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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Lochlie, or Lochlea, to give it its modern spelling (Burns used both versions), lies two and a half miles north east of Tarbolton, and just over 3 miles northwest of Mauchline. When William Burnes freed himself from his obligations at Mount Oliphant, and moved into David M'Lure's 130 acre farm of Lochlie, he agreed to pay the unduly high annual rental of £1 an acre. The farm stands about 400 feet above sea level, and looks southwest over a depression surrounded by low hills. Though nowadays obviously fertile, it is not difficult to imagine how swampy it must have been at Whitsun, 1777, when it became William Burnes's last home. M'Lure, an Ayr Merchant, possibly lent burnes some capital — 'the nature of the bargain was such as to throw a little ready money in [my father's] hand at he commencement; otherwise the affair would have been impractical', his son later recorded — but felt such confidence in his new tenant that the exact terms of the lease were never set down in writing.

It was while at Lochlie that Burns's need for companionship asserted itself, for Gilbert records that at this period robert's 'attachment to [the society of women] became very strong, and he was constantly the victim of some fair enslaver'. During the winter of 1779, Burns attended a country dancing school 'to give my manners a brush', as he put it. His father profoundly disapproved. Robert also formed friendships with men, among them James Findlay, later the poet's instructor in the Exciseman's craft; John Wilson, schoolmaster, grocer, apothecary and subject of 'Death and Dr Hornbook'; and the local poetasters, David Sillar, Alexander 'Saunders' Tait, and John Rankine. Burns's rather formal love affair with Alison Begbie, occurred while he was at Lochlie, probably in the early months of 1781. And, of course, he participated from Lochlie in the debates of the Tarbolton Bachelor's Club. From Lochlie, too, Burns set out for Irvine, probably early in the summer of 1781, to learn flax dressing, a depressing experience which made him ill, and from which he returned to the family circle early in 1782.

The summer of 1782 was a cold season of exceptional storminess. Since 1779 Burnes had been in difficulties, probably paying no rent to M'Lure. The summer of 1782 was the last straw. In May 1783 a warrant of sequestration was operated against Burnes, by then a prematurely aged and dying man. Burnes took his case to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, and won: but this defence of his honour cost him all his savings. A few days later, he died, on 13th February 1784.

About 4 months before, Robert and his brother Gilbert, anticipating the inevitable, had secretly taken a lease from Gavin Hamilton on a farm of their own: Mossgiel.

The farm buildings which now stand at Lochlie have no connection with those once lived in by Burns.

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