Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries is privileged in having one of the largest collections of Robert Burns` memorabilia in Britain, the John Murison Collection.

Our wonderful volunteer, Jean Barclay, has been delving into some of the more obscure items in the Murison Burns collection.

The collection was contained in a series of large boxes but has recently been sorted into accessible groups.  There were in total 395 items, 282 in the main body and 113 in two display boxes, 103 items in one box, 10 in the other. The display boxes contain items that can be readily accessed for exhibitions.


The main body of items was sorted into the following groups:

  1. Burns` portraits, statues and monuments (29 items);
  2. The centenary of Burns` birth, 1859 (11 items);
  3. Burns` clubs, Burns` nights and highland gatherings (17 items);
  4. The centenary of Burns` death, 1896 (28 items);
  5. Burns` Festival on the River Doon, 1844 (5 items);
  6. Burns in context – biography, character and family (29 items);
  7. Burns` publishers, booksellers and collectors (26 items);
  8. Places associated with Burns (31 items);
  9. Burns` verses (many illustrated) and poems addressed to him (30 items);
  10. Burns` songs and other Scottish `sangs` and airs (23 items);
  11. Highland Mary (6 items);
  12. Old Edinburgh (6 items):
  13. Historical documents, not Burns (8);
  14. Miscellaneous (32 items).

Display box 1 was sorted into:

  1. Portraits of Burns (43 items);
  2. Scottish entertainments featuring works by Burns (24 items);
  3. Poems, songs and music, including works by Burns (27 items);
  4. Portraits of associates of Burns (9 items).


Display box 2 contained just 10 items, including posters, calendars, songs and advertisements.


Some of the items in the collection may be unique and many are of considerable beauty and interest.  Several of Burns` poems are well-known and frequently recited or sung but he wrote hundreds that are not so familiar.  This collection includes many of them, mostly illustrated and often accompanied by their music.

And some of the places Burns had known are beautifully sketched – the Illustrated London News, January 29 1859 includes several of these.


There are also some wonderful posters advertising Burns` concerts, especially those for the `Nicht wi` Burns` each January at the Royal Albert Hall, London, which include portraits of the Edwardian lady and gentlemen performers.

And, finally, the statues and portraits, of which there are many – some said to be good likenesses, some glamorised and one or two positively plain.  Those showing Burns in ploughman mode or with his dogs are particularly appealing.


All in all, John Murison benefited posterity greatly in putting together his wonderful collection of memorabilia of Scotland`s famous bard, Robert Burns.  Find out more about the Murison Burns collection and how it came to be in Dunfermline. Make an appointment to see the collection at Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries