Wednesday, January 25, 2006

New banner for Burns Night

Burns' Night on the 25th January celebrates the birth of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Burns wrote poetry and song lyrics in the Scots language and also in Scots English.
The quote written on the banner is taken from the poem Tam O'Shanter.

His most famous poems are probably Tam o'Shanter and To A Mouse and the most famous songs Auld Lang Syne, and Ae Fond Kiss .

The complete works are here

He was born in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1759 to a poor farming family. The small cottage where he spent his early years is still standing. It is now part of the Burns National Heritage Park and can be visited.

Despite the lack of money and the necessity for the children to help out on the farm, Burns' father made sure that his children were well read and employed a tutor, John Murdoch, to teach them Latin, French and maths.

Robert Burns [and his brother Gilbert] tried to farm at Mossgeil after the death of their father in 1784 . By 1786, Robert was planning to emigrate to Jamaica - the farm was not making money and his love life was chaotic.

He had already fathered an illigitimate daughter and now he wished to marry another woman, Jean Armour, who was already pregnant with his twins.

Despite the pregnancy, Jean Armour's family refused them permission to marry. Robert then fell in love with yet another woman, Highland Mary, and planned to take her to Jamaica.

In order to raise the money for his passage to Jamaica, Burns was persuaded to publish some of his poetry - his first book known as the 'Kilmarnock Edition' - aka, 'Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect'. The first printing [612 books] sold out within a month and he became a sensation in Edinburgh literary circles, where he was known as the 'Ploughman Poet'.

Literary success and plans for further books , the birth of Jean Armour's twins and the death of Highland Mary ended the plans to emigrate.

Jean Armour and Robert Burns were eventually married in 1788.

Burns became an Exciseman [a sort of Customs officer who ensured that tax was paid on alcohol] which gave him an additional income and allowed him to buy house in Dumfries.
He wrote The Deil's Awa wi' th' Exciseman which summed up the low popular opinion of his new job.

On the 21st July 1796, at the terribly young age of 37, Robert Burns died of rheumatic fever, possibly weakened by the early years of poverty and back breaking farm work.
Maxwell Burns, the ninth child by Jean Armour , was born on the day his father died.

A few years after Burns' death, the first Burns Supper was organised: where Burns' poems were recited , whisky was drunk and a haggis served. The poem Address to a Haggis
is recited and the haggis generally stabbed with a knife and cut open with a flourish.





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3 comments:

Jill said...

Enjoyed your report. I'm part Scott. Some of my relatives came from the Isle of Skye.

Jonathan said...

I love this quote from Tam O'Shanter. Where can I buy a flourish? :-)

I read recently that a good way to cut open a haggis is to slice it with a St Andrews Cross.

Jessie said...

Thanks for this lovely post, Alison. I used your link to read To A Mouse, which I didn't realize was the source of the 'best laid plans' quotation my mother often used. I was wishing I could have heard Burns himself reciting it, and then discovered the audio file on the site that your 'small cottage' link led to. Okay, not Burns himself, but a perfectly satisfying Scottish brogue! What a pleasure!