Rediscovered Burns Manuscript to go on show
An original Robert Burns manuscript that has been in Paisley Museum and Art Gallery’s collection for almost 100 years, but was only recently rediscovered and authenticated, is to go on display in the museum every January when light levels are low enough to protect the delicate ink on paper artifact, and to coincide with Burns Night.
The manuscript reads:
Yours this moment I unseal,
And faith I'm gay and hearty!
To tell the truth and shame the deil,
I am as fou as Bartie:
But Foorsday, sir, my promise leal,
Expect me o' your partie,
If on a beastie I can speel
Or hurl in a cartie.
Yours, Robert Burns
The short verse, written in reply to a party invitation, is in typical Burns style including wordplay – he combines the tradition for indicating the day of writing with something that suggests he is worse for wear, in “Foorsday”; highlights his joy at the invite, and pledges his attendance whether by horse, or by cart.
The artifact was verified in a letter to the Museum last year by Professor Gerard Carruthers of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow. He said;
“The manuscript is clearly in the handwriting of Robert Burns. The ink and paper are a good match to other authentic Burns manuscript productions.
“The poem dates from 1785 – 1786. The first publication to give an indication of its origins, and how it came to be in the collection of Paisley Library is ‘The Works of Robert Burns Volumes 1 – 5’ edited by The Ettrick Shepherd and William Motherwell. Motherwell was Secretary of the Paisley Burns Club in 1819 and became President in 1821. This puts him at the centre of Paisley literary life when the poem first surfaces. Motherwell noted that, ‘We are informed it was presented to the library by the late Mr. John Clarkson, of McGavin and Clarkson, threadmakers, Paisley’.”
The manuscript will be displayed alongside a portrait of Burns by James Tannock (1784 – 1862) also in Paisley Museum’s collection. Born in Kilmarnock, Tannock was originally a house painter, but after lessons from Alexander Nasmyth – who was a friend of Burns – became a successful portrait painter.