Burns Cottage has had a long and interesting history experiencing life as a farm, pub, and museum, in the growing village of Alloway. Over its time it has witnessed success and destitution, propriety and debauchery, and a good dollop of disaster! Today we shall be telling you about three surprising things that happened to Burns Cottage that we are sure you never knew about!
In 1888 there was a smithy next door to Burns Cottage which made use of a 6ft boiler to power its lathes. One Thursday afternoon the boiler exploded, flinging a large section of it plonk through the roof of the Burns Cottage byre! The byre at the time was the bedroom for the Cottage keeper, and his family, and the boiler’s safety valve landed right on the bed that the keeper’s children slept in at night. The Cottage, though damaged, survived the fire from the explosion with quick use of a fire hose and, while there were some small injuries to children who had been close to the smithy, there were thankfully no causalities.
The Transatlantic Haggis
In 1859 the Boston Burns Club wrote to Cottage tenant, Davidson Ritchie, to prepare and send a haggis to be pride of place in a grand Burns Supper celebrating the centenary of Robert Burns’s birth. Ritchie rose to the occasion preparing a haggis and a box of Burns relics which included a picture of Burns’s sister, Mrs Begg, the autographs of three of Burns’s sons, and an impression of Burns’s seal. The Burns Cottage haggis was served as part of an elaborate and ostentatious meal comprising of 8 courses, which included interesting delicacies, such as mock turtle soup, truffled duck in jelly, and calf’s head in turtle sauce!
Gun Shot at Burns Cottage
The following year of 1860 was a tragic one for Davidson Ritchie of Burns Cottage. In October, just four months after his wife had died of pneumonia, Davidson Ritchie went down to his fruit orchard with his 16 year old son to shoot some birds. After his son had taken a few shots, Ritchie then asked for the gun and told the son to go down and frighten the birds into the air. His son handed over the gun and walked to the trees when, suddenly, a shot rang out and he turned to see his father falling to the ground. The boy managed to call for help but sadly Ritchie died not long after. Following his death there was a discussion as to whether it was accident or suicide. Ritchie had shot himself in the stomach, not seemingly a typical place to aim when attempting suicide, however, not an easy thing to do with a double barrelled gun! Whether it was accident or suicide, however, we will never be able to find out.
It is amazing what can happen at a house over 250 years, and Burns Cottage has clearly seen some unusual incidents! However, we hope that the next 250 years are quieter than the last!