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Burns and the Astrologer, pp.88-89.

[Anecdotes of Burns Contents]

MRS. MARION HUNTER, who well remembered Burns, narrated the following anecdote to Waddell, who gives it in his edition of Burns’s Works:- 

She remembered distinctly “that when he (Burns) came to Muirkirk on one of his professional visits as an Exciseman, ‘a great, strong, deaf-and-dumb man, that spaed fortunes and could do naething but blutter and gurl,’ was at one of the public-houses in that village, practising his art and fleecing the natives. ‘Mr. Burns,’ on being informed of this worthy’s presence in good faith by the inhabitants, expressed the greatest pleasure at the prospect of an interview; and, with two friends, repaired at once to the upstairs-room where the astrologer was seated. Having called for some refreshment, at a small table in the other end of the room, and having duly discussed it, first one and then the other of our author’s friends, by preconcerted arrangement, retired, and left him alone with the soothsayer. He, thereupon, indignantly struck the table, and demanded with vehemence whether the folks about Muirkirk were accustomed to treat strangers, after such an unfriendly fashion, by leaving them thus uncivilly to discharge the reckoning? No reply having been vouchsafed by the only other party in the room, the demand was repeated in a louder and more indignant tone – ‘blutter and gurl’ being now the rejoinder, but no articulate syllable. Burns, then advancing with an incredulous air, inquired how his companion was so deaf or dumb or both? Did he not hear him? Could he not speak? Still no articulate reply; on which the indignant Exciseman ‘gied him a clank on ae side o’ the head wi’ ae han’, and then a ding on the back o’ the head after a’. Then the dumb man opened his mouth, and loused his tongue, and swore like ony dragoon. Ye never heard as he swore! But a’ was na by. Burns syne took him by the neck aneth the chafts, and gied his napkin a bit twist wi’ his fingers, and haurl’d him to the door o’ the room, and pat his fit till the spaeman’s back, and gart him shine down the stair wi’ a hurl!’ This cleared the neighbourhood of one nuisance for a year, ‘for the creatur’ took to some ruined chapel about the place for that nicht, and the laddies chased him awa’ next mornin’.’ ” 

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