BISHOP SKINNER, son of the author of Tullochgorum, happened to meet Burns in Aberdeen, and in the following letter describes the meeting.
“Calling at the printing-office the other day, whom should I meet on the stair but famous Burns, the Ayrshire bard! And on Mr. Chalmers telling him that I was the son of “Tullochgorum,” there was no help but I must step into the inn hard by and drink a glass with him and the printer. Our time was short, as he was just setting off for the south, and his companion hurrying him, but we had fifty ‘auld sangs’ through hand, and spent an hour or so most agreeably.
‘Did not your father write “The Ewie wi’ the Crookit Horn”?’
‘Oh, an’ I had the loon that did it!’ said he, in a rapture of praise; ‘but tell him how I love and esteem and venerate his truly Scottish muse.’
On mentioning his ‘Ewie,’ and how you were delighted with it, he said it was all owing to yours, which had started the thought. He had been at Gordon Castle, and came by Peterhead.
‘Then,’ said I, ‘you were within four Scottish miles of “Tullochgorum’s” dwelling.’
Had you seen the look he gave, and how expressive of vexation – had he been your own son you could not have wished a better proof of affection.
‘Well,’ said he at parting, and shaking me by the hand as if he had been really my brother, ‘I am happy in having seen you, and thereby conveying my long-harboured sentiments of regard for your worthy sire. Assure him of it in the heartiest manner, and that never did a devotee of the Virgin Mary go to Loretto with more fervour than I would have approached his dwelling and worshipped at his shrine.’
He was collecting on his tour all the ‘auld Scots sangs’ he had not heard of, and likewise the tunes, that he may get them set to music.
‘Perhaps,’ said he, ‘your father might assist me in making this collection; or, if not, I should be happy in any way to rank him among my correspondents.’
‘Then give me your direction, and it is probable you may hear from him some time or other.’
On this he wrote his direction on a slip of paper, which I have enclosed that you may see it under his own hand. As to his personal appearance, it is very much in his favour. He is a genteel-looking young man, of good address, and talks with much propriety, as if he had received an academical education. He has, indeed, a flow of language, and seems never at a loss to express himself in the strongest and most nervous manner. On my quoting, with surprise, some sentiments of the Ayrshire ploughman –
‘Well,’ he said, ‘and a ploughman I was from youth, and till within these two years had my shoes studded with a hundred tackets. But even then I was a reader, and had very early made all the English poets familiar to me, not forgetting the old bards of the best of all poetical books – the Old Testament.’ ”