Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The mysterious case of a missing pane

The proprietor of Moffat's family-owned Black Bull Inn (est. 1568) remembers a rumour that a pane of glass engraved by Robert Burns with a couplet about the relative values of a gem and granite was taken by - or given to - Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia during a visit to Moffat in 1817. The young Grand Duke, aged 21, was engaged to be married - the wedding to a Prussian princess took place that July. He was on a triumphal tour of Britain as one of the victorious allies who had defeated Napoleon at Waterloo and were occupying France. It was at this time that 'service a la russe' was introduced to European dining rooms, and remains the way we eat now, in a series of 'courses', which was not the practice before. The presence of many Russian soldiers in Paris is also said to be the origin of the 'bistro' - the Russian word for 'quick' - for a place where they could get fast food. Here at Moffat Book Events we are looking forward eagerly to lots of Russian visitors in September 14-17 2012 for our conference 'Russia: Lessons and Legacy'. Maybe one of them will be able to tell us if the Black Bull/Burns story is true - the pane of glass is supposed to be in St Petersburg.

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