4 August 2021
We visited the Falls of Bruar recently and discovered that Rabbie Burns had beaten us to it. He visited in 1787 and immortalised his visit in a poem entitled, ‘The Humble Petition of Bruar Water’. It was written, ‘To the Noble Duke of Athole’.
In it, Burns imaginatively writes as if he is the Bruar Water running down the hillside over the rocks and falls. In it, the Water reports that ‘A poet Burns came by’ and he makes it his boast, ‘I am, altho’ I say’t myself’/ Worth gaun a mile to see’.
We thought so too. The first information board at the start of the mile and half walk up to the falls and back again warns of steep and uneven paths and water ‘deep, cold and fast-flowing, so please do not swim’. We didn’t, of course. But there was a group of wet-suited young people doing a gorge walk.
They were well supervised and clearly enjoying the challenges presented by the gorge and the cliffs and the cold water. It was a welcome sight to see young people exploring this wonderful environment after all the Covid restrictions.
The purpose of the bard’s poem was to invite the fourth Duke of Atholl to plant some trees and shrubs on the banks of the Water. They will attract the birds and the Duke will hear their birdsong. They will provide shelter for the birds nesting and the shepherd resting.
And here, by sweet, endearing stealth,
Shall meet the loving pair,
Despising world with all their wealth,
As empty idle care:
The flowr’s shall vie, in all their charms,
The hour of heav’n to grace;
And birks extend their fragrant arms
To screen the dear embrace.
After Burns died, the Duke planted over 100,000 larches and pines, landscaped the area with paths and decorative bridges in the bard’s memory and earned the nickname ‘Planter John’. Burns was ahead of his time with his political lobbying, his sensitivity to the natural environment, its conservation and its joy!