The last Loose Ends adventure to the Glasgow Women’s Library gave a lot of scope for planning the next connection. I had considered the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh or even the mighty Mitchell but in the end I decided to go somewhere new, finding myself on the bus down to Ayr. That it was the anniversary of the death of Robert Burns was all the more reason to make the link from the Jean Armour block in the GWL to her husband. There is of course a panoply of places in Ayrshire connected in some way to Burns though a mixture of curiosity and bus timetables led me to the Bachelors’ Club in Tarbolton. Once I figured out how to properly pronounce the name of Tarbolton for the bus driver’s benefit (‘Tarbol’n’, if you’re interested, with a silent ‘t’), I was on the way, on a surprisingly busy Saturday afternoon bus, not entirely sure where I was going as I passed suburbs and rolling fields.
The Bachelors’ Club was a debating society that met in the top floor of an ale house. Tarbolton was a weaving village that became a mining village more recently. Robert Burns lived in the Tarbolton area from 1777 to 1784 and he was a key member of the Bachelors’ Club, also becoming a Freemason in the very same building. Today it is a small museum tended by the National Trust for Scotland with two rooms. After the introductory spiel, I looked around the lower room which had been various things including a private dwelling, pub and spirit house. It was done up as it might have been in Burns’ time with a table of suitably antiquated objects including a time piece used by finding the Plough in the night sky, and a washing board.
Upstairs there was a room all done up to look old. It had a book case including a complete set of the Scottish National Dictionary and a few editions of Burns’ work, most notably the Scottish Musical Museum, which Burns was involved with. There was also an interesting Bible, once owner of the building in the late 18th century, and a display about Burns and freemasonry including a drawing of the bard suitably attired. At this point I ended up blethering to the attendant about the place and much else besides until I had to leave for the bus back to Ayr and eventually Glasgow.
To the connections and going to the Bachelors’ Club could take me to Kilmarnock due to another Burns connection or indeed the name of its main library and museum, the Dick Institute, if you want to be crude as of course I might. To be fair Burns often was. A nearby NTS sign suggested a trip to Dundonald Castle, another past possible connection. A chance conversation I became part of threw up the Britannia Panopticon and the Glasgow Police Museum, both back in the Dear Green Place. There are, of course, also many properties across the land managed by the National Trust for Scotland. The Bachelors’ Club is one of the more modest NTS places but the interest value far exceeds its size. One for the connoisseur, maybe, certainly for the dedicated if travelling by bus, but no worse for that.
Thanks for reading. Another Loose Ends adventure, alas not to the Dick Institute, follows in two weeks time.