Souter Johnnie’s new life as art gallery

The Ayrshire home of shoemaker John Davidson who famously featured in Tam o’Shanter by Robert Burns has been madeover into a new gallery space.

The A-listed cottage and workshop has been in the care of conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland since 1933, and was originally acquired because of its links to Burns.

It has now been sensitively modified to create a new gallery and display space for local artists and craftspeople to showcase and sell their wares. Critical conservation work was also carried out on the building’s thatched roof. It was lime-washed outside and decorated inside too.

The opening exhibition includes work by Troon-based painter Graham McKean whose humorous take on Burns is proving popular. Also on show is work by local artists Margaret MacDonald, John MacDonald and Claire MacDonald of Ayr, wrought iron pieces from Belltrees Forge of Glengarnock, Anne McFarlane’s silk scarfs, and handmade jewellery from Maidens.

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum Director, David Hopes said: “We are pleased to unveil the latest addition to Kirkoswald’s burgeoning art scene - our new gallery at Souter Johnnie’s. We look forward to welcoming many more people enjoy this humble, but charming wee space, carrying on the tradition of creativity and making that John Davidson started over 200 years ago.”

Gallery Assistant, Jennifer Barrie, comes with lots of experience of sourcing and selling local arts and crafts. She said: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity to showcase the best of local talent, and to get local people involved as volunteers to create a unique community resource in South Ayrshire.”

The links to Burns are retained as James Thom’s iconic sculptures of Tam o’ Shanter and Souter Johnnie continue to take pride of place in the re-thatched alehouse in the garden.

Souter Johnnie’s Cottage is an 18th Century lime-washed single storey thatched cottage, acquired by the Trust in 1933. It is one of the oldest (and until recently) least altered buildings in the care of the conservation charity, attracting around 2000 visitors per annum. Trust. Following its renovations, the Trust expects this number to double.

Souter Johnnie’s Cottage is open Friday – Tuesday from 11.30 until 5pm. Entry is free.