Jean Armour

born 25 February 1765, died 26 March 1834

Born in Mauchline, Ayrshire, Jean Armour was the daughter of Mary Smith, and James Armour, master builder. She said that she met Robert Burns (1759–1796) on the Mauchline bleaching green. Their relationship was kept secret at first, but after Jean became pregnant, the couple formed an irregular marriage. Later, on 5 August 1788, their relationship was regularised by the Mauchline Kirk. Jean Armour gave birth to nine children by Burns – four daughters, all who died before the age of three, and five sons.

Jean Armour contributed to Burns’s work as a listener and critic. She would also sing to him some of the old Scots songs, which he would then adapt or change. After Burns’s death, she remained at Millbrae Vennel (now Burns Street), Dumfries, playing host to numerous visitors. When she died and was interred in the Burns Mausoleum in St Michael’s Kirkyard, on 1 April 1834, thousands, including local officials, came to her funeral, as a mark of respect.

Women on the Shelf
The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women
Entry on Jean Armour by Maureen Bell.
Photo of "Women on the Shelf" block
Glasgow Women's Library