Page last updated at 23:33 GMT, Sunday, 14 June 2009 00:33 UK

Burns relics discovered in attic

Portrait of James Glencairn Burns (National Trust for Scotland Photo Library)
James Burns was the poet's eighth and youngest son

A cache of Robert Burns family heirlooms has been unearthed in the attic of the Burns Cottage Museum in Alloway, Ayrshire.

The National Trust for Scotland, which runs the museum, said the artefacts were sold to the museum in the 1930s by the bard's great-granddaughter.

The 19th Century items were retrieved from two boxes during renovation work.

Treasures include a portrait of one of his sons and a note written to the son by Italian patriot General Garibaldi.

Many of the items have never been seen by the public and will be displayed when the museum opens its doors after the renovation.

The boxes were rediscovered in a hidden part of the attic and have lain undisturbed for more than 70 years.

The relics include an intricate hand-painted portrait of Burns' eighth and youngest son, James Glencairn Burns, who was one of only three sons to survive into adulthood.

The box which was retrieved from the attic (National Trust for Scotland Photo Library)
The items were found in two boxes in a hidden part of the attic

The note from Garibaldi details his admiration for Burns and the Scottish people who pledged their support to the unification of Italy in the 1800s.

Trinkets and ornaments were also discovered, along with two military medals from James Burns' days as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army of India.

David Hopes, project curator at the museum, said: "These finds are truly remarkable, both in terms of the historical information that they provide about Burns' family, but also given that they are so well preserved after being hidden away in an attic for so many years.

"It's hugely exciting to discover previously unseen mementos of the poet's youngest son.

"Their importance is also heightened by their provenance as they have been passed down through the famous Scot's family before being sold to the Burns Monument Trust, the former owners of the Burns Cottage and Museum by Burns' great-granddaughter.

Extract from the note from Garibaldi (National Trust for Scotland Photo Library)
Garibaldi's note praises Scots who supported Italy's unification

"The discovery has come at such a great time as the items can now be given the platform they deserve, when they are soon to be showcased in the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum which I am sure the late Mrs Burns Gowring will approve of."

The new £21m museum is scheduled to open in summer 2010.

It is in the village where Burns was born in 1759, and will replace an existing museum which is in disrepair.

The project will also see the restoration of the cottage where he was born.

It is the most ambitious project to date for the National Trust for Scotland and a final fundraising push for the remaining £3.8m required for the museum is under way.

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