Highland Mary’s Bibles, December 1840
In December 1840, The Glasgow Herald informed its readers that Robert Weir, a stationer in Glasgow’s Queen Street, had “temporarily placed” in the newspaper’s “possession a relic which will be considered of rare value by every lover of Scottish poetry and song, viz., the identical pair of Bibles which were presented by Robert Burns to Mary Campbell, the object of by far the deepest passion which the Bard ever knew, and which he has immortalised in the noblest of his elegiacs.”
The article, which is on page two of the Herald’s Friday 18th of December edition, provides some background to the Bibles, which had been in Canada, and were forwarded from Montreal to Glasgow by Robert Weir’s son. There also are details of their identifying features and condition. Both were accompanied by a lock of Mary’s hair and two packets, addressed to the authorities at Ayr, where they were to be deposited in the Burns monument on the banks of the Doon. However, before they left Glasgow Mr. Weir decided to retain them for a few days, so that they could be seen by admirers of the poet.
On Monday the 21st of December, the paper commented, on page two:
“Highland Mary’s Bible. – Since our notice of Friday last, announcing the arrival of this interesting relic of the peasant bard, Mr. Weir’s shop has been literally crowded, and he has been obliged for the time to abandon his usual business, and confine himself to the task of gratifying the curious. These consist of every class, from the wealthy merchant to the humble operative, and it is pleasing to record that the greater portion of the visitants have been ladies, who come singly or in groups, sometimes with a male escort, but as often without. The volumes are exhibited in a glass case, with the blank leaves open which bear the handwriting of Burns; but this kind of inspection does not usually satisfy the fair sex, who wish to see the leaves turned over, and this done, one or all of the party say – ‘O do place them in my hand just for a second, that I may say I have touched the Bible of Highland Mary.’ The lock of hair also evokes many a sigh and many a note of admiration; and altogether the company has been so numerous and so highly pleased, that it is a pity they did not think of leaving a shilling each for the purpose of erecting a Glasgow monument to the Scottish son of song in the Necropolis. – Mr. Weir has received a most gratifying letter from Provost Limond of Ayr acknowledging the receipt of the packet which accompanied the Bibles to Scotland; and we understand that but for the Provost’s delicate state of health, the presentation of the Bibles would have been graced by a public dinner. As it is, they will be presented in the course of this week in presence of a party of private friends.”
On the 28th of December, on page two:
“HIGHLAND MARY’S BIBLE. – On Thursday last, Mr. Weir, who was the temporary custodier of the Bible of Highland Mary, proceeded to Ayr, and presented the precious relic to Provost Limond, in presence of the Magistrates and Council. The evening was passed in the greatest harmony, and the health of Mr. Weir, junr., of Montreal, was drunk con amore.”