At Covington Mains, pp.54-55.

[Anecdotes of Burns Contents]

THOMAS SOMERVILLE, LL.D., a nephew of Prentice’s, communicated the substance of the following to the late Archibald Nimmo of Carnwath, editor of the “Ballads and Songs of Clydesdale.” When Burns made his first journey to Edinburgh, he paid a passing visit to the farm-house of Covington Mains, near Carnwath, where he spent the night with Mr. Archibald Prentice, the tenant. 

Mr. Prentice had made known to his brother farmers that Burns was expected at the Mains, and that they were all to assemble when they saw a white sheet hoisted on a corn-stack. True to the invitation, they mustered in force when the signal was displayed. In the company were also the Rev. Bryce Little, minister of the parish, and Lang the schoolmaster, and his brother, the minister of Leadhills. The evening that was spent can easily be conceived. Burns’s wonderful conversational powers, drawn out by intelligent and congenial friends, carried all by storm. The songs and recitations, now gay, now grave, cheered and melted them by turns. In the height of their excitement, Burns said:- 

“But the best of all is to come yet; only I must wait till Mrs. Prentice leaves the room.” 

“Mr. Burns, you may just as well go on for I will not leave the room this night.” 

“Weel, then,” said Burns, “here’s for the ‘Jolly Beggars.’ ” 

Next morning he breakfasted at Mr. John Stoddart’s, Bank, and was accompanied by Archibald Prentice and the two brother Lang. On arriving at the foot of the Bank brae, Lang of Leadhills said, “O, Mr. Burns, before we climb the brae just gi’e us the ‘Jolly Beggars’ owre again.” 

“Na, na, Mr. Lang, the inspiration is gone.” 

On arriving at Edinburgh, Burns wrote to Archibald thanking him for his hospitality, and wishing him to give his kind regards to “that oily man of God, Mr. Lang.” 

All this is otherwise interesting, as it shows that the “Jolly Beggars” was written before Burns went to Edinburgh, and that he considered it too indelicate for ears polite. he never published the poem himself; it was only after his death that it was given to the world. A son of this Mr. Prentice’s was for many years editor of the “Glasgow Chronicle,” while another because the founder of the “Manchester Times.” 

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