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The English antiquarian and former army officer, Francis Grose, became a friend of Robert Burns by way of introduction through his neighbour at Ellisland, Captain Robert Riddell. Grose was a large (today would probably be described as morbidly obese) and jovial character and a great storyteller. Burns was keen for Grose to include the “auld kirk” in Alloway in his ‘Antiquities of Scotland’, composing the great tale “Tam o’ Shanter” especially for him to encourage his interest in the ruined church. Grose died in 1791 while compiling the ‘Antiquities of Ireland’.
“The devil got notice that Grose was a-dying,
So whip! at the summons, old Satan came flying;
But when he approach'd where poor Francis lay moaning,
And saw each bed-post with its burden a-groaning,
Astonish'd! confounded! cry'd Satan, "By God,
I'll want him, ere I take such a damnable load!"