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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Stirling

The royal burgh and university town of Stirling, Sir David Lyndsay's 'Fair Snowdoun', and the county town of Stirlingshire, was probably a natural stronghold in Pictish times, or earlier. From the thirteen century to the seventeenth, its castle was a seat of the Scottish kings, and the decisive battle in the War of Independence was fought almost within sight of its ramparts, at Bannockburn. Its old town, like that of Edinburgh, struggled up a hilly spine towards the castle on the summit. The tides of Scottish history have surged around its walls.

Burns paid his first visit to Stirling on his way to Inverness. In company with Nicol, he arrived on the evening of Sunday, 26th August 1787. On the Monday, Burns left Nicol to pay a visit to Harvieston. On the 28th, they left Stirling for Crieff.

On the Sunday night, Burns wrote to Robert Muir, describing his day's travelling: '... just now, from Stirling Castle, I have seen by the setting sun the glorious prospect of the windings of Forth through the rich carse of Stirling, and skirting the equally rich carse of Falkirk.'

The then ruined state of the former home of Scotland's kings aroused Burns's Jacobitism, and with a diamond pen he had recently acquired, he is said to have scrawled on the window of his room:

"Here Stewarts once in triumph reigned,
And laws for Scotland's weal ordained;
But now unroofed their palace stands,
Their sceptre's swayed by other hands;
Fallen, indeed, and to the earth
Whence grovelling reptiles take their birth,
The injured Stewart line is gone.
A race outlandish fills their throne;
An idiot race, to honour lost;
Who knows them best despite them most."

On the evening of Monday, Burns recorded: 'Supper-Messrs Doig (the schoolmaster) and Bell; Captain Forrester of the Castle — Doig a queerish figure and something of a pedant — Bell a joyous, vacant fellow who sings a good song — Forrester a merry, swearing kind of man, with a dash of the Sodger.' They had 'breakfast with Captain Forrester' before leaving on the 28th.

Burns visited Stirling again, in company with Adair, in October. Adair later recounted to Dr Currie: 'At Stirling the prospects from the Castle strongly interested him; in a former visit to which, his national feelings had been powerfully excited by the ruinous and roofless state of the hall in which the Scottish parliaments had been frequently been held. His indignation had vented itself in some imprudent, but not unpoetical, lines, which had given much offence, and which he took this opportunity of erasing by breaking the pane of window at the inn in which they were written. At Stirling, we met with a company of travellers from Edinburgh, among whom was a character in many respects congenial with Burns. This was Nicol, one of the teachers of the High-Grammar-school at Edinburgh — the same wit and power of conversation; the same fondness for convivial society and thoughtlessness of to-morrow, characterised both.'

Later, at the inn: 'Many songs were sung; which I mention for the sake of observing, that when Burns was called on in his turn, he was accustomed, instead of singing, to recite one or other of his own shorter poems, with a tone and emphasis which, though not correct or harmonious, were impressive and pathetic. This he did on the present occasion.'

Next day, Burns and Adair went on to Harvieston in Clackmannanshire, where they stayed ten days.

A statue of Burns by Albert H. Hodge was put up in Stirling in 1914.

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Complete Burns Songs

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