Robert Burns in the Archives

Drybrough Burns Beermat (D11_10_8)

To celebrate Burns Night tonight, we thought we’d have a search through the archives for mention of Scotland’s favourite poet. Robert Burns has long been a patriotic figure for Scotland and his presence is felt here in the collections of University of Glasgow Archive Services.

Drybrough & Co Ltd was a firm that had been brewing in Lothian for some time already by 1750 and the firm expanded over time. The brewers manufactured a type of ale called ‘Burns Ale’ and used the image of The Bard to promote their brand. As can be seen above, they produced beer mats with extracts from Burns’ works and they even published a special Drybrough’s Burns Songbook. Burns ale was clearly a popular choice in pubs and it won second prize in the 1950 Brewers’ Exhibition.

Drybrough Burns Songbook (D12_3_5)

Not only did we find traces of Burns in our brewing archive, but he popped up in the records of Stoddard and Templeton. When searching through the files of carpet and rug designs, we came across this fine specimen:


This fantastic rug was designed by a company called William C. Gray & Sons Ltd. The company grew from small beginnings in 1876 in Ayr, where William C. Gray produced carpets on two hand looms. The company expanded and moved to Newton-on-Ayr in 1877. It was here that their factory would be built in the 1880s. Production increased in both amount and variety during the 1880s and 1890s and the company grew in success, with showrooms all around the UK by the 1930s. Eventually the company became Gray’s Carpets in 1967, trading up until 1971.

We looked up our corporate records of the company and found the design in an order book (GUAS Ref STOD/204/2/7). The dimensions were 5.8 x 3.0 in feet and it was first ordered in 1965. Unfortunately we do not have much more information relating to this specific rug design. If you recognise this rug, or even have one of your own, we would love to hear from you!

Happy Burns Night all, and enjoy your ‘chieftain o’ the puddin-race’!

Detail of rug design (STOD/DES/51/28)

Categories: Archive Services (GUAS)

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25 replies

  1. Hello, my Mother-in-law, who originally hails from Kilmarnock and has lived in Alberta, Canada for the last 61 years has this rug on her wall. She picked it up at an estate auction locally and it was stapled to a piece of plywood. We removed it from the plywood, carefully sewed some rings on the back and it went up on the wall of her livingroom. A wee piece of Scotland to remind her of home. Kerry Hart

    • Hi Kerry,

      Its great to hear this lovely story of a well traveled rug! I’m glad your Mother-in-law is still enjoying it on her wall in Canada!

      Best wishes,


  2. my sisters myself and my mum all worked for templetons carpet factory in Glasgow and my mum purchased one of the Robert burns rugs when they were woven in 1971, it was displayed on our living room wall.

    • Thanks for your comment! That’s a lovely story to hear, that you all worked there and took home a carpet that still hangs in your house!

      Best wishes,


  3. Can anyone give me a valuation of my rabbis burns rug as displayed please

    • Hi Darren,

      Thank you for your e-mail. I am afraid we are not trained to give valuations here. I suggest you contact a specialist antiques dealer.

      Thanks and best wishes,


    • I would also like a valuation .My rug is stored in my loft (safely).
      I bought it in 1972 and gave the carpet shop manager twenty pounds a month until I was able to complete the purchase (my choice).
      It was the only one in stock.
      I cannot remember the price ,but I recall that it cost a lot of money at that time but it was like a tonic to me when I was still homesick for Ayrshire Scotland ,having arrived in a NEW Town with no friends or family around
      Thelma senior citizen

      • Thank you for your comments Thelma,

        That’s lovely to hear that the carpet helped when you were feeling homesick!

        I am afraid we are not trained to give valuations here. I suggest you contact a specialist antiques dealer.

        Also, we unfortunately do not have a copy of the leaflet so are unable to supply you with a copy. Sorry we could not help!

        Thanks and best wishes,


    • Dear Darren I have just spotted this rug for sale in The World Federation on line shop at four thousand and five hundred pounds UK pounds R B W F online shop Thelma

  4. I have one of these rugs in perfect condition it hangs on the wall at my parents house and has never been walked on

    • Hi Rodger,

      Thanks for your comment. That’s great to hear your Burns rug is on show! It’s great to see how popular they are!

      Best wishes,


    • I also have such a carpet that has never been walked on .
      I have only just spotted a sale of one on Robert Burns Worlld Federation (RBWF online at four thousand and 500 UK Pounds )….have a look, Thelma

  5. I have two of the R.Burns rugs, my brother in law used to work there till he lost his arm in the mill, he is 80 this March.We lived in Ayr and emigrated to Vancouver Island 1972.
    I was looking to see if I could find out what the value was when I found your site
    Thank you a great web site

  6. i have a robert burns rug in first class condition anybody want to buy

  7. Hi thank you i have one of these rugs with original label “glenbarr” quality 36 inch wide.and also sold one one two years ago..

    • Hi Tony,

      Thanks for your comment. It’s very interesting to see how many of these rugs are still in circulation, and still being bought and sold!

      Best wishes,


    • Hi Paul,

      Thank you for your comment! It would be great to see a picture of your Robert Burns rug and the leaflet that came with it. If you could send it to: that would be great!

      Best wishes,

      Gemma Tougher (Assistant Archivist)

      • Hi gtougher,I have one of these rugs but do not have a leaflet.
        I bought the rug in 1972 in England (hard economic times in Scotland when people were moving to England from Scotland to find work)
        I made some sacrifices to buy the rug which was very dear to me at a time when I had no friends or family around me as a young Mother
        Could you oblige me with a copy? I will willingly pay for this . Many thanks Thelma

  9. Hi, I have one of these rugs also, can you let me know where to send a pic of it for you,
    Regds, Vic.

  10. Hello
    I have one of these rugs, it was my mums she was very proud of it. I am not sure what to do with it?
    Any ideas?


    • Hi Louise,

      Thank you very much for getting in touch! We are fascinated to hear that you have one of these colourful rugs and would love to see a picture of it if you’d like to send us a photograph. If you don’t wish to hold on to the rug anymore, you might consider offering it to a museum for their collection? You can get in touch with us directly by e-mail at: and we could advise you.

      Thanks again for your comment!



  1. Robert Burns in the Archives: Revisited « University of Glasgow Library

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