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Fight to save Burns’ farm from closure

By Fiona Reid
Dumfries and West
Fight to save Burns' farm from closure

A WARNING has been given that Robert Burns' riverside home will close without firm action to deal with its finances.

Ellisland Farm, the bard’s first home with Jean Armour, sits on the banks of the Nith and inspired work such as Tam o Shanter and Auld Lang Syne.

A fundraising campaign has now been launched to help save the site which has been closed due to Covid-19.

The Robert Burns Ellisland Trust took over from the former Ellisland Trust in April and discovered all the former charity’s reserves were spent and it had a large annual deficit.

The new board of trustees this week issued a statement to members saying they had taken immediate steps to put the trust into the black – including the early termination of the contract of a temporary curator.

The new trust will now launch a major fundraising drive, recruit additional volunteers and seek new sources of funding to keep the site open for events and visits, once it was safe to do so.

Joan McAlpine MSP is chair of the new board of trustees and said: “Charity law means that any organisation facing a deficit it cannot fund must wind up. That is what we face if we ignore the financial crisis we have inherited. Winding up Ellisland would mean selling the collection, the farmhouse buildings and the land. That is unthinkable. Ellisland was designed by Burns and has stood since 1788. Preserving it is our priority.”

She continued: “We want Ellisland to be at the centre of cultural community activity in Dumfries and Galloway, which is already working on a joined-up Burns’s tourism offering. We also recognise its vital educational role and the opportunities for outdoor and environmental education, given the beautiful riverside walks. It most also be protected and cared for properly.”

Professor Gerard Carruthers, director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at Glasgow University and one of the new trustees at Ellisland, said it’s a unique place and added: “We are confident that we can make a success of Ellisland as it is a very special place. An online seminar I hosted recently called Burns@ellisland attracted 123 attendees from around the world and resulted in Ellisland growing its membership by a quarter.

“Our priority is to make the site sustainable in the short term by eliminating the deficit then developing it sensitively.”

Donations can be made to Ellisland online via Just Giving.

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