The Globe Tavern Close, Dumfries
|Occupation||Barmaid and domestic servant|
Helen Anne Park, known as Ann Park or Anna Park, was baptised on 16 December 1770 in Edinburgh, Scotland. She was the daughter of Joseph Park, an Edinburgh coachmaker and Jean Dick. The record of Ann's baptism gives her mother's name as Ann Dick, but the parents marriage record states her name to be Jean Dick. The records of all of Ann's subsequent siblings also give their mother's name as Jean Dick. Ann married John Greenshiels, or Greenshields, on 11 November 1794 in Edinburgh, Scotland. She bore the poet Robert Burns an illegitimate child named Elizabeth "Betty" Burns. Her name is given as 'Ann Hislop' on her daughter's death certificate of 13 June 1873.
Life and character
It has been commonly believed that Ann was a niece of Mrs Jean 'Meg' Hyslop (born Jean or Jane Maxwell), who was the landlady at the Globe Tavern in Dumfries. She first met Burns when she was only nineteen and following an affair with the poet, Ann Park gave birth on 31 March 1791 to Robert Burns's daughter, Elizabeth "Betty" Burns, just a few days before his wife Jean Armour gave birth to his son, William Nicol Burns. Ann Park gave the child Elizabeth to Burns in 1793 when was seeking a position as a domestic servant. Mackay relates that she was in fact the second-cousin of William 'Jock' Hyslop, Jean's husband, his father having remarried an Ann Park in 1733. Mackay gives no references to support these claims.
As previously stated, she married the tradesman John Greenshields on 11 November 1794 in Edinburgh, Scotland. One tradition is that she died whilst giving birth to Elizabeth, whilst another more evidenced tradition alleges that she became a domestic servant in Leith or Edinburgh, where she married John Greenshields, a soldier, and died in giving birth to his child. Mackay relates that she married a carpenter named John Greenshields on 11 November 1794. John married a Jane Boyd in 1799, suggesting that Ann was dead by this time. Neither marriage resulted in children. Mackay states his version was based on "A detailed study of the registers of Edinburgh and Leith". A more thorough study reveals the following. Ann married John Greenshields on 17 November 1794. They had 5 children; James, baptised 14 March 1797 in St Cuthberts, Edinburgh; John, baptised 25 January 1798 in St Cuthberts; Margaret, baptised 20 August 1801 in St Cuthberts; Ann, baptised 26 April 1808 in Leith South; Elisabeth, baptised 4 August 1811 in Leith South. The records show a John Greenshields married Margaret Morris in Leith South in 1818 and they had 4 children. The naming of the children suggests this was the same John that married Ann Park, indicating that Ann died sometime between the birth of Elisabeth in 1811 and John's remarriage in 1818. Note that Mackay correctly stated that a John Greenshields married Jane Boyd in 1799 in Edinburgh. This has doubtless led Mackay and others to the wrong conclusion that Ann had died. In fact this was a different John, and he and Jane had a daughter, Christiana Jane, in 1800. All of the latter information can be found through the "Scotland's People" website.
Brown records that two of Ann's grandsons were at the 1859 Glasgow Anniversary Celebrations, sons therefore of her daughter Betty and John Thomson.
Association with Robert Burns
Burns first met Ann Park at the Globe Tavern in Dumfries, where she worked as a barmaid. She was Burns's "Anna of the gowden locks".
Very little primary evidence survives about the relationship between Burns and Ann Park. Local tradition relates that Ann "had other pretty ways to render herself agreeable to the customers at the inn than the serving of wine", however no real evidence exists to confirm this. She is said to have died in giving birth to Elizabeth, while another tradition alleges that she became a domestic servant in Leith or Edinburgh, where she married a soldier, and died in giving birth to his child.
Elizabeth "Betty" Burns
Elizabeth "Betty" Burns was born on 31 March 1791 in Leith, Midlothian, Edinburgh (1791–1873), after Ann had returned to her parents or sister in the later stages of her pregnancy. Elizabeth was indisputably the daughter of Ann Park and Robert Burns. Jean Armour brought up Elizabeth, as one of her own family, commenting that "Our Robin should hae had twa wives." She received, at the age of 21, the sum of £200 from the fund raised by her father's admirers.
She is said to have been named by her mother's friends and remained in Leith for two years until Jean sent a servant to bring her to the Burns' home at Ellisland. She had her father's looks and the neighbours at Leith were aware of her parentage. Jean gave her the surname Burns after her husband's death.
Elizabeth or 'Betty' Burns as she was known, married Private John Thomson of the Stirlingshire Militia. He was the son of William Thomson and Agnes Adam, and had been born in Glasgow in 1788. They married on 2 June 1808 in Dumfries, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Thomson sent Betty to stay with his parents in Pollokshaws, Glasgow, until he left the militia in 1814, taking up the trade of handloom weaving, and remaining in Pollockshaws until their deaths. John died on 22 February 1869, and Betty died on 13 June 1873 in Crossmyloof at the age of 82. They are both buried in the Old Burgher churchyard in Pollokshaws.
Their children were William Thomson b. 23 March 1809, d. 22 May 1855; Jean Armour Thomson b. 27 July 1815, d. 22 January 1891; Robert Burns Thomson b. 16 December 1817, d. 14 April 1887; Agnes Thomson b. c 1821, d. 6 May 1865; Sarah Burns Thomson b. c 1825, d. 15 December 1885; James Glencairn Thomson b. 19 October 1827, d. 9 July 1911; Elizabeth Thomson b. 26 July 1830; and Margaret Thomson b. 3 May 1833, d. 23 November 1896.
She felt that the Burns family did not accept her, most notably through her exclusion from the Burns Festival in Ayr of 1844. Significantly her son Robert was rejected upon trying to greet his father's sons, his uncles, at the Ayr Festival. She stated that her 'unfortunate' birth was the greatest stain by far on her father's character.
Some confusion exists over Ann Parks first name and surname, with variations such as Ann Hyslop, Helen Anne Hislop, Etc. The variation Helen Hyslop adds to the confusion as a 'beauty' of this name from Moffat is said to have had an affair and a daughter, also Helen, by the poet.
Janet Elsie-May Coom, the great, great, great granddaughter of Robert Burns, through Anna Park, was made an honorary member of the Irvine Burns Club in January 2009.
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