Minister claims Tam o’Shanter never drank in church

Rev Guthrie claims Robert Burns' poem refers to a local pub, not the church

THE former minister of the church where the real life Tam o’Shanter is buried has blasted some modern versions of the Burns’ masterpiece for containing a sacrilegious error.

The Reverend Jim Guthrie formerly preached in Kirkoswald parish, nearAyr, where Douglas Graham and John Davidson, who the Bard immortalised as Tam o’Shanter and Souter Johnnie, are laid to rest.

Rev Guthrie has complained that modern recitations of the poem wrongly claim that a heavy drinking session was taking place in church on a Sunday.

In a scholarly Burns Night letter to a newspaper, Rev Guthrie points out that drinking in a church would never have been tolerated in Calvinistic 18th Century Scotland.

And he reveals that the line in the poem is simply referring to a  local pub.

According to the retired minister, the problem is with the 11th line of the third stanza, which reads “That at the L—d’s house, ev’n on Sunday” and is followed by the line “Thou drank with Kirkton Jean till Monday.”


Rev Guthrie complains: “This is now commonly recited as ‘That at the Lord’s house, ev’n on Sunday’,

“I’ve even seen this form printed in some late editions,  which if you think about it doesn’t make sense.

“Who could possibly get away with drinking in the kirk from Sunday to Monday in 18th century Calvinistic Scotland?

“Especially under the ministry of the Rev Matthew Bigger, who was at the time minister of the parish and ruled with an iron fist.”

The minister goes on to explain: “L—d’s stands for Leddies’ the village nickname for Jean Kennedy – Kirkton Jean – whose drinking howff was situated next to the church grounds.

“She was known to enjoy an all-night drinking session from time to time with some of her choice customers.”

He added: “It is believed that Burns used this abbreviation simply to meet the exigencies of rhythm.”

Robert Burns wrote Tam o’Shanter in 1790.

It tells the story of a man who stayed in the pub too long and while travelling home is accosted by witches and ghosts.

He narrowly escapes by crossing running water, where the supernatural beings cannot follow, but his horse is not so lucky and loses her tail.