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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Geddes, Jenny

The name Burns gave to his mare, on which he rode on his Border and Highland tours. He bought her in Edinburgh for 'over £4 Sterling'. In a letter to William Nicol from Carlisle, dated 1t June 1787, Burns described his jouney on Jenny Geddes during the Border tour at great length and in Scots. Among other things, she was: 'a yald, poutherie Girran for a' that; and has a stomach like Willie Stalker's meere that wad hae digested tumbler-wheels'.

Writing to James Smith on 30th June, Burns related how, at the end of his short West Highland tour a few days before, by the shores of Loch Lomond: 'by came a Highlandman at the gallop on a tolerably good horse, but which had never known the ornaments of iron or leather. We scorned to be out-galloped by a Highlandman, so off we started, whip and spur. My companions, though seemingly gaily mounted, fell sadly astern; but my oold mare, Jenny Geddes, one of the Rosinate family, strained past the Highland man in spite of all his efforts with the hair halter; just as I was passing him, Donal wheeled his horse, as if to cross before me to mar my progress, when down came his horse, and threw his rider;s breekless a-e in a clipt hedge; and down came Jenny Geddes over all, and my Bardship between her and the Highlandman's horse. Jenny Geddes trode over me with such cautious reverence that matters were not so bad as might well have been expected; so I came off with a few cuts and bruises, and a thorough resolution to be a pattern of sobriety of the future.'

An abbreviated account of this race was given to John Richmond from Mossgiel in a letter of 7th July 1787.

For the Highland tour, Burns and Nicol left Edinburgh in a chaise, and on 23rd August 1787, Burns told Ainslie of this, adding: '... so Jenny Geddes goes home to Ayrshire to use a phrase of my Mother's "wi' her finger in her mouth".'

Writing to Mrs Dunlop from Ellisland on 13th June 1788, Burns said: 'This is the second day, my honored friend that I have been on my farm. A solitary Inmate of an old smoky "SPENCE"; far from every Object I love, or by whom I am belov'd, nor any acquaintance older than yesterday except Jenny Geddes, the old mare I ride on.'

Jenny Geddes is the name tradition has given to the woman who, on 23rd August 1637,in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, is said to have thrown a stool at the Bishop of Edinburgh, who, on the authority of Charles, was trying to force into use in the Scottish Church The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments; And other Parts of Divine Service for the Use of the Church of Scotland. Edinburgh: Printed by Robert Young.

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Complete Burns Songs

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