The character of Souter Johnnie became famous worldwide thanks to his appearance in just a few lines of the famous poem by Robert Burns, ‘Tam O’Shanter’. We get a real insight into his character from the lines, ‘and at his elbow Souter Johnnie his ancient, trusty, drouthy crony.’
The poem was inspired by an old legend, but many of the characters were drawn from real Ayrshire people, known to Burns. Souter Johnnie was based on John Davidson, a shoemaker from Kirkoswald. His cottage is now in the care of The National Trust for Scotland, and is packed with artefacts from the time. You can also see a changing exhibition of local arts and crafts in a small gallery inside.
A thatched outbuilding in the garden houses life-sized sculptured of Tam, Souter Johnnie and Nance Tumnock, just as Burns portrayed them, ‘fast by an ingle, bleezing finely’.