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Robert Burns

Friars Carse, Dumfries, Scene of "The Whistle"

19th Century

A pencil drawing by William Coston Aitken of Dumfries of the mansion house built by Captain Robert Riddell.


Robert Burns' neighbour at Ellisland was Robert Riddell of Friar's Carse, a country estate upstream from the farm. Immediately recognising Burns' talent, Riddell offered him the use of a summer house on the estate in which to meditate and write, away from the demands of the farm.


This drawing shows the mansion house which Robert Riddell built in 1774 on the site of the mediaeval  monastery which had occupied the estate. Robert Burns was a frequent visitor here and wrote several poems in honour of his host. "The Whistle" is a poem commemorating a notorious drinking competition held there between Riddell and his guests, the winner being the last drinker capable of blowing a whistle!


William Coston Aitken (1816 - 1875) was born, educated and married in Dumfries before moving to Birmingham around 1850. He sketched places in and around Dumfries from a young age and his work is a record of the built environment of the town and the landmarks of the surrounding countryside in the first part of the 19th century .

width: 215 mm, length: 133 mm
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
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Creation Date:
c 1840
Dumfries & Galloway Council