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October Week 2019 at #BurnsBirthplace

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We had a fantoosh October week during the school holidays this year with numerous weans and their family members joining us for Halloween themed Cantrip Crafts. We also had a Haunted Horror Hunt on offer that was site wide meaning families were encouraged to explore not only our Museum but our play-park, Burns Monument, Brig o’ Doon, Alloway Auld Kirk, Poet’s Path and Burns Cottage to hunt for clues!

We had seven different crafts on from Monday 14th – Sunday 20th October. They were:

  1. a pumpkin wreath
  2. a warlock/witch hat
  3. creepy sun-catchers
  4. jam jar lanterns
  5. toilet roll characters
  6. a thaumatrope toy
  7. frichtfu’ finger puppet pals

These crafts were very popular with the weans (and their parents, siblings, carers and grandparents! Our Learning Officer joked that it was inter-generational family-fun, just as much for the adults as the weans, but it seriously is) and so, we thought we’d share some of these crafts instructions with you in case you’d like to try them at home as a family. You don’t need a lot of specialist equipment – most of this you’ll most likely have already or be able to buy out of budget stores like Pound Land, Wilko or large supermarkets. Also, these can easily be tweaked to make them themed around another holiday other than Halloween. Happy crafting!!

Jam Jar Lanterns: this is a creative craft that looks great when finished and you put your candle in it in the dark! It uses up jars that would be going into the recycling bin anyway so it doesn’t require you to buy anything made of glass in especially for it.

What you need:

  • A selection of old jars
  • Different coloured tissue paper
  • Black card, scissors, pen/pencils
  • PVA glue, pot & brush
  • Googly eyes
  • LED or wax candles

Instructions:

  • Choose which design you want to do: a pumpkin, haunted house, spooky forest, spiders and their webs, Frankenstein, a mummy?
  • Tear up small strips of tissue paper in your chosen colour and paste them onto the glass jar with PVA glue. Apply enough to cover the jar but not so that the light will not be able to shine through.*
  • Next, use scissors to cut a spooky design out of black card i.e. pumpkin face shapes, Frankenstein face shapes or owls and trees.
  • Then stick it to your jam jar with PVA glue; applying an extra layer of glue over the whole thing to give it a nice finish.
  • Leave it to dry – ideally overnight or at least for a few hours.
  • Finally, pop in a candle and watch your lanterns glow!  Just remember to never leave an open flame unattended.

*Do not put tissue paper inside the lantern – just on the outside – as that is a dangerous fire hazard!

Thaumatrope Toy: this is a 19th century scientific toy that is an optical illusion. You put two separate images on either side of your circles and when you spin it, it combines them together! Cool, huh?

What you need:

  • Straws
  • Paper and card
  • Scissors
  • Glue or Sello-tape
  • Pens

Instructions:

  • Cut out two identical circles on plain white paper (using something to draw around is easiest).
  • Cut out two identical circles on card.
  • On your paper, draw something to put on either side, for example: a spider’s web and a spider hanging down, a cage and a bird, a house then the moon and stars.
  • Draw them onto your circles as if they were to be combined they’d match up to each other i.e. draw the moon around the house.
  • Glue your paper circles onto your card circles.
  • Get a straw and glue them securely to either side of it – now spin it and see if your optical illusion toy works!

Creepy Sun-catcher Decoration: this requires a bit of planning and develops problem-solving skills in the weans as they need to map out where their going to cut and size their “windows” appropriately.

What you need:

  • Black card
  • Scissors
  • Pens
  • Glue or Sello-tape
  • Various colours of tissue paper

Instructions:

  • Take an A4 piece of black card and draw a window outline then draw shapes inside the window like smaller window panes. You can try to draw a pumpkin, spider, bat or ghost if your up for the challenge.
  • Double up your lines up leaving a decent amount of space and make sure you can see your pen marks clearly as you’ll need to cut along these.
  • Using your scissors, very carefully pierce a hole in the middle of the parts you’ll need to cut out i.e. where the “glass” will go in the windows.
  • Once you’ve cut all of them out, pick different colours of tissue paper and arrange where they’ll go, then cut them to size.
  • When you are ready to glue, flip the card over and glue the back of it and then place your tissue into the right place.
  • Continue to do this until all gaps are filled.
  • Stick it up on a window and watch as the sunlight shines through you creepy sun-catcher!

Scots words used in this blog:

  • Fantoosh = flashy, ultra-fashionable
  • Weans = children
  • Cantrip = magic
  • Auld = old
  • Kirk = church
  • Frichtfu’ = frightful

Bards, Burns an Blether in The Bachelors’

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The Bachelors’ Club in Tarbolton: https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/bachelors-club

It’s owre twa hunner year syne The Bachelors’ Club in Tarbolton saw the young Robert Burns an his cronies speirin aboot the issues o thaur day. It is therefore a braw honour tae gie this historic biggin a heize ainst mair by bein involved in organisin and hostin monthly spoken word an music nichts in the place whaur Robert Burns fordered his poetic genius, charisma an flair fir debate.

The Bachelors’ Club nichts stairtit in March this year eftir Robert Burns Birthplace Museum volunteer Hugh Farrell envisaged the success of sic nichts in sic an inspirational setting.

Hugh Farrell, volunteer at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, in front of the Burns Cottage. (June 2019)

Tuesday the third o September saw the eighth session, an it wis wan we will aye hae mind o. Wullie Dick wis oor compère as folk favoured the company wi a turn.

Oor headliner wis Ciaran McGhee, singer, bard an musician. Ciaran bides an works in Embra an I first shook his haun some twa year syne at New Cumnock Burns Club’s annual Scots verse nicht. The company wis impressed then an agin at the annual “smoker” an at a forder Scots verse nicht. Ciaran traivelled doon tae Ayrshire tae play fir us, despite haen jist duin a 52 show marathon owre the duration o Embra festival.

 Ciaran stertit wi a roarin rendition o “A Man’s a Man for a That”, an we hud a blether aboot hoo this song is as relevant noo, in these days o inequality an political carnage, as it wis twa hunner year syne, a fine example o Burns genius an insicht. Ciaran follaed wi Hamish Imlach’s birsie “Black is the Colour”, the raw emotion gien us aa goosebumps!!  Ciaran also performed Johnny Cash’s cantie “Folsom Prison Blues”, an then Richard Thomson’s classic “Beeswing”, a version sae bonnie it left us hert-sair! Ciaran also performed tracks fae his album “Don’t give up the Day Job”.

Ciaran McGhee jamming. (Photie taken by Robert Neil)

The company wir then entertained by Burns recitals an poetry readins fae a wheen o bards an raconteurs. A big hertie chiel recited “The Holy Fair”, speirin wi the company on hoo excitin this maun hae buin in Burns day, amaist lik today’s “T in the Park”.

We hud “Tam the Bunnet” a hilarious parody o Tam o Shanter an Hugh Farrell telt us aboot the dochters ca’ad Elizabeth born tae Burns by different mithers, Burn’s first born bein “Dear bocht Bess”, her mither servant lass Bess Paton. Later oan cam Elizabeth Park, Anna Park’s dochter, reart by Jean Armour, an thaur wis wee Elizabeth Riddell, Robert an Jean’s youngest dochter wha deid aged jist 3 year auld.  A “Farrell factoid” we learned wis that in Burns day, if a wee lassie wis born within mairrage, she was ca’ad fir her grandmither, if she wis born oot o wedlock she taen her mither’s first name. Hugh recited “A Poet’s Welcome To His Love-Begotten Daughter” fir us, the tender poem Burns scrievit, lamentin his love fir his first born wean, Elizabeth Paton.

We hud spoken word by various bards on sic diverse topics as a hen doo, a sardonic account o an ex girlfriend’s political tendencies, an a couthie poem inspired by a portrait o a mystery wummin sketched by the poets faither. In homage tae Burn’s “Poor Mailie’s Elegy”, we hud a lament in rhyme scrievit in the Scots leid, featurin the poet’s pet hen.

We learned o the poetess Janet Little, born in the same year as Burns, who selt owre fowre hunner copies o the book o her poetry she scrievit. This wummin wis kent as “The Scotch Milkmaid” an wis connected tae Burn’s freen an patron, Mrs Frances Anna Dunlop.

An engraving of Mrs Frances Anna Dunlop held at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

We also learned o hoo Burns wis spurned by Wilhelmina Alexander, “The Bonnie Lass of Ballochmyle” an hoo, eftir her daith, she wis foun tae hae kept a copy o the poem Burns scrievit fir her.

We hud mair hertie music fae Burness, performin Burns an Scottish songs sic as “Ye Jacobites by Name” an a contemporary version o “Auld Lang Syne” wi words added by Eddie Reader tae an auld Hebrew tune.

We hud “Caledonia” an “Ca the Yowes tae the Knowes” sung beautifully by a sonsie Auchinleck lass wha recently performed it at Lapraik festival in Muirkirk (oan Tibby’s Brig nae less!).

The newly appointed female president o Prestwick Burns Club entertained us on her ukelele wi the Burns song “The Gairdner wi his Paiddle” itherwise kent as “When Rosie May Comes in with Flowers”.

At the hinneren wi hud a sing alang tae Seamus Kennedy’s “The Little Fly” on the guitar an Ciaran feenished wi “Ae Fond Kiss”, interrupted by his mammy wha phoned tae see when he wis comin haim tae New Cumnock!

We hud sae muckle talent in The Bachelors’, that we didnae hae time fir a’body to dae a turn, so thaim that didnae will be first up neist time.

A braw photie o the company cheerin. (Photie taken by Robert Neil).

A hertie thanks tae a the crooners, bards an raconteurs an tae a’body in the audience fir gien up thaur time, sharin thaur talent an ken an gien sillar tae The Bachelors’ fund. Sae faur we hae roused £862 which hus been paid intae the account fir the keepin o The Bachelors’ Club.

Hugh Farrell is repeatin history by stertin a debatin group in The Bachelors’ on Monday 11th November, 239 year tae the day syne Burns launched it first time roon. Thaur will be a wee chainge tae the rules hooever, ye dinnae hae tae be a Bachelor an ye dinnae need tae be a man tae tak pairt!!

The Bachelors’ sessions are oan the 1st Tuesday o every month 7pm tae 10.30pm an a’body wi an enthusiasm for Burns is welcome.

Tracy Harvey in front of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. (August 2019)

Scrievit by Tracy Harvey, Resident Scots Scriever fir RBBM

The Bar at Burns Cottage

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This May 16th, as part of the Museums at Night 2015 festivities, we are turning the clock back once more to the days when Burns Cottage was a pub. But how did the Cottage become a pub, and what was it like? Learning Intern, Mhairi Gowans, delves into the Cottage’s unusual past.

A wooden sign from the Burns Heid Inn
A wooden sign from the Burns Heid Inn

After the Burnes family left the Cottage in the 1760’s to the farm at Mt Oliphaunt, Burns Cottage (originally named ‘New Gardens’) was left vacant until William found a buyer in the Shoemakers Incorporation in 1781. Buying before the publishing of the Kilmarnock Edition, the Shoemakers managed to land themselves a bargain: what they bought for £160, they would sell for £4000 a hundred years later.

An engraving showing two extensions made by the Shoemakers Incorporation
An engraving showing two extensions made by the Shoemakers Incorporation

By the time of Robert Burns’s death, the Cottage was already receiving a great deal of interest and the tenant present in 1803, John (Miller) Goudie, made the decision to transform the Cottage into a pub called the Burns Head Inn, adding on a new section to the Cottage building. The first public mention of the pub comes from the Scots Magazine of 1805, which states that ‘the person who occupies it at present has turned it into a snug public house. At this house, early on the birthday of the poet, a social party meet to celebrate it with festivity.’

Architectural drawings made of the pub extension
Architectural drawings made of the pub extension

Festivity seems to be the word to use in regard to Miller Goudie, who appears in anecdotes as an infamous local character. For example, an Irish lawyer visiting in 1810 said he saw ‘Miller Goudie, the man that transformed it into a public house, sitting drunk in the corner where ‘the saint, the father, and the husband prayed.’ Keats said about his visit in 1818, that the innkeeper was a ‘mahogany faced old jack ass,’ while a 1904 book published by the Monument Trustees says that, ‘Goudie’s chief aims in life seem to have been pledging the Poet’s memory with anyone who would furnish him with the wherewithal to do so.’ It also said that Miller Goudie claimed to know Burns, although the writer of his obituary in the Ayr Advertiser in 1842 stated that ‘he seems to have retained but very slight recollection of the Poet. The Miller thought he was eccentric, and ‘no that richt in the head.’

A photograph of Burns Cottage with the Innkeeper and prominent residents.
A photograph of Burns Cottage with the Innkeeper and prominent residents.

Following the death of Miller Goudie, the Inn and Cottage passed through the hands of several tenants over a short period of time. One of the tenants, Davidson Ritchie, was photographed here with some notable Alloway residents. However, the Cottage’s time as a public house was coming to an end as the Monument Trustees, with aid from the Earl of Stair, bought the Cottage in 1880. However, the roaring trade of sight seers to the Burns Head Inn has left its mark in the form of graffiti. If you have ever been to Burns Cottage you might have noticed the writing on the doors: initials, names, dates, all scrawled onto the wood. If you look even closer you will also find graffiti on some of the windows: all from historic visitors wanting to write messages to their favourite poet, or to show that they had been there.

Graffiti from the Cottage's time as a pub can still be found on windows and doors!
Graffiti from the Cottage’s time as a pub can still be found on windows and doors!

So come along to the Burns Head Inn this May 16th and while you’re toasting the Bard spare a thought for the infamous Miller Goudie!

For information and tickets for the event please click here!