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Two of the strangest objects that I’ve come across in this project are shown below:

They are of course characters that appear in Robert Burns’ poem “Tam O’Shanter”. The central characters of the poem were Tam o’ Shanter and Souter Johnnie (The images themselves don’t convey just how large and imposing they are in person!). They were both readily identified by residents of Kirkoswald as neighbours Douglas Graham and John Davidson. The two were old friends who were well known for socialising enthusiastically in Ayr on market days, often returning home late.

Souter Johnnie was based on a local Kirkoswald man, John Davidson, who was a cobbler. “Souter” is an old Scots word for Cobbler. His cottage was built in 1785 and is situated on Main Street, Kirkoswald and he lived and worked there until his death in 1806. His descendants owned the cottage until 1920 when it was handed over to a local committee, formed by the parish minister and Burns scholar, the Reverend James Muir. It was taken over by the National Trust of Scotland in 1932 and was furnished in the style of Burns’ time. It had a room set aside as a shoemaker’s workplace, and has many family and local relics on display.