
Sick o' the world and world's folk,
And sick, d-mn'd sick o' drink...."

When Friars' Carse, the home of Captain Riddell, was to be put up for sic, Burns wrote to an unidentified Mr McLeod, who apparently thought of purchasing the place, from Dumfries on 18th June 1794, telling him: 'The trustees have appointed a gentleman to make out an estimate of the value of the terra firma in the estate... The gentleman they have pitched on, is a Mr Wm Stewart, factor and manager for Mr Menteath of Closeburn. Stewart is my most intimate friend; and has promised me a copy of his estimate -but please let this be a dead secret.... I have in a manner beset and waylaid my friend Stewart, until I have prevailed on him.' Burns then undertook to supply McLeod with Stewart's estimate of the 'exact value of every stick on the property'.

On 15th January 1795, Burns wrote a 'painful, disagreeable letter' to Stewart from Dumfries, asking for 'three or four guineas' because: 'These acursed times, by stopping up Importation, have for the last year lopt off a full third part of my income.' Beneath the letter is a note in Stewart's hand, dated 16th January: 'This day forwarded and enclosed in a letter to Mr Burns £3 3s. str and for which I hold no security in writing.'

It is obvious from another of Burns's letters to the factor of Closeburn that Stewart shared with Cleghorn Burns's fondness for bawdy verse.

Stewart spent his retirement at Maxwelton, Dumfries.

According to Stewart's will he 'possessed the lands of Bilbow and the houses built a thereon lying in the parish of Tarbolton, he was tenant of three farms belonging to the Duke of Queensberry, and joint-tenant of Kelhead Limeworks; and he held one-fourth share of the woollen manufactury carried on at Cample under the firm of Stewart, Mathison & Co.'

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Complete Burns Songs

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