Robert Burns and the Coach & Horses
Robert Burns had lived at Ellisland Farm with Jean Armour and attempted to farm it, but the soil was exhausted - maybe by poor husbandry - so would not produce enough to live on. By 1790 Burns decided to move across to Dumfries, where he took a lodging in 11, Bank Street. The end of the house - just visible above the roof of the Coach and Horses - bears a picture of Burns. The house also held the office of his friend and superior in the Customs and Excise service, John Syme. Burns was to be promoted in 1792 into the Dumfries Customs Division on the salary of £ 70 per year. His writing increased, with publication of some fifty songs and poems in the ‘Scots Musical Museum’, Volume 4.
Although Dumfries was considered relatively well-built and prosperous for its day, built as it was of local stone and brick, the same could not be said about Bank Street. It had the earlier name of 'Wee Vennel' or 'Stinking Vennel', as it drained down from the Midsteeple to Whitesands and the River Nith. This none too salubrious location might have impelled Burns to his walks up the side of the Nith towards Lincluden and south past the Dock to Castledykes.
Burns's women friends included Maria Riddell, then married and living at Goldielea, but Burns may not have been quite as faithful to her friendship and to the love of his wife, Jean. The Coach and Horses, although not as famous as the Globe Inn, was just next door. Burns appears to have visited it and drunk there, tradition also claiming that the bawdy 'Muirland Meg' was written there. This may not be completely correct, as there are reports that 'Muirland Meg' may have been written in 1742. The Ballad of Muirland Meg nevertheless forms a part of the history of the Coach and Horses, so it has been put onto the site.
The real woman behind 'Muirland Meg' was apparently Margaret Hog. According to Burns's recent biographer James Mackay, Margaret Hog was also known as 'Monkery Meg' and ran a brothel above 'This hostelry of doubtful repute'. Margaret died in 1811, but the Ballad lives on.
Burns moved into Mill Street (now Burns Street) in May 1793, which may have ended any connection with the Coach and Horses, although his Customs duties may have taken him to the adjacent office from time to time.