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23 Jun 2021

The Bark of Ayrshire

A man sits on a bench, with his golden lab licking his face! A black lab sits nearby, watching. Beside the bench are two bronze statues of dogs.
Andrew Cotter with Olive, Mabel and the Twa Dogs
Canine celebrities Olive and Mabel joined their owner Andrew Cotter at the Poet’s Path in Alloway this week, to meet another doggie duo: The Twa Dogs, our new bronze sculpture.

Olive and Mabel’s sporting contests, with commentary by Troon-born broadcaster Andrew, went viral in 2020. As well as racking up nearly 90 million views on social media, the dogs recently appeared on the BAFTA TV awards and are even the subject of a book.

They met life-size bronze sculptures of Luath and Caesar, the dogs from Burns’s poem ‘The Twa Dogs’. Created by artist Sally Matthews, the work was commissioned by the Trustees of the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA to honour their former chair, Helen E R Sayles.

‘The Twa Dogs’ is the opening poem in Burns’s first published collection, the 1786 Kilmarnock edition of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. Luath was the name of Burns’s own collie; it is said that Burns met his future wife Jean Armour after she tripped over Luath at a wedding. A social satire on wealth, poverty and class, the poem is largely told from the viewpoint of the dogs, with Burns using the conversation between Luath and Caesar to pointedly examine society’s inequalities.

The Twa Dogs sculpture now takes its place on Poet’s Path, which connects Burns Cottage with the museum. The work sits alongside scenes from Tam o’ Shanter by Timorous Beasties, Kenny Hunter’s not-so-wee ‘wee mouse’ made from cast iron and Jake Harvey’s larger-than-life granite haggis.

Kirstin Bridier from the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA said: ‘The sculpture was commissioned to thank Helen E R Sayles for her six years as chair. Helen hails from Ayrshire and has supported many projects at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.’

“We thought the property was a perfect place to commemorate Helen’s tremendous leadership of the American foundation.”
Kirstin Bridier
National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA

Ali MacLeod, Head of Fundraising at the National Trust for Scotland, added: ‘Helen is a wonderful friend and supporter of both the NTS Foundation USA and our charity here in Scotland. Helen’s commitment to Scotland’s heritage, protecting the places we love for future generations, is inspiring and deeply valued.’

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A young woman walks along a clifftop path, with binoculars around her neck. >