Bidston - Tam O'Shanters' Cottage

Most of the cottages which at one time were scattered about the slopes of the hill have gone. A few, however, remain; and one in particular has an interesting history, and a romantic link with the Scotland of two hundred years ago. Tom o’Shanter’s Cottage was built in 1837 as a small farm, holding about six acres of the surrounding land. Its tenant in 1841 was Richard Leay, a master stonemason and probably a Scotsman. It is likely that Richard Leay carved the stone set in the gable end of the cottage, the stone which gave the cottage its name. The stone depicts a scene front the poem “Tam o’Shanter” by Robert Burns. In the poem, Tam was riding home after a day at market, a little the worse for drink. The night was dark and stormy, and on the way he disturbed a party of witches in the old haunted Kirk of Alloway. The drunken Tam roared out “Weel done, Cutty Sark” at the leader, and was immediately chased by the witches. Tam managed to get across a bridge and the witches, who would not dare cross running water, caught the horse’s tail. Tam escaped, but “Poor Maggie” lost her tail:

Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stane of the brig;
There, at them, thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross.
But ere the key-stane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake!
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Had upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi’ furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie’s mettle
Ae spring brought aff her master hale,
But left behind her am grey tail:
The cárlin caught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump

The cottage continued as a small farm for over a hundred years but, after being burnt down several times in the 1950s,was on the point of being demolished completely when the Birkenhead Historical Society, backed by the Council, stepped in with a scheme to restore it. With the help of local schools, organizations and individuals, Tam O’Shanter’s Cottage has been completely restored and is now a fully equipped field study centre. The annual rent on the cottage, one pine cone,  is paid over to the Mayor of Wirral by the trustees each spring as part of a tradition which goes back to the days when squatters moved into the area. Another Custom, that of egg rolling, has recently been revived here too. Crowds gather on Easter Monday to roll gaily coloured hard-boiled eggs down the field in front of the cottage, the object being to get an egg into a hole cut in the turf at the foot of the slope. Egg rolling was popular in several parts of Wirral — the “bonks” of Birkenhead Park and Irby Hill were popular venues - and had its origin in the early days of Christianity, the egg being regarded as a symbol of hope and resurrection.

Taken from the book "Portrait of Wirral" By Kenneth Burnley of which I managed to obtain a first edition!! Another excellent book from Ken is "Images of Wirral" which I actually bought from a bookshop in South Carolina via the internet. Some beautiful photographs by Guy Huntingdon. Feb 2004.

Newsflash. Received an email on 20 Jan 05 passing on the following information. My thanks to David Evans. Major concern is plan for sale of Bidston Observatory. I was hoping that with Liverpool being awarded City of Culture 2008,an attempt might have been made by the council to build on this by emphasising the Observatory's maritime links and attempt to get funding to create an annexe to the Maritime Museum in Liverpool or at least create a field work centre. Latest plan is either a hotel or housing.

The Council were given Bidston Hill on the strict understanding that NO HOMES etc were built on the hill - mk. 

Tam O'Shanter's cottage 


February 6th 2006

I had the pleasure of visiting Tam O'Shanter's Farm to meet up with Genevieve Wilkinson who kindly offered to show me not only the farm but the Hill. She showed me things on the hill that I must have walked past a thousand times without noticing! I am amazed, not only at that which she revealed to me but the depth of her knowledge of Bidston Hill, Flaybrick, Tam O'Shanters, the Windmill, the plants and the rocks. Below are those images I took on this day. Click on the images to see full sized. On the subject of the future of the Observatory, I feel that it is imperative that this does not fall into the greedy hands of developers, it must be preserved for future generations and could be an excellent museum of the history of Bidston Village and Hill.


The welcome sign as you enter from the car park.

Inside the eco built workshops, the walls are actually made from straw

The remains of a tree nearby that had recently been hit by lightning

at the entrance to the cottage is this allotment to the rear, a (not to scale) model of Bidston Hill and here, Bill and Ben guard the fence!   

The following were taken by my daughter Lorna 

Hello Ducky!

The following were taken on April 15th 2007




Water fountain:

Other Sites

I also thoroughly recommend the books of Kenneth Burnley, local Historian and lover of The Wirral (NOT Merseyside!)