Annabella Burns, also known as Nannie Burns (1764–1832), held the position of the second eldest sister among the siblings of the renowned poet Robert Burns. Born on the 14th of November 1764, she came into the world at Alloway Cottage as the final child to be born to William Burnes and Agnes Broun.
Her christening took place on the 17th of November, administered by Rev. William Dalrymple, who served as the minister of Ayr Parish Church.
Upon her passing in 1832, Annabella was the last remaining member of Gilbert Burns’s household at Grant’s Brae to be interred at the family lair in Bolton Kirk. Gilbert Burns had passed away five years prior in 1827, also at the age of 67.
Annabella’s father, William Burnes, was 43 years old when she was born, while her mother, Agnes Brown, was 32. Alongside Annabella, her siblings included Robert Burns (born on 25th January 1759), Gilbert (born on 28th September 1760), Agnes (born on 30th September 1762), William (born on 30th July 1767), John (born on 10th July 1769), and Isabella (born on 27th July 1771).
During their time at Mossgiel Farm, Annabella Burnes slept in a recess bed within the kitchen. Her sisters, Annabella and Agnes, occupied fixed beds along the back wall of the larger adjacent room.
Isabella Burns fondly recalled a memory involving her sister Annabella, as she escorted Isabella to a dance at Tarbolton’s Bachelors’ Club with Matthew Paterson. This act occurred when Paterson’s intended partner failed to appear.
Throughout her life, Annabella never entered the bonds of matrimony. Instead, she and her mother resided with Gilbert Burns and his family. Gilbert’s tenure at Mossgiel Farm concluded in 1798, after which he farmed at Dinning in Nithsdale for a span of two years.
Subsequently, Gilbert and the extended family departed Dinning before the lease’s culmination. Gilbert took up the post of estate manager at Morham West Mains in East Lothian, an appointment facilitated by Captain John Dunlop, the son of Frances Dunlop. John Begg, the husband of Isabella Burns, assumed the lease at Dinning.
After several years at Morham West Mains, Annabella relocated to Grant’s Brae, situated on the route to Bolton. It was here that she spent her remaining years. Gilbert, meanwhile, acted as the factor of the Lennoxlove estates owned by Lady Katherine Blantyre.
Upon her passing, Annabella was laid to rest alongside her mother, Gilbert, and several of his children at Bolton Kirk within Bolton Parish, located south of Haddington.
A guide track for ‘Annabella Burns’ is available below for listening: -
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