Harry Furniss.

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when you reach the summit of the town,
which is revered as the burial-place of Robert
Burns, you can but acknowledge that it is
well worthy of its poetic name, and a fitting
place to contain the shrine of Scotland's
greatest poet. Stratford-on-Avon is not more
sacred to the memory of the immortal
Shakespeare than is Dumfries to the memory
of Burns. You find his portraits in every
room, little busts on every mantelpiece, and
relics and memorials of him at every turn.
Burns, it would seem, had a special penchant
for writing upon window-panes, and, perhaps,
if he had lived in more recent years, some of
his sparks of genius would have been scratched
on the railway carriage windows, and hero
worshippers would have had the extra satis-
faction of going and coming to and from
Dumfries in a "Burns saloon carriage." In
the ante-railway period, when coaching estab-
lishments were the temporary home of the

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traveller, he inscribed the following verse,
which is still shown, ypon one of the windows
of the King s Arms Hotel in Dumfries :

** Ye men of wit and wealth, why all this sneering
'Gainst poor excisemen ? Give the cause a hearing.
What are your landlord's rent-rolls ? Taxing ledgers.
What premiers, what even monarch's mighty gaugers ?
Nay,what are priests, those seeming godly wise men?
What are they, pray, but spiritual excisemen ? "

He also ornamented two panes in another
hostelry with these two effusions :

" O, lovely Polly Stewart,
O, charming Polly Stewart,
There's not a flower that blooms in May
That's half as fair as thou art."

And an altered rendering of a well-known song:

" Gin a body meet a body,
Coming through the grain ;
Gin a body kiss a body,
The thing's a body's ain."

Again I must perforce fall foul of the
artistic monstrosities that are ejected to great
men. Here in the centre of the town of
Dumfries the people have erected a statue,
which my sketch is sufficient to show is rather

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ridiculous. Even if there is any truth in the

saying that the great bard of Scotland went

to the dogs, it wasn't at all nice of the sculptor

to make this fact so plain to the inhabitants of

the town where his

memory is so revered,

as to depict his right

foot as being the first

part of him to go.

The statue is

fashioned out of the

hardest of Carrara

marble; and I am

inclined to say of it

what a critic said

of an artist's work

before which he was

shuddering : " The

worst of it is," he

said, *' that it is

painted in permanent

colors ! "

At the time I visited Dumfries there were
two markets being held — one for cattle and
the other for human beings. This latter was
a peculiar assemblage of curious-looking
rustics, both male and female, who were

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being interrogated and bargained for by their
prospective employers ; and the farmer who
had disposed of his cow in one market, only
had to proceed to the other to engage his
laborers. On the fringe of the crowd I
noticed a smart-looking cavalry man. who
was evidently doing
his utmost to induce
some of these toilers
of the field to lay
down the shovel and
take up the sword.
Some of the types
were as extravagant
as any you would
find in the West of
Ireland. The market
is attended by huck-
sters, cheap delf
merchants, broom -
sellers, and fish sales-
men ; arid one of
these gentlemen,

who was crowned with an enormous fur cap,
seemed to me to resemble a Russian peasant
a great deal more than a canny Scot. Then
a woman passed me with a wretched baby

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in her arms, and holding her hand and

toddling along by her side was a diminutive

and ludicrous-
looking boy,
who, with a hat
the size of a
tea-tray, resem-
bled nothing
more than a
large mushroom.
I stepped into
a stationer's
shop close by to
make a small
purchase, when
^ a fine old man,
0> aged, hearty,

and genteel, came in. " Bless me ! " he said ;

" bless me ! It makes

me ill to see all this

rubbish about.

Rubbish, I call it ;

rubbish ! Ah, when

I was a boy they had

none of this non-
sense ! '*

I turned round to

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see what was the cause of this ebullition,
which turned out to be a counter thickly
littered with Christmas cards. The old gen-
tleman caught my eye, and said :

** Ah ! that gentleman is laughing at me;
but I am old-fashioned, and can't stand these
new-fangled ideas."

He was an ex-Member of Parliament, and
would have made a fine subject for me ; so I
was furtively feeling for my pencil, when some-
one told him who I was, so he quickly de-
parted; but I managed to make a hurried
sketch of him as he left the shop.

While perambulating the streets of Dum-
fries, I narrowly eyed each member of the
predominating sex to see if they bore any
outward and visible
reason for their numeri-
cal advantage, but I
failed to notice any-
thing to account for it
until I saw the face I
show in my sketch, .
which luckily was on
the inner side of a -

window pane, and which, I think, must have
accounted for the disappearance of a large

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proportion of the male population of Dum-

My time of departure had nearly arrived
when I suddenly discovered that I was about
to leave Dumfries without having seen the
famous representation of Old Mortality and
his pony ; so, being a student of Art as well as
of Nature, I hired a conveyance, rushed madly
through the town, over the bridge, up to
Observatory, when, jumping out, I darted up
the garden and made the sketch which I show

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here, the while my companion was hurriedly
'* takkin notes *' of the curiosities around.
Burns termed the miscellaneous collection
inside the building a *' fouth o' auld knick-
knackets/' but those outside are rather too
cumbersome to be classed under this head,
consisting mainly as they do of a pile in one
corner of the garden of old stones of all
shapes and sizes — round, oblong, semicircular,
and triangular, some of them ornamented with
primitive designs. These, with an old horse
skull, a fountain, a flagstaff, and a cannon,
comprise the entire ornamentation of the

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My dear M.y

Since writing you last we have been to
Haivick — old-fashioned hotels old-fashioned hally old-
fashioned audience^ and good old-fashioned Scotch
weather. Even Booth seems to have a difficulty in
manning his citadel ; for between the parts of my en-
tertainment we attended a Salvation Army meeting —
if looking through a side-door into an adjoining hall
can be called attending a meeting — and we saw there
half-a-dozen Scotch lasses^ two men and a boy, not pro-
vided, as might have been expected, with bagpipes, but
with instruments of a more vulgar type in vogue in the
A rmy. Profanity — and there is plenty of it at Salva-
tion Army meetings — may shock one when spoken in
English, but the Saxon cannot help letting his risibil-
ity get the better of him when the said profanity is
uttered in strong Gaelic accents. . . .

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. • • Dumfries^ ivhere we next stopped^ besides
suffering from a chronic complaint — I mean the Burns
fever — is^ like Dundee^ victimized by the influenza
fiend. This necessitated more, snuffs which, by the
way, is the worst thing, for anyone who has to speak
for any time to take, as it affects the throat; but my
moderate quantum snuff — I mean suff. — did not affect
me to any great extent, beyond causing me to acquire
a sort of incipient Scotch burr, which my audience
took as a compliment to them. . . .

. . . Our next move was Kilmarnock, and the hotel
we stopped at
there was the
best of the old-
fashioned sort
we had yet
encountered in
Scotland. I
sent you some
of the famous
whiskey from
there. A better

draught is not to be had anywhere, but a worse draught
than I zvas in on the stage can hardly be conceived.
It was a small cyclone. Fortunately at either side of

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the stage there was an alcove sheltered from the N£.
wind, which came whistling down from the flies. I
delivered a part of my entertainment from one alcove,
and then turning up my coat collar I would scuttle
across to the other and get through another instal-
ment ; so that I must have looked like one of these
old-fashioned figures in the weather-tellers, which
advance a?td retreat according to tlie changes in the


. . . We have also been to Paisley and Greenock,
winding up at the latter place on Saturday night.
The Professor spent his day there at the Courts, and
unburdened himself to us of a vivid description of the
case of some unfortunate circus performer who had
murdered his sweetheart. By the way, I discovered
some MS. of the Professor's in cipher the other day.
I was beginning to suspect him of being a contributor
to the ^^ Jail-bird Gazette,'' or else that he is going in
for a competition in " Startling Bits'' . . .

Yours, &c.,

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More of the Burns Epidemic— Relics of Tarn 0*Shanter and
Souter Johnny— The Burns Country—-*-* The Auld Brig o'
Doon"— The Esplanade— An ** Ayr -gun "—The Legend
of the ** Twa Brigs " — No Romance Nowadays.

HE old town of Ayr, or,
as Burns more familiarly
describes it, —

** Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a
town surpasses.
For honest men and bonnie

is associated with two
things, sport and song. In
the summer time, pilgrim
worshippers of the immor-
tal Burns overrun the
historic place ; the lightly-
clad Yankee tourist, that
most enthusiastic devotee
of everything that is ancient in the mother
country, the Southern cheap tripper, the
Midland manufacturer, with an occasional
rata avis from the Continent, wend their way,

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open-pursed and open-mouthed, to visit the
birthplace of Robert Burns, and those scenes
the immortalization of which have given the
poet such a prominent niche in Scotland's
temple of fame. For twopence they can stand
awe-stricken in " tke cottage," the hallowed
spot where Burns first saw the light, now the
sanctum sanctorum of his spiritual existence.
In this humble abode everything Burnsian is
concentrated. You are surrounded by Burns
portraits and manuscripts, and can feast your
eyes with the identical, or supposed to be
identical, chairs which supported in the Tam
o' Shanter Inn the historic forms of Souter
Johnny and the redoubtable Tam himself.
The shade of this worthy also pervades
Alloway Kirk, past which Tam and his gray
mare were wending their homeward way when
the unwonted illumination drew him to become
a witness of the witches' dance, that fearsome
orgie which Burns has so powerfully described
in verse. The Burns Monument, close to the
Kirk, is open for your inspection on payment
of the inevitable twopence. Here again there
is another strong muster of Burns relics, and
if you are smitten very badly with the Burns
fever, you can, without any extra disbursement,

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ascend the stairs and gaze enraptured at the
surrounding scenery, popularly known, it is
hardly necessary to say, as "the. Burns
country/' The *'Auld Brig o' Doon,'' and
the stone presentments of Tarn o' Shanter and
Souter Johnny still claim your attention before
you return to the town itself, when, if you are
a well-regulated tourist, your antiquarian ap-
petite ought to be thoroughly satiated.

In winter " the horn of the hunter is heard
on the hill," and over the ** twa brigs o' Ayr"
pass the huntsmen with their eager-mouthed
pack, for Ayr is one of the centres of the

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native sportsman, though I was informed that
the seductions of the Leicestershire hunts were
drawing a good many devotees of the sport
away. Ayr is known as the Brighton of Scot-
land, and I suppose that in the summer season
the visitors throng the '* twa brigs o' Ayr," and
promenade up and down the Esplanade, but
at this period of the year the Esplanade is
anything but an enticing spot Instead of
having bright, handsome shops facing the sea,
the buildings seemed to have turned their
backs on the waters of the Firth of Clyde and
long vistas of bare, uninteresting walls meet
the view, in strong contrast to the watering-
places on our South Coast. In the centre
stands the prison, grim and forbidding of
aspect, with its iron-barred windows, and en-
circled by a high wall. On the other side of
this is Wellington Square, in which stand the
statues of two gentlemen of note, the late Earl
of Eglinton and General Neil, who was killed
at the relief of Lucknow.

I made my visit during the recent storms,
and with tightly buttoned ulster and hat firmly
jammed down on my head, I braved the
elements and took a walk along, or more
correctly speaking, was blown along, the sea

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front. Crack ! crack ! crack ! like a fusillade
of toy pistols, went the seaweed with which
the parade was thickly strewn, under my feet
I thought at first that I was the only living

being on the Esplanade on this inclement
morning, but at last I met one native, a robust
lady, taking her constitutional and battling
with the wind ; a few dishevelled dogs were
being blown off their legs ; and at the end
toward the harbor were congregated a little
knot of hardy-looking, weather-beaten fisher-

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men, discussing the thrilling accounts of the
numerous recent shipwrecks. Here were two


^ /v

or three guns of an obsolete type, useless as
weapons of offence or defence, and not exactly
what might have been termed ornamental ; and

I suppose that
during the
season the
Cockney tour-
ist, if that
ubiquitou s
being penetrates so far from his beloved

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Metropolis, sees his opportunity for a little
joke, and says to one of the sailors, ** I sup-
pose this is wot you call an Ayr-gun ? '*

In my sketch of Ayr I show the ** twa
brigs " previously referred to, the old and the
modern. The old bridge is a picturesque and
venerable pile, and there is a romance in every
stone. The legend dates back over six hun-
dred years, and the story is neatly told as
follows by Mr. William Robertson :

** On the right-hand side — the upper side
of the bridge — is a date, 1252, and close by,
all that remains of what were once two heads.
The disintegrating influence of time and
weather have almost obliterated these heads,
and it requires a strong effort of the imagina-
tion to picture them the presentment of thq
faces of two fair ladies, who are said to have
erected the bridge at their own expense. These
ladies were lovers who were not only faithful,
but practical. They were betrothed to knights
of the olden time. As knights in these days
were in the habit of doing, they went forth
somewhere to fight. Returning to keep tryst
with their sweethearts, they came to the river.
It was rolling in torrent — and the river Ayr
can roll in torrent when the winter rains are

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out — but the cavaliers pushed their horses
into the flood, and disappeared. The ladies
wept: but when they had dried their tears
they built the bridge ; and it must have been
satisfactory to them to feel that they had
rendered the courtship of the period less

dangerous in wet weather as a recreation than
it had been previously. I am not quite sure
about that date, 1252 ; but this much is cer-
tain, that the Old Bridge was there when
Columbus set out to look for America."

I stood on the bridge at midday, and
thought of these two fair ladies ; and I was
picturing to myself the scene — which must

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appeal to every artist (shall I say in water-
colors ?) — of the poor maids weeping copiously
and bitterly, and their two knights being
swept away, horses and all, when at that
moment two young beauties of Ayr, comfort-
ably wrapped up in their ulsters, walked
briskly over the bridge, laughing at a knight
of the road on wheels who was feebly en-
deavoring to struggle over the bridge against
a tremendous head wind and rain coming
down in torrents. This little incident sug-
gested to me that there is very little romance
in these present practical days, even in the
charming, quaint, old-fashioned town of Ayr.

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My dear Jf.,

Please send up a hamper — some portable
soup, a lobster or two,
and some tinned meat
will do— for we are
on the verge of starva-
tion ; and you might
also send up a waiter
with them — not a
dumb one, but one
for active service* Th
imbecile who does duty
ter here may have be
veteran in the days of
helm II., in the comm
he is not much use in hi
pacity on the first floor
I suppose he was placet
count of the duties belt

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I have heard of people living on air^ but I never ex-
pected that I should have to do so in Ayr. Queer
coincidence. It was very lucky the advance booking
was large ^ for there has been a regular storm all the
time we have been here. It has nearly blown us out
of our room in the hotel ; in facty Mac had to put
weights on me when I turned into bedy in case a cyclone
took me up the chimney. The same storm must Irnve
blown everything out of the larder^ for we have ex-
perienced the greatest diffi^culty in getting the where-
withal to satisfy our appetites. Our principal article of
diet was a statue of Burns — another one I — on which
we feasted our eyes from the hotel window.

After my show we rushed in as hungry as hunters ;
but a great deal of bell-ringing was only productive
of an attenuated and diminutive bird, which we put
down to be a sparrow, but the superannuated individ-
ual before mentioned gravely assured us it was a fowl.
He seemed quite surprised when, after disposing of
this miserable biped in two mouthfuls, we told him
that we were still ravenous and wanted something to
eat ; however, he brought us two poached eggs on toast,
from the size of which we firmly believed they must
have been laid by the sparrow we had just demolished.
They didn^t go very far, but all our entreaties and
supplications were only rewarded by two more eggs
like the previous ones. That sparrow can't have been
a very prolific bird /

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The hurricane that had been raging outside was
nothing to that which prevailed in the hotel when I
went down to pay my bill ; even the barometer on the
stairs immediately pointed to " Very Stormy'' when it
saw me coming.

The hotel was first rate as far as upholstery and

Ziffle rrc T„i>*it^ but you can't
Turkey carpet
aulic lift. . . .
. . . I had
been looking for-
ward to having
ne golf on the
nous Prestwich
ks near her e^but
Clerk of the
mther was evi-
ttly not in favor
the arrange-
nty and put his
o on it. I had
rame a week or
ago on the links
at Troon, which adjoin those of Prestwich ; but on
that occasion I travelled down from Glasgow. Even
then there was a perfect hurricane of windy which
blew the tee into the air before you could strike the
ball off it y and frequently my hat had a race in mid-

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air with my golf ball, I am anticipating with pleas-
ure a return visit to this quaint old town^ and I hope
tlu elements will permit of my seeing mx>re of it^ as
this time there is too much wind even for the aerial
performance of paying a flying visit to Ayr^ the coun-
try of hunting and golf. . . .

. . . On one of the twa brigs we encountered the
Professor^ whoy regardless of the inclement weather,
had come to gloat over the scene of the legend of the
two knights and tlie two fair ladies. We said to
him : " We suppose you are thinking that the rocks
up against which the two knights were dashed by the
stream were sharper in those days than they are
now?^^ He shook his head as he replied : ^^ No, I
dorit think much of that legend; those girls ought cer-
tainly to have thrown themselves in after their lov-
ers ! " and with a profound sigh at the incompleteness
of the story y he bent his head to the gale and walked
away. The howling wind and the blinding rain com-
bined to give the Professor an even more gruesome
aspect than usual, enveloped in an enormous mackin-
tosh as he was — a mackintosh which would, as he said
himself " make a splendid shroud for any average-
sized man / " . . .

YourSf etc.^

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Old Mancunium — Smoke and Shekels — Musical Manchester
—Oh ! those Lorries !— A Typical Picture of the City —
More Statues — One that was left of them.

Those artistically inclined, who visited the
exhibition in Manchester five years ago, and
strolled through the representation of Old
Manchester, must have felt sorry indeed that
a transformation had ever been effected in the
appearance of the town, for the Manchester
of to-day is hardly the most picturesque of
cities. Of course, as in Old London, which
was represented previously in the Exhibition
at Kensington, all the tit-bits of the picturesque
past were collected together, and formed into
one charming street. In the old days one
would have had to look through a great deal
of crude ugliness to find the artistic, so to-day
it may be possible to trudge through the wet,
foggy, dull, uninteresting miles of Manchester
and pick out a nook and corner here and there,
which, blended together, would make an
agreeable whole, but to complete the harmony
we would want an agreeable atmosphere.

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Whatever the Manchester of the bygone
days may have been, it surely could be seen ;
nowadays, even that is not always possible.
During a stay in Manchester you have a much
better opportunity of forming a close acquaint-
ance with the interior of the Manchester four-
wheeler, or the inside of your umbrella, than
the exteriors of the public buildings.

Although trees may not grow in Cottonopo-
lis, fortunes do, and it is in the knowledge of this
fact that its inhabitants live, move, and have
their being. As for the proverbial wet weather,
that is nobody's fault ; that the much-abused
clerk of the weather is a Manchester man, or
has any particular spite against the city, is a
question which has not yet been decided. The
smoke is the cause of the prevailing dulness,
and as smoke is (or perhaps I should say, is
at present) inseparably connected with trade,
probably brighter weather, if it did by any
chance arrive, might not be altogether accept-
able to the Manchester man of commerce.

In spite of this, Manchester prides itself
on being artistic, musical, and theatrical. No
doubt no finer collection of pictures has been
got together than that in the exhibition a few
years ago ; Halle's concerts are unsurpassed,

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and the Shakesperian revivals were the best
produced plays of the day. My experience of
Manchester has been rather too limited to
judge of these things for myself, but I have
heard it said that appreciation of the three
arts is the work of three men ; that but for
Mr. Agnew no art to speak of would have
existed; that Sir Charles HalM's personality
has gained for the city its musical reputation,
and that Mr. Charles Calvert supplied the
theatrical culture single-handed. That is all

very well. The populace may be devoid of
rare artistic feeling, but they have a commer-
cial one which prompts them to spend their
money, without which art could not flourish.
Manchester, like London, may be paved with

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gold, but why have it paved at all ? Why not
have gold replaced with smooth, noiseless wood
and asphalt ? Then might the weary travel-
lers rest in the
arms of Mor-
pheus undis-
turbed. Oh,
those lorries !
a bed in
would be
Paradise to
the h u r 1 y-

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Online LibraryHarry FurnissFlying visits → online text (page 10 of 11)