When son of Rabbie Burns was educated at Christ’s Hospital


With Burns Night having been celebrated up and down the country, Christ’s Hospital has unearthed the original admission papers for ‘Rabbie’ Burns’ fourth son, James Glencairn Burns, who was educated at Christ’s Hospital from 1802-1809.

James Glencairn began his education at Dumfries Grammar School but then he went to Christ’s Hospital.



His admission papers reveal ‘because his father had died about three years before James went to Christ’s Hospital, his mother was left with a family of four children and without sufficient means for their support’.

His mother asked that her youngest son, James Glencairn Burns, at the age of eight, could be educated at Christ’s Hospital and brought up with other children in the charity school.

The admission papers had to be certified by a minister, along with a completed petition by the parent and a copy of the baptism entry and marriage entry of the parents.

Once they had completed their education at Christ’s Hospital, children had to be ‘discharged’ and in James’ case this was carried out by a Sir James Shaw, who was a relative of Burns and a successful merchant from humble beginnings.

He used his new found wealth to support Burns’ orphaned children.

He later became Lord Mayor of London – believed to be the first Scotsman to hold office in 1806.

Following James’ education at Christ’s Hospital, he did not follow in the footsteps of his famous father but served as a cadet in the East India Company where he rose to the rank of Major.

He retired in 1839 having returned home to live in London following an outstanding career in the army and having been appointed Judge and Collector at Cahar in 1833.

He became a Lieut. Colonel in 1855.

His father, Robert Burns, was born in Alloway, near Ary on January 25 1759. Burns Night is traditionally held on his birthday every year and involves whisky, haggis and poetry in his honour.

Robert Burns was a farmer’s son and his poetry helped him to escape the toil of working on the land.

He died at the young age of 37.

Christ’s Hospital continues to be the leading charitable school in the country with the majority of its pupils receiving a financially assisted place according

to means.

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