About this artwork

‘Highland Mary’ was the nickname given to Mary Campbell who Burns had a brief love affair with in 1786. Mary was originally from Dunoon, but her family moved to Campbeltown when she was eight. She was a native Gaelic-speaker, but also spoke English with a pronounced lilt. When she moved to Ayrshire for work in 1786, it was her accent when speaking English that earned her the nickname. It was there that she and Burns met, but she died shortly after their affair had begun. Burns was deeply affected by her death, and he wrote about it in the song ‘Highland Mary’: “But oh! fell Death's untimely frost, / That nipt my Flower sae early! / Now green's the sod, and cauld's the clay / That wraps my Highland Mary!”.

  • title: Burns and his Highland Mary
  • accession number: NG 2202
  • artist: Sir Daniel MacneeScottish (1806 - 1882)
  • depicted: Robert Burns
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Burns
  • medium: Watercolour
  • date created: Unknown
  • measurements: 16.80 x 14.30 cm (framed: 59.00 x 43.70 x 2.00 cm)
  • credit line: Bequest of William Findlay Watson 1881
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Sir Daniel Macnee

Sir Daniel Macnee

Sir Daniel Macnee was a leading Scottish portrait painter. Born at Fintry, he was brought up in Glasgow where he became a pupil of portraitist and landscapist John Knox. There, he met fellow artists Horatio McCulloch and William Leitch. Macnee and McCulloch briefly worked as snuff-boxes painters at Cumnock, before moving to Edinburgh and into the employment of the engraver W.H. Lizars. Meanwhile Macnee continued his studies at the Trustees’ Academy and in 1829 was admitted to the Royal Scottish Academy. He returned to Glasgow, where he established a flourishing portrait studio. His sitters included wealthy merchants, pioneering industrialists, aristocrats and even Queen Victoria. In 1876 he returned to Edinburgh, was elected President of the Royal Scottish Academy and was knighted.