MS: 'Tam o'Shanter - A Tale'

Robert Burns, Author 
Object Number:


One of Burns’s best poems began with a chance meeting. In 1789 Robert met Captain Francis Grose at Friars’ Carse near Dumfries. Grose was an English antiquary who had published the Antiquities of England and Wales. He was visiting Scotland to gather material for further volumes.

Robert asked Captain Grose if he would include a sketch of the Auld Kirk in Alloway in his next volume. Grose agreed, providing Robert would write a spooky tale to accompany it.

In 1790 Burns wrote his great dramatic poem Tam o’ Shanter. It drew upon the traditional stories he had heard growing up in Ayrshire. The poem follows Tam, who has spent the evening in a pub getting drunk with friends. On his way home on horseback, he encounters the devil and a crowd of witches cavorting inside the Auld Kirk of Alloway. Careless with drink, Tam disturbs the witches and flees toward the nearby Brig o’Doon--with the witches in hot pursuit.

The poem appeared in Grose’s second volume of The Antiquities of Scotland.

This particular manuscript is part of the Afton Manuscript collection. This collection of thirteen poems was presented by Robert to Mrs Alexander Stewart of Stair in 1791.

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