Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Robert Burns Lives!
Thomas Campbell of Pencloe, New Cumnock, Ayrshire (1746 - 1831) By Chris Rollie, St Johnís Town of Dalry, Galloway.

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA

I like Chris Rollie! He is a plain-spoken man and you always know where he stands. He is direct and to the point. I will always appreciate Chrisís honesty and forthrightness. He is a man of the people and in my view no higher compliment can be paid to anyone. Iíve gotten to know Chris through his two books on our Bard - Robert Burns and New Cumnock (1996) followed by Robert Burns in England (2009). The latter was written to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Burns. I feel it was one of the better books written during that period to honor Burns. For a review of this highly commended work, I refer you to Chapter 52 in our Robert Burns Lives! index written May 28, 2009.

Another avenue through which I have gotten to know Chris is email. He is quick to respond and willing to share what he knows and feels about Burns, a hard combination to beat. When I wrote him recently with a request for an article on Burns, he responded quickly to my email: ďFrank, good to hear from you. Very pressed for time right now but please find attached a short article on a hitherto little known correspondence of Burns, Thomas Campbell of Pencloe.Ē So I had his piece in hand the same day despite the time difference between Scotland and America. Chrisís encouragement is always appreciated and uplifting, and I greatly value the shout out at the end of an email: ďAll power to your work, my friend.Ē

It never fails to amaze me how much writing Burns did and to the number of people he wrote. It never fails to astound me at the new works on him that continually appear. We are repeatedly finding letters, articles, etc. from a man who has been dead nearly 225 years. OK, donít get excited Ė 218 years!

Chris is an Area Manager for RSPB Scotland, the countryís largest nature conservation charity working to secure a healthy environment for birds and all wildlife. Their goal is to inspire everyone to give nature a home and with their partners protect threaten birds and wildlife so Scotlandís towns, coast and countryside will once again teem with life. It would not at all surprise me to see a future book by Chris on Robert Burns and Birds. Anyone out there willing to take a wager? Iím sure you will enjoy Chrisís article below as much as I did.     (FRS 4.2.14)

Thomas Campbell of Pencloe, New Cumnock, Ayrshire
(1746 - 1831)

By Chris Rollie, St Johnís Town of Dalry, Galloway.

Chris Rollie delivering toast at the Burns Howff in the Globe Inn where he is an honorary member.  Note his uniform jacket as Captain in the (reformed) Royal Dumfries Volunteers.  (Photo courtesy of Chris Lyon)

This friend of Burns has been somewhat of a mystery to Burns scholars and the only recorded information derives from the short letter which the poet sent to Thomas Campbell in August (19?) 1786.  Son of Hugh Campbell (of Whitehill and Pencloe) and Agnes Logan (of Knockshinnoch), Thomas was known as `Pen' and in later days `Old Pen'. 

Pen fell in love with his cousin Jean Logan (of Knockshinnoch) (sister of John Logan of Laight), and like his friend Burns he was fond of rhyming tributes to his fancies.  In fact, he wanted to marry her, and being Laird of neighbouring Pencloe Jean's parents felt that he would have made an eminently suitable husband.  Jean wrote to her brother John, who was then in India, to ask his advice on the matter.  John dutifully reminded Jean that she ought to be guided by her parents, at the same time saying that though he had nothing against his cousin, nonetheless he felt Pen was a timid man and lacking in spirit.  In any case, apparently Jean could not return Pen's affection and instead fell for Alexander (Sandy) Pagan (of Kyle on Glenmuir), an itinerant chapman who sold curtain cloth, bed linen and other materials bought at market in Glasgow.  Sandy was below Jean's class, though, and in 1773 she ran away without her belongings and married him.  After settling for a while on the farm of Kyle, Jean made peace with her parents and returned to New Cumnock in 1786 to open the draper's shop in the Castle area, New Cumnock.

Meanwhile, Pen married a dairymaid and moved to Starr, by Loch Doon, where they lived with a daughter and a son, the latter drowning in the well when still young.  Old Pen's daughter married a shoemaker in Dalmellington, in whose house Old Pen died in 1831.  On his deathbed he remarked that Jean Logan (by then Mrs Pagan) would see his coffin pass through the Castle on its way to the graveyard, whereupon she could say `Hech, Sirs! there gangs auld Pen'.  However, he was wrong because Jean died a day or two after her old admirer, but before his funeral.  Old Pen was duly buried on the east side of the Old Kirk door, where Jean's son, George Pagan, placed a memorial to his mother's old flame.

It has been assumed, probably correctly, that Burns met Pen through Masonic connections, and by the poet facetiously addressing him as `Monsr Thomas Campbell' it has also been assumed that the pair knew each other quite well.  However, it is clear from the text of the letter that the two had met only once before (though possibly at some length!), and that Burns feared his imminent (though later aborted) departure for Jamaica would rob him of the pleasure of meeting Pen again.

It is most likely that Pen subscribed for Burns's Kilmarnock poems, as the poet wrote to him from John Merry's Inn, Old Cumnock, whilst engaged in collecting subscription monies in lieu of the books which had recently been distributed.  From close examination of the original text, it can be seen that the poet intended meeting Pen and John Logan at New Cumnock (possibly on 18 or 19 August 1786), but that he got waylaid and was still in Old Cumnock on Saturday morning (19? August).  Many earlier Burns scholars misunderstood this letter and wrongly conjectured that John Merry's Inn was in fact in New Cumnock.  However, John Merry and his wife Anne Rankine (of `Corn Rigs' fame) had their Inn in Old Cumnock, and it was from there that the poet wrote to Pen.  In any case, this much is clear from the deleted `but' in the manuscript.

`To Monsr. Thomas Campbell, Pencloe.                     Care of Mr Good

My Dear Sir,

I have met with few men in my life whom I more wished to see again than you, and Chance seems industrious to disappoint me of that pleasure. -

I came here yesterday fully resolved to see you, and Mr Logan, [but] (deleted) at New Cumnock, but a conjuncture of circumstances conspired against me. - Having an opportunity of sending you a line, I joyfully embrace it. - It is perhaps the last mark of our friendship you can recieve from me on this side of the Atlantic. - Farewel!  May you be happy up to the wishes of parting Friendship!                                                                                                         Robt Burns


Mr J.Merry's Saturday Morn:'     [? August 1786]

Hately Waddell first recorded this letter in 1870, having obtained the manuscript from George Pagan, who as we have seen was so close to Old Pen, George's mother's early suitor.  In fact, George Pagan's involvement in raising a memorial to Pen, and his possession of Burns's original letter to Campbell, raise questions as to whether he was perhaps something more than, as Hately Waddell put it, `a near kinsman to Mr Campbell of Pencloe'.

The letter was sent to New Cumnock care of a Mr Good, and there are several possibilities as to the identity of this man.  One Adam Good is mentioned in the New Cumnock Herds' minutes for 1792 as having received 2/6d for going to Sanquhar fair to collect stray sheep.  In 1766 there was a William Good resident in Straid, but he was elsewhere by 1788.  In 1768, an Archibald Good is mentioned in New Cumnock Old Parish Register.  John Merry's mother was Alison Good and it may be that our Mr Good was also a relative.  Alternatively, the letter may have gone to or via one James Good, who was entered as an apprentice into Lodge St James Tarbolton Kilwinning on 4 August 1786 .

Whatever the case, we have no record of any further correspondence or meetings between Burns and Thomas Campbell, and it is most likely that there was in fact nothing more between them.  Burns was soon to leave for Edinburgh where he would mostly remain until 1788, whilst Pen had moved from Pencloe to Starr, Loch Doon, by 1789.

The above pictures are the letter from Burns to Campbell along with envelope and photo of home of Campbell

Return to Robert Burns Lives! Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus