— Dear Bertha,

In my last letter I was letting Cousin Eileen Woodburn, my Aunt Jennie's daughter, talk about accompanying her mother, Aunt Jenny, on a trip back to what had been Jennie's childhood home in Ayrshire, Scotland. I'll just let Eileen continue:

In regards to the money Colonel Cunningham had instructed Mr. Milligan to "put on our horse for tomorrow's stakes," we learned that raising, training and racing thoroughbred race horses was the Colonel's chief interest. We also learned that Mr. Milligan was a licensed "bookie" (one who for a fee handles wagering on the outcome of the horse races). We also learned that Mr. Milligan was an accredited sport official who refereed, mostly soccer, games all over Britain. Well, we were surprised to learn that Bob, Mr. Milligan, had made reservations for us to join himself and his wife on an all day "Robert Burns Country" Bus Tour for the next day which was Saturday. And! He told that he was planning on us being his personal guests all day Monday to join him and Jean on the annual "Company Holiday" for the Saxone Shoe Company employees and their guests somewhere near 1,000 persons total.

Bob, through his position as a sports official, was well acquainted with the school administrators of the school where Eileen is teaching, and he had no trouble with getting approval to take Monday off.

So, I'll start will describing the "Robert Burns Country" Bus Tour.

Our town bus had started from Kilmarnock, partially loaded but keeping enough seating for those who had made reservations to be picked up at the old village of Ayr, including our party. With our four, two Woodburns and two Milligans, aboard, the bus was fully loaded and our tour began. The driver started off by asking his passengers where they were from. I volunteered the information that I was born and raised in America, but that both of my parents had been natives of Ayrshire. The driver said, "I knew it! I never saw a Scott that I didn't prefer to an Englishman." This brought a hearty laugh from Scotts and English alike, and we were off to a "jolly good start."

As we toured about the countryside, with its ancient stone walls serving as fences separating fields and pastures, the driver regaled us with local history and lore (especially that which related to Burns and/or his writings).

The landscape here was rolling, not precipitous, but one hill that we thought was rather inappropriately labeled "Auold Craggy Hill," did give a nice 360 degree panoramic view of the area. After enjoying the view for a few minutes, we reboarded the bus and began the descent down the other side.

Despite the appearance that we were headed in a steep down-grade, the bus seemed to be laboring uphill. The driver stopped the vehicle, took it out of gear and amazingly as he eased off the brakes, the bus began to roll backwards up the hill. Obviously a very remarkable optical illusion though the driver pointed to a roadside sign proclaiming this as the "Electric Brae."

After the bus labored on down the hill, the world seemed to regain its proper perspective and we continued on to the Robert Burns Memorial Park.

The park includes both a replica of the Burns Cottage and the original, I guess it dates clear back to Roman times, beautiful and most fascinating old "Brig O'Doon." Although this old bridge was in general use, in the time of Burns it is now closed to all traffic, though it looks quite substantial.

The park also contains beautiful flower gardens, and next to the cottage a fenced-off yard depicting tavern scene with life-sized statues of Tomm O'Shanter and Sauter Johnnie housing at the Nappie.

We had no more than unloaded at Burns Park Cottage, than two big tour buses (from somewhere in "hinter lands," so our guide informed us and loaded to capacity with senior citizens) pulled in. These "backwoods" folds were obviously avid Burns fans. They were so excited, jabbering in Scottish dialect, I couldn't understand a word they were saying.

Well, Bertha, Eileen's account of the Saxone Shoes Holiday, so I'll close for now, will fill another whole letter.

As ever,


Community comments

Note: The Steamboat Pilot & Today doesn’t necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy.

Post a comment (Requires free registration)

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.