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The Ainslies

The present Berrywell House  

Robert Ainslie of Darnchester W.S. (1734 to 1795)


Moved from Darnchester near Coldstream to Berrywell to take up the post of factor (estate manager) for Lord Douglas. He was married to Magdeline Elliot of Woolie (who Burns described as "an excellent, sensible, cheerful, amicable old woman") and had at least five sons; Whitelaw born 1763, Robert born 13.1.1767, Douglas born 23.10.1769 who died in infancy, another Douglas born 6.5.1771, James born c.1772 and a daughter Rachael born 19.3.1768.

When Burns was leaving on his visit to England he presented the Bard with a copy of "The Letters of Junius" a collection of anonymous letters of an almost seditious nature "in testimony of the most severe friendship and esteem"


Whitelaw Ainslie K.B.M.D. 1763 to 1835.


Whitelaw became an assistant surgeon in the East India Company. On 17th. June 1788 he was appointed assistant garrison surgeon of Chingleput and on 17th. October 1794 promoted to surgeon and then in 1810 to Superintending Surgeon to the British Army in India.

In 1799 he married Janet Mary Cunningham daughter of Lt. Col James Cunningham of Balgonie in Fife at Madras and had one daughter Jane Catherine of Darnchester and Dalgety Castle.

He resigned after having served 27 years without furlough and returned to Britain.

Some of his published works are:

  • "Materia Medicia of Hindustan Madras 1813".

  • "Gemenza or the Tuscan Orphan a dramatic tragedy in five acts in 1822-23".

  • "Observations on the Cholerus Moubus of India 1825".

  • "The introduction of Christianity to India 1835".

He died in London on 29th. April 1837.


Robert Ainslie 1766 to 1838 (friend of Robert Burns)


Robert Ainslie was born at Berrywell on 13th. January 1766 and was a law clerk in the office of Samuel Mitchelson in Edinburgh when Robert Burns first met him in 1787. They seemed to form an immediate friendship,

During their tour of the Borders the two were made Royal Arch Masons by the local lodge in Eyemouth, Ainslie paying a fee of one guinea but Burns because of the acclaim in which he was held paying nothing.

His association with Burns secured for Ainslie a cordial welcome in the literary circles of the day, James Hogg the Ettrick Shepherd spoke of him as "Honest Ainslie" Fourteen letters to Robert Ainslie are included in the Burns Collection. In one on these dated at Mauchline, 23rd. July 1787 Burns told him " There is one thing of which I set great store by you as a friend and it is this that I have not a friend upon earth besides yourself to whom I can talk nonsense without forfeiting some degree of esteem"

Robert is the subject of the poem Robert Shure in Hairst. .

 He became a Writer to the Signet in 1789 and in 1798 married Jane Cunninghame by whom he had a son and several daughters. After her death aged 45 he later married Isabella Munro.

In later life he divided his time between his office in Hill Street in Edinburgh and his estate at Edingham in Kirkcudbrightshire. He contributed to the Edinburgh magazine and other periodicals, became an elder of the Church of Scotland and wrote two books on religion - "A father's gift to his children" and " Reasons for the Hope that is in us". Shortly before his death on 11th. April 1838 he presented Sir Walter Scott with a copy of "Tam o' Shanter" which he had received from Burns. He died in the Canongate and is buried in St. Cuthbert's Churchyard, his memorial inscription there reading;

"Sacred to the memory of Robert Ainslie, writer to the signet who was born at Berrywell near Duns on 13th. January 1767 and died at Edinburgh on 11th. April 1838 in the 72nd. year of his age. This memorial is erected by his disconsolate widow, Isabella Munro, daughter of the late Rev. Robert Munro, Ullapool Ross-shire"

James Ainslie 1772 to 18__


James was possibly born in Jedburgh in 1772. He was a trooper in the Royal Scots Greys at the Battle of Waterloo during which battle he survived being struck on the head with a sabre. At some point thereafter he emigrated Australia and in 1828 was sent by Robert Campbell an enterprising merchant to collect 800 sheep and to look for suitable pastureland.

He stopped at Duntroon (named after Campbell's ancestral home of Duntroon in Argyllshire) now part of Canberra and with the help of aborigines erected the necessary huts and enclosures. However he was robbed by a bushranger but managed to catch the culprit for which he was rewarded by the government. The settlement at Duntroon flourished and in twelve years Ainslie built up the size of his flock from 700 to 20,000 sheep.

By all accounts Ainslie was a strict disciplinarian, running the settlement in true military fashion but was liked and respected. He did though have his failings one of which was apparently an indulgence in good Jamaica rum. It was reported that after an over sufficiency he would seize his gun and bombard adjacent gum trees seeing in them old enemies of Waterloo

He became one of Australia's first immigration agents and recruited labour from Scotland most of them travelling in Campbell's ships. He caused a bit of a scandal by living with an aboriginal woman by whom he had a daughter named Nanny. He returned to Scotland in 1835 and nothing seems known of him subsequently (maybe he fell out with his family because of his drinking or his marriage) and his name does not appear on the family memorial.

When Canberra was laid out as the Australian capital one area was called Ainslie in his honour as also the mountain facing the city.





Rachael Ainslie 9th. March 1768 to 14th. November 1828,

She was born at Berrywell and died at Cairnbank but otherwise apart from her vignette in the life of Robert Burns little seems known of her. A street in Duns has recently been named after her.


The family gravestone in Duns Churchyard reads;


"To the memory of ROBERT AINSLIE of Darnchester who died at Cairnbank 10.4.1795 and KATHERINE WHITELAW of Whitelaw in East Lothian his spouse who also died there 18.12.1803 and RACHAEL AINSLIE their only daughter who also died at Cairnbank 14.11.1828 and Sir WHITELAW AINSLIE who died at London 29.4.1837 and is interred at King Edward Aberdeenshire and ROBERT AINSLIE W.S. who died at Edinburgh 11.4.1838 and DOUGLAS AINSLIE their youngest son who died near Banff at Eden, Aberdeenshire 19.8.1850 aged 79 and is interred near to his brother WHITELAW at the Old Church of King Edward."


Canberra from Mount Ainslie 

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