As you will have read on the page " Dumbarton Connection", Robert Burns was given  his Burgess Ticket during his stop-over here. See below for the story of how it was "lost" and finally returned to Dumbarton.

The history of this Burgess Ticket is both arduous in it's history and interesting.







      

               Front of Burgess Ticket            Back of Burgess Ticket


 Burns Burgess Ticket  -- the original is about 8 inches square


The coat of arms for Royal Burgh of Dumbarton is an elephant bearing a castle on its back; first seen in 1357 in a document relating to the ransom of King David II. The heraldic device was first registered in 1672 as “Azure, an elephant passant argent, tusked or, bearing on his back a tower proper” This emblem has been the subject of much controversy over the years. An elephant chosen as the device for a medieval Scottish Burgh seems rather odd and a variety of theories have been put forward to explain this. It could be that the rock itself, viewed from a certain angle resembles this device. It has also been thought that  the obvious reason is that an elephant represents strength and the castle, an impregnable fortress. The Burgh motto is “Fortitudo et Fidelitas" ( Strength and Fidelity) so this seems to be a better explanation!  However, as “Elephant and Castle “ is also the name of a district in London and a popular name for English licensed premises, this merely adds to the confusion. Similarly, the device can be seem carved on the choir stalls of both Exeter and Ripon Cathedrals!  


Using the exact spelling, punctuation, capitalisation and line changes of the original, the Burns Burgess Ticket reads as follows:-


At Dumbarton the Twenty Ninth day of June Seventeen hundred and Eight Seven years ---


In Presence of James Colqhuoun of Newlands Es:

:quire Provost of the Burgh of Dumbarton Neil Camp:

:bell and Robert Gardner Esquires Bailies Robert

McLintock Dean of Guild and John Jarden Treasurer

thereof Compeared Mr Robert Burns of Ayrshire

who was admitted and received an Burgess and

Guild Brother of the said Burgh with power to him

to use and enjoy all the priviledges and Immunities

thereto belonging. Extracted by ---

                                          John McAulay


Note that a colon [:] was often given (in handwriting in those days) the additional function of a hyphen at the end of a line where a word has not been completed, and at the beginning of the next line where the word is completed.

"Compear" was an old legal term used to mean "appear formally before an official group of people in order for some verdict/decision/award to be made"


Despite Burns being made a Burgess of the town, no trace of his Burgess Ticket could be traced until, in 1911 it was found to have been placed on display at the National Exhibition held in Glasgow, having been lent by the Burns Family of Cheltenham, England!


Its reappearance seems to have made no more than a passing interest and it was not until 1925 that John Menzies, who was then Secretary of Dumbarton Burns Club, made an effort to have it returned to the town. With that in mind he entered into correspondence with Violet Burns Gowring, the great granddaughter of the poet and subsequently visited her in Eastbourne   

The outcome of his perseverance resulted in the Burgess Ticket being returned in time for him to produce it in the course of his “Immortal Memory”  speech in 1926. The Ticket was subsequently handed over to the Council for safekeeping. For well over a century tradition had it the the Rev. James Oliphant was instrumental in the Ticket being lost. Oliphant had been minister in the High Kirk, Kilmarnock during Burns time in Ayrshire and Burns had lampooned him in “The Ordination”. He was Minister in Dumbarton at the time of Burns  visit and is buried in the churchyard here. It is unlikely that this is true as the names of Honorary Burgesses, such as Burns was, were seldom recorded in the minutes of the Burgh Council.

Oliphant's second wife was the daughter of Humphrey Colquhoun of Barnhill, Dumbarton


The full text of the engraving on the stone reads :-

Sacred to the memory of James Oliphant, Minister of Dumbarton who died the tenth year of his age day of April  one thousand eight hundred and eighteen years in the 84th and the 54th of his ministry.

 He was licenced to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of  Kintyre in Islay,19th May,1760 ; ordained nearly a year in Gorbals of Glasgow : was ordained  by the Presbytery  of Irvine at Kilmarnock and remained there until 23rd December 1773,  when he was ordained Minister of the Church and Parish of Dumbarton, where he continued to  labour until removed by death

The church that stands in the place where Oliphant preached is not the same building that he preached in but the graveyard  contains many ancient remains of that era. The church was rebuilt in 1811.


Burns would have been given his Ticket in the Tolbooth but this was demolished in 1830. However, across the High Street Glencairn House still stands and it is here that you will find the plaque. The then Provost, the late Pat O'Neill, James L. Hempstead, President James Cardle, Lavinia Drew, Burns great,great,great grand-daughter, and family, Lord Lieutenant Donald Hardie gathered to unveil the plaque.


This is a fitting place as the house was the town house of the Earls of Glencairn, well known to Burns : James Cunningham was the incumbent in Burns day.                                                                                                           John McAulay


Note that a colon [:] was often given (in handwriting in those days) the additional function of a hyphen at the end of a line where a word has not been completed, and at the beginning of the next line where the word is completed.

"Compear" was an old legal term used to mean "appear formally before an official group of people in order for some verdict/decision/award to be made"


Despite Burns being made a Burgess of the town, no trace of his Burgess Ticket could be traced until, in 1911 it was found to have been placed on display at the National Exhibition held in Glasgow, having been lent by the Burns Family of Cheltenham, England!


 Its reappearance seems to have made no more than a passing interest and it was not until 1925 that John Menzies, who was then Secretary of  Dumbarton Burns Club, made an effort to have it returned to the town. With that in mind he entered into correspondence with Violet Burns Gowring, the great granddaughter of the poet and subsequently visited her in Eastbourne   


The outcome of his perseverance resulted in the Burgess Ticket being returned in time for him to produce it in the course of his “Immortal Memory”  speech in 1926. The Ticket was subsequently handed over to the Council for safekeeping. For well over a century tradition had it the the Rev. James Oliphant wasinstrumental in the Ticket being lost. Oliphant had been minister in the High     Kirk, Kilmarnock during Burns time in Ayrshire and Burns had lampooned him in “The Ordination”. He was Minister in Dumbarton at the time of Burns  visit and is buried in the churchyard here. It is unlikely that this is true as thenames of Honorary Burgesses, such as Burns was, were seldom recorded in the minutes of the Burgh Council.

Oliphant's second wife was the daughter of Humphrey Colquhoun of Barnhill, Dumbarton


The full text of the engraving on the stone reads :-

  Sacred to the memory of James Oliphant, Minister of Dumbarton who died the tenth

  year of his age day of April  one thousand eight hundred and eighteen years in the 84th and       the 54th of his ministry. He was licenced to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of              Kintyre in Islay,19th May,1760 ; ordained nearly a year in Gorbals of Glasgow : was ordained  by the Presbytery  of Irvine at Kilmarnock and remained there until 23rd December 1773,  when he was ordained Minister of the Church and Parish of Dumbarton, where he continued to  labour until removed by death

The church that stands in the place where Oliphant preached is not the same building that he preached in but the graveyard  contains many ancient remains of that era. The church was rebuilt in 1811.


Burns would have been given his Ticket in the Tolbooth but this was demolished in 1830. However, across the High Street Glencairn House still stands and it is here that you will find the plaque. The then Provost, the late Pat O'Neill, James L. Hempstead, President James Cardle, Lavinia Drew, Burns great,great,great grand-daughter, and family, Lord Lieutenant Donald Hardie gathered to unveil the plaque.


This is a fitting place as the house was the town house of the Earls of Glencairn, well known to Burns : James Cunningham was the incumbent in Burns day

Dumbarton Burgh Coat of Arms

Violet Burns Gowring

The Burgess Ticket being handed over to the Council

James L. Hempstead and Lavinia Drew

Memorial Plaque on Glencairn Greit House

Rev. James Oliphant’s Gravestone

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