Heritage Service Volunteer Finds Burns Connection

Friday, 19 January 2024 11:39

Heritage Service volunteer, Jennifer Roberts, has been indexing a collection of miscellaneous archives dated 1790–1799. Jennifer noticed that there was mention of Mr John Lewars, an excise man in Dumfries in 1792, in a statement relating to an incident following a night of drinking. Mr Lewars, still drunk in the morning, had threatened two women. Accompanying him, and preventing him from causing any harm, was Mr Burns…Robert Burns – and Mr Lewars was Burns’ superior.

An exciseman was employed by the government in what today would be HM Customs and Excise to ensure that people paid their taxes, particularly where related to alcohol. It was not a "trade" that was admired by the common people, and it would be fair to say that excisemen at this time were somewhat unpopular. This incident, uncovered in the indexing of these archives, is mentioned in “A Biography of Robert Burns” by James MacKay.

Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council Communities Committee, Councillor Ian Blake, said: “This is a fantastic example of the richness of our Heritage Service’s archive collection. The archive is an amazing source of local history. I would encourage all those interested in our local history to find out more about the Heritage Service based at the Ewart Library.”

Vice Chair, Councillor Jackie McCamon added: “Even 228 years after his death, the life of Robert Burns continues to intrigue. This is a prime example of what can be discovered within the archive collection.”

The work undertaken by volunteers in the Heritage Service makes its collections more accessible and continue to list and highlight many of the wonderful events, people and heritage of our region.

Volunteers play a crucial role in the Heritage Service – and there are many opportunities for those with an interest in their local area by listing archives, scanning photographs and working though the old newspapers.

If you’d like to view the archives or find out more about the volunteering roles, please contact: