SCOTTISH experts have shed light on the day-to-day domestic life of Robert Burns and his family after a "game-changing" discovery.

The academics from the University of Glasgow's Centre for Robert Burns Studies have uncovered new evidence on the building of Burns’s Ellisland Farmhouse as well as bills and receipts which show the domestic affairs overseen by Jean Armour of not only his farm but his last home in Dumfries.

The researchers have been carrying out a major project – Editing Burns for the 21st Century – led by professor Gerard Carruthers, and were invited to Barnbougle Castle near Edinburgh by the Rosebery family to look at a collection of rare Burns manuscripts and books collected by one of their ancestors.

While at the castle gathering material for the Oxford University Press edition of The Works of Robert Burns, they were shown an “unexpected bonus” of a book labelled simply Burnsiana.

Carruthers, the Francis Hutcheson chair of Scottish literature at the university and a world-leading Burns expert, said: “We are so grateful to the Rosebery family for giving us access to this superb collection and in particular for lending us Burnsiana to delve even further into the materials held within it.

"The book contains a full set of evidence for Burns’s construction of Ellisland, previously unknown, including quantities of nails, floorboards and door frames. Here we have the minutiae of Burns constructing his first family dwelling as an adult, building both a house and a home.”

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He added: “But it also paints a fascinating picture of life at Ellisland including bills for shoes, buttons and buckles to clothing materials like corduroy, calico and linen. This material is a real game-changer for our knowledge of Ellisland and its future conservation.”

Burnsiana was part of the library of the 19th-century prime minister Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, 1st Earl of Midlothian, who during his lifetime amassed an impressive library which he kept mainly at Barnbougle.

Rosebery was a keen collector, historian and writer as well as an admirer of Scotland’s national poet and did a great deal in his lifetime to protect and celebrate Burns’s legacy.

Dr Pauline Mackay, co-director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies and chair of Burns Scotland, said: “This exciting discovery is particularly timely as the Robert Burns Ellisland Trust looks to re-develop the home Burns built into a heritage site for the 21st century."

She added: “It will also enable us to contemplate further how we might use XR (Extended Reality) technology to compose and access important Burns-related sites, and to illuminate their evolution from the eighteenth century to the present day.”

The building receipts, which are titled “For Materials for a House at Ellisland”, have been dated from September 18, 1788 to May 30, 1789 and can be traced to Thomas Boyd, who built the farmhouse and outbuilding.

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Burns was especially creative during the years he lived at Ellisland and wrote a quarter of his songs and poems including Auld Lang Syne and Tam o’ Shanter.

Lord Dalmeny and Lady Jane Kaplan, the children of the 7th Earl of Rosebery and great-grandchildren of Archibald Primrose the 5th Earl, have supported the Centre for Robert Burns Studies in its research into their family’s collection.

Lord Dalmeny, who is the chairman of Sotheby’s auction house in the UK, said: “The 5th Earl, my great-grandfather, rebuilt Barnbougle, which is only a short walk from our family’s Dalmeny House, into the ultimate 'shed at the bottom of the garden' which included six libraries. He was a keen collector and historian, with a passion for reading and learning and some of his vast book collection, including Burnsiana, are still housed at Barnbougle.”