Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Archive Anecdotes

Snippets from the city's archives

Jan 25, 2016

In 1816 the family of architect Robert Burn erected a mausoleum to him in Old Calton cemetery. Burn, who had died the previous year, was a highly respected architect whose work includes Nelson’s Monument on Calton Hill.

He was not however held in great regard by the poet Robert Burns as evidenced in a letter to his publisher instructing a payment to Burn. Burns had commissioned Burn to erect a monument in Canongate Kirkyard at the grave of Robert Fergusson whose poetry in the Scots tongue had been a source of inspiration to Burns.

Burn had sent a bill to Burns pointing out that payment was two years overdue and adding a request for an additional interest payment. Burns flatly refused to pay any interest and the letter suggests that the poet was somewhat displeased with the architect:

"Five pounds ten shillings per account, I owe Mr R Burn, architect, for erecting the stone over the grave of poor Fergusson. He was two years in erecting it after I had commissioned him for it, and I have been two years in paying him after he sent me his account, so he and I are quits!"

On the reverse of the monument you can see an extra ‘B’ carved very faintly in the top left hand corner.

Legend holds that this 'B' was carved by Burns himself, frustrated by the protracted time taken by Burn to finish the stone!

Photos courtesy of Susan Buckham, EWH

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