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Robert Burns

James Glencairn Burns and William Nicol Burns, Sons of the Poet

19th Century

An early monochrome photographic print, from a calotype negative, of a grouped studio portrait of two of the sons of Robert Burns.


William Nicol Burns was the sixth child of Robert Burns and Jean Armour Burns and one of three sons to survive into adulthood. He made a distinguished career in the East India Company and retired to Cheltenham. In 1851 he purchased the family's last home in Mill Street Dumfries in order to preserve the house in which his father had died.


His brother, James Glencairn Burns, was their eighth child and also saw service overseas in the East India Company where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was appointed Judge and Collector at Cahar. On his retiral he lived in London and Cheltenham.


This early photograph is originally from the collection of Dr T B Grierson of Thornhill, whose father, William Grierson, was a friend and supporter of Robert Burns. It has been carefully posed in a photographer's studio. The time required to expose a photograph could be several minutes so subjects were  required to sit still for an extended period.

width: 177 mm, length: 138 mm
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
Photograph, PEOPLE, Robert Burns / 2
Digital Number:
Creation Date:
c 1855
Dumfries & Galloway Council