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History of the Homes


The orignal Glasgow Mauchline Society was formed amidst great enthusiasm on the 10th February 1888 at a meeting in the Alexandra Hotel, Glasgow convened by Mr. J. Leiper Gemmill, and attended by a large number of people connected with Mauchline either by birth or residence.

By 1885 the Society was fully established and the Directors decided to build a museum in the shape of a tower with six cottage homes for deserving elderly people who had fallen on hard times.


The site chosen was near Mossgiel Farm in Mauchline where Robert Burns lived and worked as a young man and wrote some of his finest poems.


The tower and cottages were intended as a permanent living memorial to the poet symbolising his sympathy for the genuinely unfortunate.

On 4th July 1896 Mr. Gemmill as the President cut the first sod and on the 23rd of that month he presided at a gathering of over ten thousand people when the foundation stone was laid by Mr. Hugh Wallace, the Provincial Grand Master with full Masonic orders.


Among those present were Miss Annie Burns and Miss Margarent Burns Hutchinson, the daugther and grand-daugther of Lt. Col. James Burns, the fourth son of the poet.


The tower and cottages were completed the following year.

A further fourteen cottages were added to the complex gradually between 1909 and 1937 and the Burns connection was maintained.


Mrs Annie Burns Gowring, the poet's great grand-daughter, cut the first sod for five of the cottages on the east wing in June 1930 and her son George Burns Gowring officially opened the cottages the following year.

The Society became known as the National Burns Memorial and Cottage Homes in 1932 and the Society was formally re-named as such. The name was later shortened to the National Burns Memorial Homes.

In 1933, the Duke and Duchess of York agreed to become Patrons of the Society and they were succeeded by Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, and Richard Cole-Hamilton CBE. The current Patron is Lord Strathclyde.

The Trustees found the high cost of maintaining the tower was diverting funds from the central task of looking after the cottages and modernising their accommodation.


In 1982 an opportunity was taken to hand over the tower to the former Cumnock & Doon Valley District Council now East Ayrshire Council for use as an Exhibition Centre.


The Trustees have lent the exhibits in the tower to the Council on a long term basis, and so the tower will always have a strong Burns influence and a close link with the homes.

As a result of recent conversions there are now 18 cottages in total.


The work of the Homes continues, perpetuating the wish of the original founders to maintain a living memorial to Scotland's National Poet.


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