Burns the Fermer

Burns the Fermer

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Burns the Fermer:

Burns, the Ploughman Poet and son of a farmer, inherited his father’s farm in 1784.

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Ah wis a puir faitherless lad fae Lochlie, an Maister Burns brocht me wi him when they cam here tae Mossgiel Ferm. He wis aye luikin oot for me, even hefting me up oan his shouthers ane day as we cam hame frae the field. Ah wis the wee ane of all the lads on the ferm – the runt of the pack, the ane that aye got his erse kicked in a fecht. But still, ah wis a richt pawkie wee lad, an gleg wi it. Ah kenned if ah ettled tae fin ma place, ah’d need tae fin summat mair nor fechting tae win the day. 

Sae ane nicht ance aw us lads were in the loft oer the stable where we slept, ah twistit ma lips an pullit unco faces. ‘Girnin Davie’ they callit me, an lauched themsels til the tears cam frae their een. I wis cuttin sic a caper and loupin oer the wooden boards that the auld yin doon the stair cam up tae tell us aff fer makin sic a din – an on the Lord’s Day tae! 

We aw were thrashit fer oor ain guid by the maister, but efter it, he wis richt kind and said we ainly needit summat tae keep us oot o mischief. Sae that wis how it startit that I learnt the English frae him. The ither twa were na gey gleg an ettled tae be awa, but ah wis jist fine wi it. 

Ance a week, on a Sunday nicht, efter prayers, Maister Burns aye lets me stay doon frae the loft an teaches me tae speak sae fine like ony gentleman. He hears me read aloud frae his buiks an leaves me tae study oer them whiles he swings back on his chair an writes. He writes poems an is even having a buik o his ain published. He tellit me he’s written a poem about all o us here at Mossgiel, an ah get a mention in it tae. ‘Wee Davock’ he calls me, an a like that even better nor ‘Girnin Davie’.

burns fermer

Aye, now that I can speak the English I have grand plans. Nae mair fechtin fer wee Davie Hutcheson fae Lochlie! I still have a guid Scots tongue in my head though and can use it tae. Ane o the other lads, Willie Patrick, wis aye at me fer liking the buik learning mair than fechtin in the yaird. But I callit him a lang-leggit loon wi a face lik bleared sowans, an Gaudsman John near brak his breeks wi lauchin an wouldna let Willie say a word agin me
ony mair that nicht, nor fecht me neither. 

Instead he tuik us baith aside an tellit us o what happened that day on the field while he was gauding the horses for Maister Burns, wha was mindin the ploo. They cam upon a wee mousie that rin oot o its bield, an Maister Burns callit tae John tae stoppit the horses an turned the ploo aside. He widna move on til he’d seen the mousie rin awa oer the riggs towards the foggage around the edge o the field.

‘He’ll be makin a rhyme on it, nae doot,’ ah said, an the ither twa lauched at the thocht o a poem for a wee mousie. But I gat the last lauch fer Maister Burns read oot some verses o it to John – and John said he couldna understaun near hauf o it.

Map location of silhouette


Pawkie – wily
Gleg – quick-witted, smart
Ettled – intended
Summat – something
Unco – strange
Girnin – showing the teeth, grimacing
Lauched – laughed
Een – eyes
Loupin – to dart, to dash
Yin – one

Sic – such
Loon – rogue, rascal
Bleared – watery, thin
Sowans – dish made by soaking oats in water.
Gaudsman – one who guides the horses for the plough
Breeks – breeches, trousers
Bield – shelter, nest
Foggage – grass for winter grazing


Written by: Rebecca McCallum Stapley
Illustrations by: Hali Campbell
Audio by: Ben Niven
Audio recording and mixing by: Scott Andrew


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