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Robert Burns

James Cunningham, Earl of Glencairn

19th Century

A stippled steel plate engraving from an earlier (c 1790) portrait of the 14th Earl of Glencairn, friend and patron of Robert Burns.


James Cunningham succeeded his father as Earl of Glencairn in 1775. He was a patron of the parish church in Kilmarnock and was involved in the appointment of a minister there which became the subject of Robert Burns' satirical poem "The Ordination". He obtained a copy of the Kilmarnock edition of Burns' poems and greatly enjoyed them.


When Burns arrived in Edinburgh in 1786, the Earl received him warmly and introduced him to his circle of friends. This opened many doors to the poet and Burns described the Earl as his "titular Protector". Glencairn was also instrumental in obtaining Robert Burns' appointment as an Excise officer which gave the poet and his family some financial security. Burns named his third son James Glencairn in his honour.


This portrait of James Cunningham was published in "The Land of Burns - A series of Landscapes and Portraits, Illustrative of the Life and Writings of the Scottish Poet". This was published in 1846 by Blackie and Son of Glasgow. At this time the development of steel plate engraving made it possible for images to be reproduced in much greater numbers than previous printing technology had allowed. Books such as this one, illustrated by engravings of works by eminent artists, became popular, although they were still expensive and beyond the pocket of most people.

width: 100 mm, length: 123 mm
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
DUMFM:0199.72 [Land of Burns, Volume II]
Digital Number:
Creation Date:
Dumfries & Galloway Council