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)

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46 replies

  1. I live in Toronto, Canada and purchased this rug for my father in the 1970’s. I am looking to sell it. It is in excellent condition as it hung on a wall.

    Sandy Bain

  2. I have a framed rug like yours and because it is framed it is much bigger. It is currently in auction on eBay.

  3. I have a framed Robert Burns carpet like the one you are showing on your site. It is now on auction on eBay. Yours William.

  4. Regarding the Burns Rug, while the design listed in this piece may have still been in use somewhere in 1965, I’m fairly certain it goes back much farther than that. I have one of these rugs with the Gray’s tag still attached that appears to date that specific rug to being made in 1914. Given the exquisite quality of this rug, the rich and vibrant color, the jute backing, etc., I suspect that is not far off. I found mine at a thrift store where I wasn’t looking for anything particular and spotted Robbie peeking out from the unrolled carpet. I took him into my arms and he was mine! : )

  5. I have one of the Robert Burns rugs described on your website. Just bought it at auction. My parents had one also but it is now in Spain with my sister. That one is in a frame but the story we were told was that it was made in a three carpet factory that was at one time in Roslin, Midlothian. The story goes that the factory owners son had survived the war and in celebration, since they were avid Burns fans, this rug was designed and there were only 8 of them made. However, since the design is in the archives for Greys, that storey would appear to be wrong and I don’t think my family have 2 of 8!

    • Templeton Wool Mill ( Carpet Factory ) was in the town of Ayr.
      The “BURNS RUG” was one of there many popular designs of rugs.
      I have one which has never been placed on a floor and would sell it if the price was right .
      Thelma Hertfordshire UK,,born and reared in Ayrshire

    • Thank you for this great sory Sheila. Great to hear how the rug has traveled to Spain!

    • My guess is you’re correct, since I now know of at least five….mine, yours, your parents’, one in Scotland, and at least a couple owned by people who have commented here….would seem unlikely there were only 8, but it would certainly make for a great Thrift Store story! Just out of curiosity, might I ask roughly what you paid for yours at auction? I have NO idea what they’re worth….I paid….drumroll, please….less than $25 US and am trying to rehome it in a local restaurant named for Burns just to get it in a place where it can be enjoyed. Would be nice to be able to quote a reasonable price if asked to sell it.

      • Hello Terry why not five thousand!! you never know what interest is out there Best wishes and good luck Thelma . Burns country( Senior Citizen) living in Hertfordshire

      • Thelma, I like your style! You’re obviously from the “Go Big or Go Home!” school of thought!

  6. Hi there, I have one of the burns rugs, i knew it was from grays as my great gran worked there, other than that i know nothing about it. Would be interested to know if it is of any value or worth to anyone, its not really my thing and id rather it was somewhere where somebody appreciated it, any help or advice is welcome
    Thanks , Mr D young

    • Hi Mr Don Young,

      Thank you for your e-mail. Really interesting to learn that your great gran worked at Grays! I am afraid we are not trained to give valuations here at the Archives. We suggest you contact a specialist antiques dealer for a valuation.

      Thanks and best wishes

      • There is no doubt that this carpet would be an investment for someone . I would not sell the one I own for less than 500 pounds sterling .

        Hang on to it ,or try it on e-bay international Best wishes Thelma born Maybole near ayr where Gray’s had their Carpet factory . PS look it up on Wikipaedia!

  7. 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,


  8. 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,


  9. 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

      • I approached the World Federation about the rug just yesterday. They told me they’d had one they were trying to sell for a member….obviously this is the rug. At that price, I can see why it wasn’t sold…..that is nigh on to $$6500 USD. I am thinking about selling mine, but have no intention of asking that much, though I wish I could! : )

  10. 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

  11. 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

    • This is Terry that’s Ma papa that worked in there how are u and Jeanette getting on hope ur doing great all the best

      • Hi Terry
        Just saw your posting,what a small world. we are good and hope to see you and your family this year.see if you can get me a price on the rug.cheers
        alex & Jeanette

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

    • I understand the offers are from four thousand poUnds UPWARDS !.
      See RBWF online at four thousand pounds upwards !.
      I also have one to sell,never walked on and has been on in loft storage for 27 years!

      • They were offered for that, but according to an email I had from them, they did not sell at that price.

  13. 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

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

  16. 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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