Bo'ness Foreshore, History, Kinneil House

Robert Burns and the Bo’ness horse races

Wishing our followers a Happy Burns Night 2023!

Robert Burns famously visited Bo’ness together with his friend William Nicol on Saturday 25th August 1787 and gave an unflattering description which shall not be repeated…! He wrote that they saw a horse race – perhaps a reader somewhere may know more about the story of horse-racing in the town and where the races took place? They also called on “a friend of Mr. Nicol’s, a Bailie Cowan, of whom I know too little to attempt his portrait”.

Here is an advertisement which appears to be for the very race meeting which Burns attended! The main prize was donated by none other than the Duke of Hamilton – owner of Kinneil Estate – together with other prizes given by the townspeople, and the advert appeared in the Caledonian Mercury of 18 August 1787:

On FRIDAY the 24th, and SATURDAY the 25th August current, for a Purse of TEN GUINEAS, given by his Grace the Duke of Hamilton.
For a Purse of THREE GUINEAS, given by the Town.
For a handsome Plated PORTER MUG, also given by the Town, with some smaller PRIZES.
And for a SADDLE, given by the Colliers.
Horses, mares or geldings, entering for the Duke’s Purse, to carry
Four years old, – eight stone
Five years old, – nine stone
Six years old, – nine stone eleven lib.
Aged, – ten stone.
The horses, &c. for this Prize, to be entered on Thursda. evening the 23rd of August, betwixt seven and nine, at Mr John Bain’s, vintner at Borrowstounness; and for the other Prizes at the same house, betwixt eight and nine next morning; at which times the several articles for the races are to be seen; and such horse, &c., as are not entered in time, it is in the option of the Stewards to debar them.

Find out more on our web site about another Kinneil connection to Burns.