Read CHAPTER XI of Adventures and Recollections , free online book, by Bill o'th' Hoylus End, on ReadCentral.com.

IN THE LAND OF BURNS

The incident mentioned in the last chapter ended in all the men who were not committed to prison being released and sent on to head-quarters at Ayr

Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a toon surpasses,
For honest men and bonnie lasses.

I was among the “removals,” and high were my spirits at the prospect of a sojourn in the hallowed land of Burns. To use a well-turned phrase, it had been the height of my ambition to reach the birth-place of a genius second to none in his way Bobby Burns, the patriotic bard and ploughboy. For twelve months I stayed in the quaint old town. Scores of times did I visit the cottage where the world-famous poet was born. It was a lowly thatched clay biggin; with two rooms on one floor, and at this time was being used as a public tavern. The building belonged, I believe, to the Shoemakers’ Society of Scotland, and scarcely anything but the native whiskey and bottled beer was dispensed at the house. The first room on entering was utilised for cooking purposes, and contained a big kettle for boiling water, I was told, (whether in good or bad faith) on occasion of extra demand for “whuskey”. The farther room served as the parlour, and contained a large oblong table, seated with cane-bottomed chairs. The mud walls of the room had been boarded over, and the roof under-drawn, so that an air of comfort was imparted. In almost every nook of this room were to be seen the initials and names of visitors cut into the wood, and the places appended to some of the names indicated foreign visitors. The walls were completely filled with these “carvings” and writings. I more than once looked round for a little space to put Bill o’ th’ Hoylus End’s initials, but to no purpose every available inch was taken up with those of my predecessors. A portrait in oils of Burns, said to have been done by Allan Cunningham, one of the bard’s friends, occupied a prominent place in the room. This picture, in keeping with the general appearance of the room, was covered with initials and names. A few minutes’ walk from the cottage, and situated on a slight eminence commanding a fine view, stands the Burns’ Monument, a beautiful Grecian edifice. In the surrounding grounds which are handsomely laid out is a little building which contains Thom’s statues of “Tam o’ Shanter and Souter Johnny.” The Auld Brig o’ Doon and Alloway Kirk are not far away. On ascending the steps leading into the churchyard the first grave is that of the poet’s father, William Burns. An epitaph in the tombstone, written by Bobby Burns, reads:

Here lies an honest man at rest,
As e’er God with His image blest;
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The guide of age, the guide of youth.
Few hearts like his in virtue warmed;
Few heads with knowledge so informed:
If there be another world, he lives in bliss,
If there be none, he made the best of this.

Going further into the old kirkyard, one sees the graves of many of the bard’s friends, whom he has immortalised in verse. At the farther end, close to the river Doon, stands the ancient kirk

Wi’ its winnock bunker i’ the east,
Where sat old Nick i’ shape o’ beast.

Perhaps this old fane has been made more of in poetry by Burns than anything else. It is inspected by thousands of travellers who visit Ayr.

BURNS’ CELEBRATION

While in Ayr, I remember there was a great demonstration to honour the memory of the national poet. The gathering was held at the Corn Exchange, and the large hall was densely packed. Among an influential company was Sir James Fergusson, M.P., late Post-master General. Various patriotic speeches were delivered, and at one stage, I mind, the meeting was put into great good humour by the action of an elderly gentleman on the platform. Stepping to the front he said “I believe I am the only man in Scotland to-day that ever shook hands with Bobby Burns. He was then over seventy years ago an excise man at Dumfries, and I acted as his post-boy, taking his letters.” These remarks had scarcely been made than several of the people came forward and grasped the old fellow by the hand, and, indeed, some all but hugged him. I was prompted to shake hands with the “living memorial.”

And well old Scotland may be proud
To hear her Burns proclaimed aloud,
For to her sons the world hath bowed,
Through Burns’s name
All races of the world are proud of Burns’s fame.

THE PEOPLE OF AYR

I found to be of a very genial and sociable disposition. Their dialect is exceedingly pleasing a good deal more so than that of many other parts of Scotland; shires and district vary in dialect quite after the manner of our own localities and counties. I made many friends in Ayr, among them being John McKelvey (who, with his daughter, Tina, kept an old tavern at the end of the quay at Ayr), and Billy Miller (of the “Thistle"), another celebrity in his way. Both these were poets, or, perhaps I should say, rhymesters; and whatever the old wives of the present day may think about the poet, of this I can assure them that in those days “the lassies loved him weel i’ bonnie Scotland.” But to get to my military reminiscences.

A FREE FIGHT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

With the exception of one “hitch” and perhaps that was enough I passed my time very pleasantly at Ayr Barracks. The incident came about in this way. I was out in the “toon” with the orderly-room clerk, Sergeant Delaney, the money both of us had in our pockets sufficing to put us into high spirits. In our travels we came across a menagerie of wild beasts Manders’, I think it was and I was not long in observing that the members of the band which was “going it” in front of the show were all men from the Keighley district. The leader of the band, Dawson Hopkinson, was a Haworth man, and his remains lie in Haworth Churchyard, a bugle being engraved on the stone over the grave. Hopkinson had been the landlord of the Golden Lion Inn, at Keighley, previous to travelling with the menagerie. Other members of the band were Bobby Hartley, of Keighley, and another named Joe Briggs; two from Silsden, and one from Wilsden, all of whom were well known at the time as able musicians. I felt in great glee at meeting with these old friends, and marched boldly on the platform to greet them. The result of my visit was that I invited the whole of the band to come and have a drink at the Grossmarket Hotel down the street. When they had played another tune they “struck” and in a body followed me to the hotel; and over glasses of “guid auld Scotch” we told tales of old Keighley until it really seemed that old times had come again. In chatting over some of the eccentric characters, we had many a laugh about Three Laps and Job Senior. But the time was flitting by fast, and my musical guests, it appeared, had not left word at the menagerie where they were going. Thus there was some justification for the line of action which the lady of the show had adopted in rushing into the room and demanding “why her band had given over playing and left the stage.” But the bandsmen had supped, perhaps too freely and too well, and consequently they were not able to give a clear answer to her question. Right into the tavern we could hear the growling of the lions, the howling of the wolves, and the squeaking of the monkeys; and yet, forsooth! the bandsmen could afford to laugh at the noises. Delaney and I, despite that we were all out as far “gone” as the rest, saw there was going to be a storm if we did not bestir ourselves; so we set about coaxing the musicians to return to their legitimate duties. After much ado we induced them to quit the tavern, and Delaney and I followed suit, and started for the barracks. “Just for safety’s sake” we went arm in arm, and as we passed down the long main street we sang and carried on like the proverbial jolly tars. Things went moderately well with us until we got to a picture shop. Here was a large painting showing General Garibaldi mounted on a white horse; and no sooner did Delaney catch a glimpse of the picture than he drew his sword and with it smashed the window, his intention being to wreak his vengeance upon the offensive canvas.

IN THE HANDS OF THE POLICE

We were both of us now in a fine mess, and no mistake about it. I stood dumbfounded for about a minute, and before I had time to give my thoughts to deciding what we should do, two big, brawny Scottish policemen had come up from behind and seized Delaney tightly by the arms and deprived him of his sword. They straightway marched their prisoner in the direction of the Town Hall, I following at their heels and expostulating with them, taking up the line of argument that if they only would let John go I would advance the money for the broken window. But the Scottish policemen like their Keighley comrades, I suppose, would do held their prisoner firmly, and the only heed they paid to my entreaty was in the shape of a threat “Gin ye say mich mair ye’ll hae ta gang along wi’ us.” I still continued to beseech the constables to release “poor John,” but when near a place known as the Fish Cross one of the twain suddenly gave back and rushed upon me. I drew my sword, and kept him at bay for a few seconds, until a butcher came to his assistance. The butcher stole up behind me and robbed me of my sword. Now I was almost “taken,” but no! not just yet. Seeing an opening in the large crowd which had gathered I darted through it and down the street into a yard where I knew there was a blacksmith’s shop kept by Louis Gordon. I managed to get into the shop, but my pursuers were almost at my heels. I was overpowered and very soon the “bangles” were on my wrists. I was marched to the Town Hall, followed by a vast and inquiring crowd. One of the milk girls from the barracks wanted to know whatever I had been doing, and I told her that I had been making love too freely with John Barleycorn. Arrived at the Town Hall, I saw Delaney. We were both locked up for the night, and next morning were brought

BEFORE THE LORD PROVOST

The captain of the regiment in full-dress uniform was present in court, occupying a seat beside the magistrate. My case was called on first. After the two policemen and certain civilians had had their say, a doctor, whose name, I think, was Montgomery, stepped into the witness-box and spoke in my favour. The captain also gave me a good character; he said this was my first offence, and Delaney was the cause of it. In pronouncing judgement the Lord Provost said that as my captain had spoken so well of me he would “give me the benefit of the doubt,” although an offence of attempting to rescue a prisoner from the hands of the police was a very serious one indeed. Under the circumstances, he would fine me 40s and costs, or “saxty days to the talbooth.” The charges against poor Delaney were those of doing wilful damage to property, being drunk and disorderly, and, to some extent, causing a riot. John had no defence, and no one to speak a good word for him; indeed, his captain who was a fellow-countryman, an Irishman gave him a bad name. The upshot was that Delaney was ordered to pay 40s and costs and to make good the damage to the window, or to go to the talbooth for six months. My fine was paid by subscription among the N Company, to which I belonged, and I obtained my almost immediate release. The amount in Delaney’s case was much larger than mine, and it was not until John had suffered a fortnight’s incarceration that his Company (N succeeded in getting him released. I myself took the ransom to Governor McPherson, who returned me 16s out of a 5 pounds note. Poor John looked well-nigh dead after his sojourn in the police cell, and as soon as we got out of the gaol we made for an eating-house, where I let him have a good meal. We then went back to barracks.