The Bachelors' Club

The Bachelors' Club - Composed by John C Grant ( Traditional composer from Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland.

The Bachelors’ Club, an evocative National Trust for Scotland museum nestled at 1 Sandgate Street, Tarbolton, KA5 5RB, stands as an esteemed repository of history. With its charming 17th-century thatched architecture and meticulously curated period furnishings, the venue provides a captivating glimpse into the past. This historic site holds a special place in Scotland’s narrative, as it played a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s very first rural debating society—an innovative concept that later reverberated across the globe, inspiring the establishment of Burns Clubs worldwide.

Unveiled on the notable date of 11 November 1780, the debating club counted among its influential members Robert Burns, Gilbert Burns, Hugh Reid, Alexander Brown, Thomas Wright, William M’Gavin, and Walter Mitchell. It was within the confines of John Richard’s ale-house that the club’s inaugural gathering unfolded, with Robert Burns himself assuming the mantle of its first president. Notably, it was also here that Robert Burns undertook dance lessons under the tutelage of William Gregg, a name now intricately associated with the famed ‘Gregg Fiddle.’ Guided by a set of rules, arguably influenced by Robert Burns, the club engaged in spirited discussions that encompassed diverse themes such as the dynamics of love versus friendship and the comparative happiness of savages versus that of civilised peasants. The sessions of intellectual discourse concluded with heartwarming toasts, paying homage to the members’ mistresses and the integral roles they played in their households.

Beyond its role as a debating hub, the building continued to serve as a residence for various families until 1928. A twist of fate spared it from demolition in 1937, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the people of Tarbolton, the Burns Federation and the National Trust for Scotland. Eventually, in 1951, the property was secured for the nation’s heritage, and a careful restoration orchestrated by the National Trust for Scotland in 1971 breathed new life into this historical gem.

The enduring legacy of the Bachelors’ Club reverberates through time, with the poignant performances of the late Bruce Kennedy echoing within its hallowed halls. His evocative renditions bridging the gap between eras, encapsulating the vibrant spirit of this remarkable establishment.

The Bachelors’ Club only continued for a few years after Robert Burns left, however, it was re-convened by the locals of Tarbolton once again. The first President of the club was Robert Burns.

The Bachelors’ Club reconvened on Thursday 18 January 1951 with the following members: -

Robert Jack as Chairman and President, Charles Garven as Secretary, Robert Stevenson as Treasurer. Additional members were - J. Kerr, R.M. Agnew, G.C. Wilson, T. Clark, D. Murphy, A. Prentice, D.G. Campbell, Rev. A.M. Paterson and J. Weir.

On 20 January 1971, the first Burns Supper was held at the Bachelors’ Club, resided over by it’s third President and Chairman Major John Weir OBE.

On 24 January 1974, Rev. Ian Uidhist MacDonald resided over the Supper as fourth President and Chairman.

The current fifth President and Chairman, Robert A McCroskie, assumed his role in 2008.

Over the years, locals such as Sam Hay, Yuill Lithgow, Enoch Currie, Davie Rodger, Duncan Cameron, Alistair Murdoch and many more have donated their time to provide tours to all those who visit the Bachelors’ Club.

The Bachelors' Club - Composed by John C Grant ( Traditional composer from Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland.

A guide track for ‘The Bachelors’ Club’ is available below for listening: -

You can download a PDF of the sheet music here - or braille format here.

The track is additionally available within the following collections and sets: -

Associated Collections: -
6/8 Ayrshire Places Bachelors Club Jig Robert Burns The Kilmarnock Collection The Tarbolton Collection The Three Six Five Collection