Page last updated at 13:43 GMT, Thursday, 8 January 2009

Bard Burns' bride's dress on show

A fragment of Jean Armour's wedding dress
The black wedding dress was a sign of wealth in Burns' era

A fragment of the black silk dress which Jean Armour wore to marry Scots bard Robert Burns is to go on display.

The artefact will be loaned to the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) by Armour's descendant, who found it at an auction house in San Francisco.

It will be the first time since 1896 that the public will have the opportunity to view the fragment.

It will go on display at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, Ayrshire, when it is completed in 2010.

Burns met Armour in Mauchline, Ayrshire, in 1785 and about a year later she gave birth to their twins, Robert and Jean. The couple married in 1788.

Armour's descendant, Alan Archibald, an electronics technician who lives near Irvine, will loan the piece of wedding dress to the NTS-owned museum, where the poet was born in 1759.

David Hopes, the trust's project curator, described it as a "valuable contribution" to the museum.

The wedding dress has had an interesting journey throughout the years
Alan Archibald
Descendant of Jean Armour
He said: "Some people may wonder why it is black instead of white, but around that time black was a very common wedding dress colour and black as a clothing colour was a sign of affluence.

"It wasn't until after the death of Jean in 1834 that white became the norm for the wedding dress."

According to records, Burns bought 15 yards of black silk from a merchant in Glasgow for the wedding dress, at a cost of about 7.

After Armour's death the dress was passed on to family, before being exhibited at an exhibition in Glasgow in 1896.

The dress was then sold to an American buyer at Edmistons Auctions in Glasgow in 1907 and was returned to Scotland by Mr Archibald.

He said: "The wedding dress has had an interesting journey throughout the years.

"Jean is an ancestor of mine and when she died, her clothes were willed throughout the family before a portion of the dress was given to a Dr John Dougall, who exhibited it in the Burns Exhibition in Glasgow in 1896.

"I bought it from an auction house in San Francisco as I thought it was right that it should be returned to the family.

"The fragment will be on loan to the new museum to boost the awareness of his rock, Jean Armour."

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