John Muir F.S.A. (Scot.)

New Cumnock born John Muir was the editor of the first edition of the “Annual Burns Chronicle and Club Directory” which published on 1st January 1892. Although he only lived in the parish for a few years his story of growing up and working in the Ayrshire Coalfields before becoming a noted authority on Burns, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquarians and published author is worthy of inclusion in the history pages of New Cumnock.

Courtesy of Burns Chronicle No.1, January 1892

John Muir was the third John in a generation (that we know of) that had their roots in the Ayrshire coalfield beginning with his grandfather John Muir (I).

JOHN MUIR| The Family

I. John Muir and Mary Findlay

Children: Andrew (b.1833) , Hugh(I, b.1835), Hugh (II, b. 1837), Elizabeth(b.1839), JOHN (b.1841),  

John Muir (I) worked as a coal miner at Glenbuck in the parish of Muirkirk and it was here on the 8th July 1841 that his fifth child and fourth son John was born to his wife Mary Findlay. The family later settled at Portland Row, Hurlford in the parish of Riccarton where further siblings were born. Tragedy struck when John Muir passed leaving widow Mary with a family to bring up. She found work as seamstress while three sons still at home all worked as coal miners, including 10 year old John.

Mary later re-married widower James McGee and their combined families lived at Cadger’s Road, Hurlford. As a 19-year-old John Muir (II) was now working above ground as an engine-keeper.

II. John Muir and Agnes Janet Nisbet

Children: JOHN (b.1864), Elizabeth (b.1866), Mary (b.1869)

John Muir (II) moved to worked in the New Cumnock coalfield as an engine-keeper at the local pits, most probably those owned by the Bank Coal Company. The company was formed in 1860 by local landowner John Hyslop who lived in the grand Bank House, a mile or so south east of the village of New Cumnock.

On 28th August 1863 he returned to Hurlford to marry local girl 17-year-old Agnes Janet Nisbet (known as Janet), daughter of Thomas Nisbet, coal miner and Elizabeth Wilson. The couple were married by the Reverend William Reid, Free Church minister of the parish of Riccarton and settled at the Bank Cottages, New Cumnock. It was here almost a year later, on the 8th August 1864, that their son John Muir (III) was born.

By Permission of National Library of Scotland : Bank Cottages & Bank House
  • Ayrshire, Sheet XLII (includes: New Cumnock; Old Cumnock), 1860
Bank Glen in later years with cottages on the right (Courtesy of Mrs. Haddow)

Infant John’s time in New Cumnock however, was short-lived as the family relocated to Galston where his two siblings Elizabeth and Mary were born. Tragedy struck again when 5 year-old John’s father died at the family home in Titchfield Street, Galston on March 1870, aged 28 years old. (N.B. Death Certificate is recorded under the name John Mair).  Widow Janet and her three infant children moved round the corner to Standalane Street, Janet earning a living as a knitter.

John Muir would start his schooling at Galston that year and following the introduction of compulsory education two years later, in accordance with the Education Act Scotland (1872), he would require to attend until 1877 when he was 13 years old. Although against the law some children of school children were often

Ten years later, in March 1881, his mother Janet married widower John Garey, and together their families lived at Duke Street, Galston. Now 17 years old, John was working alongside his step-father in the local pits.

III. John Muir and Elizabeth Wilson

Children: Arthur (b. 1909), Jane (b.1912)

By the time of next census in April 1891 John Muir has left behind Ayrshire and the Ayrshire coalfield. He was working as a mercantile clerk and lived in Glasgow as a boarder at Abbotsford Place in the south side of the city.

Later that year John Muir was appointed acting editor of the newly founded Burns Chronicle under the auspices of the Burns Federation based at Kilmarnock. To fill such a post 36 year-old John had evidently developed a great interest and expertise in Robert Burns. The following year Muir took on the role of the acting manager and the year after that the Burns federation accepted his resignation from the Chronicle.  (See Section: JOHN MUIR | The Burns Chronicle).  Although the reasons for this decision are not clear Muir was entering a productive period of researching all things Burns and producing articles for publication in newspapers, magazines and books. (See section: JOHN MUIR|The Author and Journalist).

By 1895 John Muir, bookkeeper is living at 22 Albert Road, Cathcart and over the next decade lives at various addresses in Glasgow.

On 5th July 1905 John Muir, now 40 years old and living at 16 Queen’s Crescent, Cathcart, married 34 year old Elizabeth Young Wilson at Cathcart Parish Church. Elizabeth lived at 47 Albert Road, Cathcart and worked as a certificated nurse, possibly at the nearby Victoria Infirmary. She was the daughter of David Wilson, a lace maker at Newmilns in the Irvine Valley, and Jeanie Brown. Muir’s occupation recorded on the Marriage Certificate is given as “journalist”, while the Valuation Rolls of that year record his occupation as bookkeeper, reflecting the two key strands of Muir’s working life.

While living at Queen’s Crescent, the newly wed established and managed The Status Agency – ‘for the protection and development of British Trade at home and abroad‘.

In June 1909 the couple’s first child, Arthur, was born at Queen’s Crescent. On his Birth Certificate, John Muir’s occupation is recorded as Manager of Trade Protection Association, as it is in the 1911 Census, at which time the family are now living at 65 Clarkston Road, Cathcart. The following year a daughter, Jane was born in October at that address.

Muir’s business interests expanded and the Status Agency now operated from offices in St. Vincent Street in the heart of Glasgow. His son Arthur later followed in his father’s footsteps working as an agent for the company.

john_muir status agency
Courtesy of Daily Record, 1916

The company continued to expand and opened their North of Scotland branch in Aberdeen. On the appointment of a new manager there in 1927, the article in the Aberdeen Press and Journal –

“The managing director of Status Limited, Mr. John Muir, F.S.A. Scot., was the first editor of the ‘Burns Chronicle’, and is the author of various books on literary and business subjects. In addition he has largely conributed to the leading newspapers and magazines, including articles in the ‘Aberdeen Press and Journal'”.

On the 26th September 1933, John Muir passed away at his home in Glasgow, aged 68 years old. His widow Elizabeth lived there until she passed away in August, 1952 aged 81 years old.

John Muir’s obituary in the The Scotsman (28 Sep 1933) reads –


MR. John Muir F.S.A. Scot.

The death is announced at his residence 65, Clarkston Road, Glasgow of Mr. John Muir F.S.A. Scot., who was a well known figure in literary circles in Scotland. A native of New Cumnock where he born 69 years ago, he entered commercial life in Glasgow and even in his earl days he evinced a keen interest in literary affairs, specialising in Burns lore, on which he was a recognised authority. He was the first editor of the Burns Chronicle and was the author of a number of pamphlets and books dealing with the life of the poet as well as that of Carlyle. Mr. Muir took no part in public matters, but his services were in great request as a lecturer, his subjects being many and varied. He was a frequent contributor to the columns of The Scotsman. He is survived by a widow and a grown up family of one son and one daughter.

New Cumnock born John Muir may only have stayed in the parish for a few years of his infant life however it is hoped that these years and his family’s coal mining hertiage influenced his future love of Burns .  Coincidentally the year after Muir’s death the New Cumnock Burns Club  became the 500th club to be federated to Robert Burns World Federation. { See Footnote F1}

Courtesy Burns Chronicle: Second Series Volume X

JOHN MUIR | The Burns Chronicle

The Burns Federation had been officially formed six years earlier on July 1885 at a meeting in Kilmarnock.

Burns Federation | Glasgow Herald, 18th July 1885

A meeting of gentlemen connected with Burns Clubs was held in the George Hotel, Kilmarnock, yesterday for the purpose of appointing office-bearers and transacting other business in connection with the inauguration of a Federation of Burns Clubs throughout the world.

The minute of a preliminary meeting held in London was submitted which sets out the objects of the Federation

  • To strengthen and consolidate the bond of union and fellowship presently existing amongst the members of Burns Clubs by their universal affiliation.
  • That the funds of the federation be invested in the Executive Council for the purpose of acquiring and preserving holograph manuscripts and other interesting relics connected with the life and works of the poet and in such other manner as the council may determine.

The office-bearers elected that evening included President – Peter Sturrock, Provost of Kilmarnock and President of Kilmarnock Burns Club; Vice-President – Colin Rae Brown (President of London Burns Club) and Honorary Secretary – David Sneddon (former President of Kilmarnock Burns Club). The Executive Council was also established and included two members with New Cumnock connections. {See Footnotes: F2 & F3}

Forward to 1891 and at meeting in the George Hotel, Kilmarnock the aforementioned Office-Bearers, Sturrock, Rae-Brown & Sneddon were instrumental in progressing the case for an annual Burns Chronicle while the latter proposed John Muir of Glasgow be appointed the acting editor.

Burns Chronicle| The Irvine and Fullarton Times, September 11, 1891

A meeting of the Executive Council of the Burns Federation was convened in the George Hotel last Friday night by Mr. D. Sneddon, secretary, and presided over by ex-Provost Sturrock, late M.P. for the Kilmarnock Burghs. The annual report was read and approved of.

Mr. Colin Rae-Brown moved that the Federation should issue a yearly Burns Chronicle the first number of which to appear in January next, the volume to sold at one shilling and to contain:-

1st. Summary of the measures taken after the bard’s death to secure a provision for his family.
2nd. Summary of the proceedings which led to the erection of the Monument at Brig O’ Doon.
3rd. Summary of the proceedings at the 1844 welcome to the sons of Burns.
4th. Summary of the initiatory and other proceedings of the universal Centenary celebrations of 1859.
5th. An account of the organisation of the Burns Federation instituted 1885.
6th. An account of the proceedings at Kilmarnock at Centenary celebration of the First Edition of the Poems.
7th. Descriptive List of all the monuments erected to the memory of Burns.
8th. A Directory of Burns Clubs (as complete as possible) throughout the world.

Mr. Rae-Brown added – I think such a Chronicle an absolute necessity. When I recollect the enormous correspondence I had to initiate and carry on (1858) while organizing the Universal Celebration of the 1859 Centenary, it seems that one-tenth of such labour will be sufficient for organizing a like Demonstration in 1896 – provided the addresses of Burns Clubs over the world are gathered together beforehand in such a serial as I have proposed. Ex-Provost Sturrock seconded Mr. Rae-Brown’s proposal, which was carried unanimously.

On the motion of Mr. D. Sneddon, it was agreed that Mr. John Muir, Glasgow, be appointed acting editor of the proposed “Chronicle”, assisted by a consultative Council consisting Dr. William Findlay, Glasgow; Mr. D. McNaught, Kilmaurs; Mr. John Newlands, Kilmarnock; and Mr. Rae-Brown.

After some conversation , it was unanimously agreed that the first “Chronicle” should be issued in an octave magazine form, of such dimension as the editor and the cumulative Council may determine, full power being left to the editor and the Council to introduce any original literary matter or correspondence which may be considered worthy of publication.

Mr. D. Mackay moved that the following gentlemen be added to the Executive Council of the Federation:- Dr. Wm. Findlay, Mr. John Muir, Glasgow; Mr. Wm. Martin, Glasgow; Mr. J. Morrison, Greenock; and Mr. D. McNaught, Kilmaurs.

Letters from Professor Blackie, Dr. J. Hedderwick, Mr. Preceptor Wilson, Glasgow, Rev. D, Macrae, Dundee; Mr. A. Guthrie, Ardrossan; Mr. Robt. A. Ross, Bolton; and others highly approving of the proposed serial, were read by the secretary.

Dr. Findlay, President of the Kilmarnock Burns Club, intimated that his club intended to institute a children’s prize competition confined to the burgh and district, for the singing and reciting of Burns’ poems and songs.

Burns Chronicle| No.1 (January, 1892)

The scale of the undertaking had perhaps been underestimated and the publication was delayed. However, the 1st Annual Burns Chronicle and Club Directory carries the publication date of 25th January, Burns Day, 1892.

Courtesy of Burns Chronicle No. 1, January 1892

John Muir included an apology and an explanation for the delay, addressed from the offices of the publishers Messrs. D. Brown & Co. at 2 King Street, Kilmarnock.

Courtesy of Burns Chronicle No.1, 1892

As well as editing the Burns Chronicle John Muir contributed considerable articles on the life of Burns. His contribution may have gone unnoticed but for the footnote.

editors statement
Courtesy of Burns Chronicle No.1 1892

Burns Chronicle| No.2 (January, 1893)

John Muir’s role of acting editor lasted only for the inaugural issue of the Burns Chronicle. Taking up the role was Duncan McNaught, a school teacher at Kilmaurs by profession, and a found member of the Burns Federation and a member of the consultative committee of the 1st Annual Burns Chronicle. John Cairney, the celebrated Scots actor and noted Burns enthusiast, writes in his “Immortal Memories” –

Mr. Muir was editor for the inaugural issue only, after which the indefatigable Duncan McNaught took over what was to be his life’s work. According to McNaught:

The No. 1 Chronicle was a dead failure in every respect, and I was hustled (much against my will) into the Editorial chair with something like a debt of one hundred pound to wipe off.”

John Muir, however, still had a significant role to play as Acting Manager of the 2nd Annual Burns Chronicle.

Courtesy of Burns Chronicle No.2, 1893

McNaught explained the thinking behind these changes in the Preface to the 2nd Annual Chronicle –

“The experiences of the first issue convinced the Executive of the Federation that some division of labour was necessary in the editorial department. It is hoped the new arrangement will further aid in securing for the CHRONICLE a permanent footing of Burnsiana Repository and Literary Annual of the limited pretensions which the title indicates.”

John Muir made a significant contribution to this edition of the Chronicle including a “Bibliography of Robert Burns (1786-1893)” that filled some 30 pages of the latest edition.  Here Muir acknowledges that “the compiler has taken Mr. Gibson’s Bibliography for a basis” – a reference Andrew Gibson a prolific collector of Burns works and a fellow New Cumnockian.{ See Footnote F4} .

Tbe bibliography includes a reference to the work, “ROBERT BURNS: Vybor z Pisni a Ballad. Prelozil’, Jos. V. Sladek [1892] which is described as –

a rendering of Burns into Cech (the language of Bohemia); the first Slavonic language into which the work Burns have been translated.  The translator is Professor Sladek, the Bohemian lyrical poet. Mr Sladek’s last work, “Ceske Pisne” (National Lyrics), is ‘Dedicated to John Muir, the Pioneer of Bohemia’s cause in Scotland‘”.

Two years later, Professor Josef Vaclav Sladek’s dedicated one of his principal books of poetry, Jisne pisne (Other Songs) to John Muir, addressing him as “the champion of the Czech cause in Scotland”. [The Reception of Robert Burns in Europe, Editor Murray Pittock].

The Chronicle also gave notice of a forthcoming work by Ulisse Ortensi a “First attempted Translation of Burns into Italian” which included a “Biographical and Bibliographical Introduction’ by John Muir. Ortensi was a “translator of many English-language authors and tireless champion of English literature” [Reception of Burns in Europe]. Muir had also acknowledged the contribution of “our friend Signor Ulisse Ortensi” for the Burnsiana Italiana contribution the Chronicle’s bibliography.

john muir italian
Courtesy of Burns Chronicle No. 2, January 1893

Also included in the bibliography was a reference to John Muir’s article on “Burns and the Deil” published in the North British Daily Mail, Tuesday 27th December 1892, a newspaper which would later be incorporated into the Daily Record.

John Muir was also a keen collector of Burnsiana and the Chronicle included an article on an Interesting Burns Relic that Mrs. Hutchinson, daughter of Colonel James Glencairn Burns, the third son of Robert Burns had presented to him.  The relic in question was a tumbler owned by Burns which was engraved with the Poet’s Seal and an inscription; enclosed in a handsome oak case. The article also included a copy of the Mrs. Hutchinson’s correspondence with John Muir, dated Cheltenham July 6th, 1892 (See Burns at Galston and Ecclefechan below)

It may have been through further correspondence with Mrs. Hutchinson that Muir became aware of the misfortune of Mr. Robert Burns Hutchinson residing in Chicago and the last male descendant of the Bard, other than his new born son.  “On returning home from business one night “he was attacked by footpads, robbed of his watch, money, and some of his wearing apparel, brutally maltreated, and thrown into a hole and left for dead.” Muir shared the sorry tale with newspapers throughout Britain and Ireland ending with a plea “I was in hopes that some of our influential countrymen in America would feel interested in this gentleman and take a pleasure in furthering his interests“. [Aberdeen Evening Express, Monday 18th July 1892]. Although Robert Burns Hutchison survived the attack and lived into his late 80’s, his infant son died the following year.

Burns Chronicle|No.3 (January, 1894)

The Chronicle gave a brief summary of the annual meeting of the Burns Federation at Kilmarnock in the 19th September 1893 where it was reported that resignation of Mr John Muir, the late manager and editor of the Burns Chronicle and Club Directory had been unanimously accepted.  Furthermore Duncan McNaught, Editor informed readers that Mr. John Muir “has now no connection with the Burns Chronicle“.

Courtesy of Burns Chronicle No. 3, January 1894

The bibliography included the aforementioned “First attempted Translation of Burns into Italian” –

POESIE DI ROBERTO BURNS. Prima Versione Italiana, di ULISSE ORTEKSI, Vice Bibliotecario Reggente della Biblioteca Governativa di Cremona. Parte Prima. [sm. 8vo in fours] Modena: E. SARASINO. 1893.

JOHN MUIR|The Author, Journalist & Speaker

John Muir’s resignation as acting manager of the Burns Chronicle allowed him to focus his free time, away from the day job, on researching all things Burns and presenting his findings in books, periodicals and newspapers or all three. In 1904 he was made a Fellow of the Society of the Antiquarians of Scotland and thereafter John Muir F.S.A. (Scot).


Burnsiana was promoted “as a Collection of Literary Odds and Ends relating to ROBERT BURNS” and edited by John Dawson Ross (1853-1939). Volume 1 was issued in January 1892, the same year as the Burns Chronicle, however unlike the Chronicle it run only for 6 volumes.

Courtesy of Burns Chronicle No. 1, 1892

John Muir was a regular contributor to Burnsiana and Ross recognised this through dedicating Volume 5 (1896) to the Ayrshireman.

Courtesy Internet Archive

In that volume alone Muir contributed five articles associated with the Bard.

    • Anecdotes of Carlyle and Burns.
    • The Elder Disraeli on Burns.
    • Burnsiana Notes
    • The Raeburn Portraits of Burns.
    • Miers’ Shade of Burns

Periodical|The Scots Magazine

John Muir had a number of articles published in the popular Scots Magazine including a number associated with Robert Burns including “Burns in French” (01 Oct 1893) and “Burns in German” (01 Feb 1894).

Courtesy of The Scots Magazine

In the January 1896 edition Muir provides notes on the contents “The Polyhymnia” which he describes as ‘a biographical rarity’, printed and sold for John Murdoch, bookseller and stationer, Trongate, Glasgow. Muir identifies the most interesting item ‘to us, indeed, and to the majority of our readers” as No. 18 entitled “The Bonnie Lass of Ballochmyle by Robert Burns (never before published)”.

Other contributions by John Muir  to The Scots Magazine included “Ayrshire Nights’ Entertainments:  A Review” (01 May 1894) , a review of John Macintosh’s “Ayrshire Nights’ Entertainments: a Descriptive Guide to the Tradition, History and Antiquities, etc, of the County of Ayr.” and  “Dante and Beatrice: A Medieval Love Episode” (01 Mar 1896) the subject of a lecture delivered by Muir in Glasgow.

However, perhaps his most celebrated article in the Scots Magazine was entitled “Thomas Carlyle’s Apprenticeship” (01 Nov 1893) which considered the early works of Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) the renowned Scots historian, writer & essayist etc and author of an “Essay on Burns” (1854).  Muir explains his motivation – “I was first led into the subject of Carlyle’s early life and writings while collecting for my edition of his essay on Burns”.  A limited edition of a brochure was produced by Mr. Robert MacClure, Glasgow.

Book|Thomas Carlyle’s Apprenticeship

In 1971 Haskell House Publishers, ‘Publishers of Scarce Scholarly Books‘, of New York reprinted one hundred copies of the work, which included a facsimile of Muir’s signature.

Courtesy of Haskell House Publishers

Other Muir contributions to The Scots Magazine included “Ayrshire Nights’ Entertainments:  A Review” (01 May 1894) , a review of John Macintosh’s “Ayrshire Nights’ Entertaiments: a Descriptive Guide to the Tradition,History and Antiquities, etc, of the County of Ayr.” and  “Dante and Beatrice: A Medieval Love Episode” (01 Mar 1896) the subject of a lecture delivered by Muir in Glasgow.


Muir’s essay “Carlyle on Burns” (1895) was first published in the Aberdeen based monthly magazine Caledonia (Feb 1895, No. 2).

Courtesy of Aberdeen University

Periodical|The Celtic Monthly

In the same month John Muir’s article “The Jacobite Minstrelsy of Burns” appeared in the Glasgow based, The Celtic Monthly (Jan & Feb 1895, Vol. 3).  In the March issue that year Muir’s paper was the historically based “Sketches of Irvineside”, tales  gathered, no doubt, while growing up in the Irvine valley.

Internet Archive / Example of Front Page

Book| Burns at Galston and Ecclefechan

In 1896 John Muir F.S.A. Scot. marked the centenary of the death of Robert Burns with the printing and publication of his work “Burns at Galston and Ecclefechan” (1896). Two places close to Muir’s heart – Galston in the Irvine Valley where lived and worked from his late teens before settling in Glasgow and Ecclefechan, the birthplace of Thomas Carlyle, the subject of much of his research.

Left: Courtesy Internet Archive/ Library Congress Right: British Newspaper Archive

In the preface John Muir explains –

The article on Burns at Ecclefechan is reprinted, with slight alterations, from the pages of a Scottish Magazine, revised and enlarged from a short paper under that title which appeared in the People’s Friend. The other Article, on the poet’s connection with Galston, is here printed for the first time.

John Muir, 14 Apsley Place, Glasgow, 25th January 1896.

Within the article on “Burns at Galston”, Muir makes reference to the abovementioned inscribed tumbler once owned by the Bard and presented to the author by Burns’ descendant Mrs. Hutchinson supported with a photograph of said object. Muir also loaned the tumbler to the be shown at the Burns Exhibition at the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts from 15th July – 31st October 1896.

Courtesy Internet Archive/ Library Congress

Muir concluded his piece on Galston with hopes of a Burns revival in the parish

Although there is no Burns Club in Galston, the inhabitants are not altogether without due appreciation of the poet’s merits, and the glory reflected on the district by the splendour of his genius. At the Birth-Centenary in 1859, three different celebrations of the event were held in Galston; and perhaps at the forthcoming Centenary, on 21st July, the number may be doubled.

The article on Ecclefechan, birthplace of Thomas Carlyle includes an illustration of Burns visiting the Dumfriesshire village. Muir relates that Carlyle’s eldest son John (born the year before Burns) ‘chanced on one of Burns’s visits to Ecclefechan to see the subject of his eldest son’s future essay and lecture”.

Courtesy Internet Archive/ Library Congress

Book|Carlyle on Burns

In 1897 John Muir’s “Carlyle on Burns”, originally published in Caledonia (1895), was published in book form by printers Messrs William Hodge & Co. , Glasgow .

Messrs William Hodge & Co. publish in handsome form a little work entitled Carlyle on Burns, by Mr. John Muir. With praiseworthy diligence and enthusiasm. Mr. Muir has brought together all the sage’s less known utterances about our great Scottish poet, and the rest in to show that Carlyle was a much more fervent admirer of Burns than the ordinary reader might suppose. The famous essay, of course, we all know; but the force and value of it to Burns students are enhanced when, as here, it is illustrated by an exhaustive study of all that Carlyle elsewhere spoke and wrote on the same subject. The most noteworthy feature of the little book, however, is its inclusion of a short review (published in 1840) of Heintze’s German translation of Burns, which has hitherto escaped the notice of Carlyle’s biographers and bibliographers alike. For this, if for nothing else Mr Muir’s latest contribution to the vast mass of Burns literature deserves a welcome.

The Glasgow Herald, Thursday, December 30, 1897.

N.B. Muir’s address in the preface is given as 22 Albert Drive, Crosshill, however this possibly should have read 22 Albert Road, Crosshill, since in the Glasgow Valuation Rolls of 1895 “ John Muir, bookkeeper” is a tenant there; and Albert Drive is in Pollokshields not Crosshill.

Two years later John Muir penned an article for the Glasgow Evening News entitled “Carlyle on Burns: An After Dinner Speech”, a speech given by Thomas Carlyle at a dinner held for Alan Cunningham at Dumfries in 1831. Cunningham was a poet, songwriter, journalist and editor and some years later he would compile the “Complete Works of Robert Burns“.  Muir uncovered the report on the speech in the Dumfries and Galloway Courier, 26 July 1831.

The Northern Whig, August 24, 1899

It began …

Let us know, recall from afar, the feelings connected with the dust of Burns, and fancy with what honourable pride the lamented bard would have held out the right hand of fellowship to our honoured guest!

and concluded

Alas!  that we can only reflect, while we are thus celebrating Allan Cunningham’s worth, that Burns was never so honoured while in life. Mr. Carlyle then begged that the memory of Robert Burns should be drunk in silence, as much might be thought that could not be uttered. The toast was drank standing, and in silence.


John Muir was a regular contributor to newspapers including a series of articles on Burns Library in the Aberdeen Press and Journal and the following series on “Sketches and Vignettes”.  The first in this series included an ‘appreciative sketch’ of Mr. Muir’ beginning with “He was born at Bank Cottage, New Cumnock, six and thirty years ago, and received his education at Galston“. It then details his literary achievements before concluding with –

‘Altogether, indeed, his has been a life of hard, daily business toils, relieved by nights spent, amongst his beloved pictures, books, curios and Burns relics’


John Muir was often invited to speak on Burns at a variety of Societies including the following two examples to a Burns Club and the Carlyle Society

Kilsyth| 1924

One example was his visit in January 1924 to talk to the members and friends of the Kilsyth Masonic Burns Club on “One Hour in Burns’ Library”.

“Mr Muir in a pithy and educative manner, shed a new light on the character of our great National Bard, which was an education in itself, giving a most excellent treatise on the various books the poet had in his library and the authors he favoured from his schooldays onwards. Those present enjoyed a literary treat. Mr. Muir was given a most cordial vote of thanks on the call of Mr. D..Stewart, president.”

The Kirkintilloch Gazette 18th January, 1924

Two years later the Gazette (24th Feb 1926) reported that the Kilstyh Masonic Burns Club, following the Burns Federation’s recommendation “for the preservation of the vernacular and with a view to creating an interest in the poems and songs of Scotland’s National Bard among the younger generation” arranged singing and reciting competitions for school children.

The selected song for the senior boys and girls was “Afton Water” with top girl Cathie Marion scoring 98 marks and top boy Alexander Miller scored 85 make. While “To a Haggis” was the selected poem for the reciting competition. Top boy Alexander Stevenson scored 70 marks and top girl Jessie Lonsdale scored 99 remarks. This remarkable score earned Jessie the “Muir Medallion”, valued at £10 and was presented by John Muir, Esq. F.S.A. (Scot.)

Edinburgh| 1930

In 1929 John Muir joined the recently formed Carlyle Society and the following years have a lecture to the society on “Carlyle and Burns” in the Heriot-Watt College, Chambers Street, Edinburgh.

Carlyle’s interest in Burns, said Mr. Muir, is largely in the man. His writings on Burns may be grouped in three divisions:- (1) His ‘Essay on Burns’; (2) his lecture on the ‘Hero as Man of Letters’ and (3) the miscellaneous remarks on Burns scattered throughout his writings.”

The Scotsman Thursday, April 24, 1930

Following John Muir’s death in September 1933, W, Marwick a friend of his of forty years and a fellow member of the Carlyle Society recalled the lecture in his tribute to his memory.

“The sudden death of John Muir, the well-known authority on Burns will be greatly regretted by all who knew him. It is a pity he never collected and published in book form his newspaper articles on Burns, on which he was a recognised authority. It is to be hoped this will be done by some competent person.”

The Scotsman, Saturday September 30, 1933





(F1) Provost Sturrock was the husband of Helen Hutchison Guthrie the sister of Christina Guthrie, Lady Oranmore who acquired the lands of Dalleagles and Polquhirter in the parish of New Cumnock in 1855, Lady Oranmore is remembered in the parish particularly for the improvements to Dalleagles School.

(F2) Members of the Executive Committee included two New Cumnock connections. (2a) Robert Samson Ingram, Kilmarnock: an architect who was involved in the building of New Cumnock Public School (1875) while his late father James Ingram was architect of New Cumnock Parish Church (1833). (2b) John Hunter, Burnfoot, Dalmellington:  one of the founder members of the Lanemark Coal Company (1865-1909) in the parish of New Cumnock.

{F1} Two other Burns Clubs in New Cumnock were federated prior to the New Cumnock Burns Club.

  • No: 333 – New Cumnock Anglers’ Glen Afton Burns Club: federated 1925; Secretary, Thomas Walker, 42 South-Western Road, Craigbank, New Cumnock. (N.B. It was no longer one of the recorded federated clubs in the 1931 Burns Chronicle)
  • No: 460 – New Cumnock Jolly Beggars Burns Club: Secretary, Stewart Clark, Craigard, New Cumnock. (N.B. it was no longer one of the recorded federated clubs in the 1935 Burns Chronicle)

{F2} Provost Sturrock was the husband of Helen Hutchison Guthrie the sister of Christina Guthrie, Lady Oranmore who acquired the lands of Dalleagles and Polquhirter in the parish of New Cumnock in 1855, Lady Oranmore is remembered in the parish particularly for the improvements to Dalleagles School.

{F3} Members of the Executive Committee included two New Cumnock connections.

  • (3a) Robert Samson Ingram, Kilmarnock: an architect who was involved in the building of New Cumnock Public School (1875) while his late father James Ingram was architect of New Cumnock Parish Church (1833).
  • (3b) John Hunter, Burnfoot, Dalmellington:  one of the founder members of the Lanemark Coal Company (1865-1909) in the parish of New Cumnock.

{F4} Andrew Gibson was born in New Cumnock on 23rd December 1841, probably at Merkland farm overlooking the River Nith. He later became  the Governor of the Belfast Library and Society for Promoting Knowledge, colloquially as the Linen Hall Library. In fact in 1901 he was been responsible for providing the library with a collection of works by and on Robert Burns that was unrivalled in the world. See New Cumnock Burns Trail 

Robert Guthrie,

15th April 2020.