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Rebellion & Enlightenment

The Jacobite Rebellion

Lord Balmerino's Dirk

18th Century

This dirk once belonged to Robert Burns who wrote its interesting history down.


The dirk's original owner was Arthur Elphinstone, the 6th Lord Balmerino (1688 - 1746), a Jacobite and one of the leaders of the 1745 advance into England and subsequent retreat from Derby.
Lord Balmerino had given the dirk to a Glasgow Baillie who, sympathetic to the Jacobite cause, furnished Balmerino's men with 100 pairs of shoes. The Baillie's son later sold the dirk to Dr William Maxwell, a friend of Burns', for a small cask of whisky.  Maxwell gave the dirk to Burns and Burns later gave it to a Birmingham gunsmith, along with its story.


The intials RB are engraved in the metal at the top of the sheath (see detail).  As Robert Burns is the only known owner with these initials it is believed they were put there by or for him.


The blade of the dirk contains fullers - grooves in the blade.  These served to make the weapon lighter. The small knife and fork slot into the pickets of the sheath.

Dean Castle
Digital Number:
EAAM018a; EAAM018b
East Ayrshire Council

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