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The Visit of Burns' Sons to Inverness

Visit by the sons of Burns

The Tour in 1787 and the poems and songs inspired by the scenes visited were not to be the poet’s final connection with Inverness and the Highlands.  In August 1845 it came to the notice of the then Provost of Inverness that two of the poet’s sons – Colonel William Nicol and Major James Glencairn  Burns – were in Inverness.

William Burns.PNG

Colonel William Nicol Burns

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Major James Glencairn Burns

Images courtesy of Dumfries Museum

Inverness Burgh Minutes BI.1.1.18 4 Augu

Excerpt from the Minute Book of the Burgh of Inverness, 4th August 1845

Image courtesy of The Highland Archive Centre

A Minute of the Town Council records: “That on 4th August 1845, the Provost, having brought to the attention of the Town council that Colonel and Major Burns were now in Inverness, the council availed themselves of the opportunity of presenting them with the freedom of the burgh, and request the Provost and Magistrates and such of the Town Council as may find it convenient to present them with the usual tickets, and they instruct the clerk forthwith to prepare Burgess tickets.”


It soon became widely known that the sons were to be made freemen and pressure grew for there to be a public dinner to mark the presentation.  An advertisement duly appeared in the Inverness Courier of 6thAugust announcing a Public Dinner “to the Military Sons of Burns” to be held that evening in the town’s Caledonian Hotel at 5.00pm, with the Provost in the chair and tickets costing 7/6d (37.5 pence for those who don’t remember old pre-decimalisation money!).


The Courier of 13th August contained a lengthy report of the dinner – nearly 3000 words! – describing in great detail all the many toasts that evening.  Colonel William Nicol Burns expressed his and his brother’s thanks for the honour accorded them and his younger brother, Major James Glencairn, sang “Of a’ the airts the wind can blaw” – the song composed by their father at Ellisland for their mother, “bonny Jean”.

Read the postscript

The Town of Inverness remembers the visit of Burns…


The most recent connection took place in 2009 to mark the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Burns when Inverness Burns Club commissioned the mounting of a commemorative plaque to mark the site of the former Ettles Hotel in Bridge Street where Burns and Nicol stayed in September 1787.

Read More on the unveiling…

Burns Plaque.PNG
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