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(this post was last edited 21 July 2016)

Mount Oliphant Farm, Ayrshire

The drawing below is alleged to date from 1885 – the middle of the period when the Thomas WATSON family lived there as tenant farmers.

Mount Oliphant

Thomas WATSON, the father in the wedding photo below (white mustache, centre left), lived on Mt. Oliphant Farm from at least 1878 until 1892Thomas and Jane WATSON family 1914 (for more information on this family see the post  on this blog Sunday, April 29, 2012)

1 Thomas WATSON b: 28 April 1827 in Newton On Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 02 March 1878 in Mt. Oliphant, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland …+(1) Mary KERR b: Abt. 08 February 1829 in St. Quivox & Newton, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: Bef. April 1851 in ? Newton On Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland +(2) Mary HUNTER b: 30 March 1827 in Newton On Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, m: 17 February 1854 in St. Quivox and Newton, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 04 July 1907 in Chapeldonan, Girvan, Ayrshire, Scotland

……2 Thomas WATSON b: 02 May 1854 in York Street, Newton On Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 06 March 1932 in Ellisboro, Wolseley Municipality, Saskatchewan, Canada  + Jane MUIR b: 19 December 1865 in Crosshill Village, Kirkmichael, Ayrshire, Scotland, m: 20 January 1887 in Robbsland, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 29 July 1933 in Ellisboro, Wolseley Municipality, Saskatchewan, Canad

………3 Thomas (Tom) WATSON b: 05 April 1887 in Mt. Oliphant, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 19 March 1951 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

………3 James (Jim) Muir WATSON b: 20 November 1888 in Mt. Oliphant, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 17 October 1965 in Victoria, , British Columbia, Canada

………3 Helen (Nell) McNab WATSON b: 10 September 1890 in Mt. Oliphant, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 26 September 1967 in Balcarres Union Hospital, Balcarres, [–?–] Municipality, Saskatchewan, Canada

………3 William (Bill) Watson Muir WATSON b: 24 August 1892 in Mt. Oliphant, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 07 December 1973 in Lemberg, Saskatchewan, Canada

………3 Alexander (Alex) Hunter WATSON b: 21 June 1895 in Cloncaird Mains, Kirkmichael, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 15 August 1934 in Lemberg, McLeod Municipality, Saskatchewan, Canada

………3 Mary Hunter WATSON b: 12 July 1897 in 14 High Street, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, d: 23 May 1900 in Newton Farm Cottages, Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, Scotland

………3 Jane (Jean) Muir WATSON b: 10 January 1899 in Newton Farm, Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, Scotland, d: Abt. 27 June 1988 in Balcarres, , Saskatchewan, Canada

………3 John McConnell Muir WATSON b: 31 December 1903 in Knockhouse, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, d: Abt. 19 April 1994 in Lemberg (Balcarres Hospital), Saskatchewan, Canada

……2 Janet WATSON b: 07 February 1856 in Peebles Street, Newton On Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 12 February 1935 in Abernethy, , Saskatchewan, Canada + Gilbert SPEIRS b: 10 October 1858 in Balichmorrey, (Ayrshire?), Scotland, m: 22 November 1880 in Mount Oliphant by Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 19 April 1941 in James Watson’s Farm, Ellisboro, McLeod Municipality, Saskatchewan, Canada

……2 Isabella WATSON b: 18 March 1858 in Moss Hill by Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 11 June 1904 in Western Infirmary Glasgow Residence, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland + John MCCONNELL b: 25 August 1855 in Tarbolton, Ayrshire, Scotland, m: 05 October 1882 in Mt. Oliphant, Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, d: 11 January 1913 in Highfield Farm, Fenwick, Ayrshire, Scotland


Mount Oliphant, according to the British Listed Buildings Site (http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/sc-999-mount-oliphant-ayr#.V5CCxPkrKUk) (website accessed July 21, 2016, notes have been edited from those on the official website)

Mid 18th century; later additions and alterations. Single storey and attic, 3-bay house with adjoining outbuilding wings forming open courtyard. Predominantly whitewashed rubble.

E (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: near-symmetrical; 3-bay house; modern timber door flanked to left by modern window to centre bay of ground floor, windows to flanking bays to left and right; 2 modern rectangular dormers to attic floor. Single bay links to outbuilding wings to left and right, glazed boarded timber door to left, window to right; wings advanced to outer left and right; ….


While Mt. Oliphant is famous as the farm where Robbie Burns lived from 1766 to 1777, it was, even in Burn’s day, known as a “ruinous bargain”.

“The Burnes [sic] family moved …to Mount Oliphant at Whitsun, 1766 when the poet’s father, William Burnes, rented the farm from Doctor William Ferguson of Doonholm, Alloway, Provost of Ayr. At the time of the move, the poet was 7 years of age.

The farm proved to be infertile and the Burnes family are close to poverty. As the eldest of the family, the poet had to labour in the fields in all weathers, adversely affecting his health for the rest of his life. In an autobiographical letter written many years later, the poet called the farm ‘a ruinous bargain’.

…this land saw the formation of Robert Burns. Here he ‘padl’d in the burn’, and ‘pou’d the gowans fine’ from here he explored the wooded ‘banks and braes o’ bonie Doon’ and it is here that he dreamt his first dreams of young love. This land may have shown the Burnes family the misery of poverty and drudgery but it nurtured the God-given genius of an embryo poet”. (Source: The Ayrshire Book of Burns-Lore, by A. M. Boyle, Alloway Publishing, Darvel, Scotland, 1985, pp. 114-115. )


It seems unlikely that the Watson family saw the romance in Mt. Oliphant farm, however they did live there as tenant farmers for many years. Why did the WATSON family stay so long? The answers are still elusive.

(For more information on the WATSON family see page ‘Thomas & Jane (MUIR) WATSON Family’ under heading ‘WATSON’ top of screen)

Mount Oliphant farm, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland. This photos, taken in 2003 by the author, shows that the basic structure of the farm buildings has remained the same.