Sir John Whitefoord of Ballochmyle
Senior Grand Warden 1765-66
Master of St James's, Tarbolton
Writing to Whitefoord on 1st December 1786, soon after he arrived in Edinburgh, Burns said, about his own position:
'the situation of poets is generally such, to a proverb, as may, in some measure, palliate that prostitution of heart and talents they have at times been guilty of. I do not think prodigality is, by ant means, a necessary concomitant of a poetic turn, but I believe a careless, indolent attention to economy is almost inseparable from it; then there must be in the heart of every bard of Nature's making, a certain modest sensibility, mixed with a kind of pride, that will ever keep him out of the way of those windfalls of fortune which frequently light on hardy impudence and foot-licking servility. It is not easy to imagine a more helpless state than his whose poetic fancy unfits him for the world, and whose character as a scholar gives him some pretensions to the politesse of life — yet is as poor as I am.'
The advice he got from Whitefoord was that 'your character as a man (forgive my reversing your order) as well as a poet, entitles you, I think, to the assistance of every inhabitant of Ayrshire... If a sum could be raised by subscription for a second edition of your poems... lay it out in the stocking of a small farm,' advice which, of course, Burns took.
'Farewell to Ballochmyle' was written by the poet when the estate was sold. He enclosed his 'Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn' with the 'Lines to Sir John Whitefoord Bart'. The Whitefoord lines are hardly among the poets best.
Thou, who thy honour as thy God rever'st,
Who, save thy mind's reproach, nought earthly fear'st,
To thee this votive offering I impart,
The tearful tribute of a broken heart.
The Friend thou valued'st, I, the Patron lov'd;
His worth, his honour, all the world approved:
We'll mourn till we too go as he has gone,
And tread the shadowy path to that dark world unknown