Irvine Burns Club Museum
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: One of the best collections of original Robert Burns manuscripts in the world
Robert Burns came to Irvine in 1781, not for his poetry, to to learn practical skills associated with working flax. Burns was a farmer first and foremost, and he wanted to learn flax-heckling, or preparing flax fibres for use in manufacturing. The adventure did not begin well, for Burns became seriously ill with fever - a fever which may have precipitated his death at a fairly young age some years later.
Irvine Burns Club was formed in 1826 when 2 friends of the poet joined with 10 others to create a club to commemorate the poet's birth and promote his work. One of the founding members was Dr John Mackenzie, who had treated William Burns, the poet's father, during his final illness. The first Vice-President was David Sillar, a good friend of Burns and also a poet of some repute. Sillar was one of the members of the Tarbolton Bachelors Club, founded by Burns.
In 1962 the club opened the Irvine Burns & Burgh Museum, where the general public can view the club collection of Burns memorabilia and early published volumes of his work. The museum also displays artefacts relating to the Royal Burgh of Irvine (1372 - 1975), including official Weights and Measures and a Burgh Drum.
In display cases upstairs are signed letters from honorary members, including famous names in sport, the arts, politics, and public life. Recent honorary members include such diverse names as author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, politicians Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower, actor Sean Connery, and golfer Jack Nicklaus.
Without doubt one of the most enjoyable small historic sites we've ever visited in Scotland. If you love Burns, this is a must-see! We were shown around the club by an extremely knowledgeable guide, who seemed delighted to show off the club and its treasures, but also to tell us about Robert Burns' life and times.
Our Irvine guide told us that their collection of Burns memorabilia, including first editions, was so important that members of other Burns clubs came to Irvine especially to see them; and because the Irvine Club attitude has always been that the Burns manuscripts and first editions should be seen and read rather than locked away in safe storage, the club is a popular destination for Burns scholars and enthusiasts from all over the world, who revel in a chance to hold a first edition in their hands and turn the pages of an original manuscript, annotated in the poet's own hand.
Among the many, many Burns objects on show are letters in the poet's own hand, original manuscripts of his poems, copies of both the 'Kilmarnock Edition' and 'The Edinburgh Edition' of 'Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect', and a 5 volume set of 'Original Scottish Airs'. Perhaps the most valuable items are six manuscripts sent by Burns to John wilson, the Kilmarnock printer who prepared the first edition of his work in 1786. The manuscripts detail the first 5 poems in the book, plus the thirteenth. These 17 folio sheets are thought to be the only surviving originals of the Kilmarnock Edition. In layman's terms, they are the pot of gold at the end of the Robert Burns rainbow for any enthusiast!
The Club is open on designated afternoons throughout the summer months; please see the official website for details.
I can highly recommend the Club website - there's a wealth of information about Burns himself, the Club, and the history of Irvine.
About Irvine Burns Club
Address: Wellwood, 28 Eglinton Street, Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland, KA12 8AS
Attraction Type: Museum
Location: Limited parking along nearby streets.
Website: Irvine Burns Club
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Scottish Maritime Museum - 0.7 miles (Museum)
Eglinton Castle - 1.8 miles (Castle)
Kilwinning Abbey - 2.8 miles (Abbey)
Dalgarven Mill - 3.4 miles (Museum)
Dundonald Castle - 4 miles (Castle)
Dean Castle - 7.2 miles (Castle)
Rowallan Castle - 7.3 miles (Castle)
Bachelors' Club - 10.1 miles (Museum)
Nearest Accommodation to Irvine Burns Club:
Nearby accommodation is calculated 'as the crow flies' from Irvine Burns Club. 'Nearest' may involve a long drive up and down glens or, if you are near the coast, may include a ferry ride! Please check the property map to make sure the location is right for you.
Nearest Self Catering Cottages
Nearest Bed and Breakfasts
Tourist Information Centre
Tel: 01292 290 300