This coming Tues is Scotland’s annual celebration of all things Robert Burns So I thought I would fill todays post with all things Burns to give you enough chance to plan an impromptu Burns Night party or maybe just to impress your colleagues at work. Disclaimer – I am in no way Scottish myself and have discovered most of my information from Scotland’s own website which is full of interesting little snippets.
Scotland’s Bard was born in Alloway on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland, in the family house his father, William, had built with his own hands. Robert was the eldest of seven children. His parents were farmers but despite struggling to make a living on the poor soil they were determined that their children would have an education. The family then moved to another farm at Mount Oliphant, high on a hillside two miles from Alloway. The rent was steep and the sour upland ground was difficult to cultivate. Since the family couldn’t afford hired help, Robert did a full day’s work in the field and farmyard eating only oatmeal and skimmed milk. Despite this Robert was often found of an evening next to a lit candle with his nose in a book. By age 21 he had read Shakespeare, David Hume, his favourite philosopher Adam Smith and everything in-between.
He started writing seriously after his father’s death in 1784 and this first collection, known as the Kilmarnock Edition’ because that was where it was printed, emerged from the poems that had been passed around locally in manuscript form during 1784-85, gaining him regional notoriety. His poems touched on themes of injustice, hypocrisy, the hard life of the countryman, radicalism, anticlericalism, sexuality, gender roles, Scottish cultural identity and man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. He wrote scathing satires and tender love songs delivered in a direct, playful, yet sympathetic voice that spoke to all walks of life.
Having lived most of his life in and around poverty, Robert died leaving a debt of £14 in Dumfries on 26th July, 1796, on the same day that his wife gave birth to their ninth child, a son, Maxwell. He was buried with full military honours as a member of the local volunteer militia, the Fencibles, having joined a year earlier.
Sadly, as is so often the case, Burns’ genius was only widely recognised after his death.
In his short life he had written a host of poems and songs that would become cherished throughout the world including Auld Lang Syne, Tam o’ Shanter, Ae Fond Kiss, My Love is Like a Red Red Rose, Scots Wha Hae, A Man’s a Man for A’ That the list goes on and on.
Ok so now you know a bit more about who Robert Burns as a reward for reading this far I’m going to share with you a few little Burns facts (yes i stole them from the aforementioned site but I think they are so good they need to be shared!)
So You have been suitably inspired to hold your very own Burns Night party? what ever to wear? Well a Kilt of course! lucky for you Scotland’s website has some handy tips for wearing kilts and can even help you track down your families tartan for those with a bit of Scot in you. Plus there is this little quirky interactive-try-on-a-kilt-digitally thing which is kind of fun to do. You can even upload your own photo to make it more realistic!
Ok so you know what you are going to wear, now you are worried about those hungry guest of yours. Not to fear! You simply can’t have a Burns Night Party without Haggis (or so I’m told) and you guessed it the website has a nice easy to follow recipe for you!
Has that wet your appetite, well it wouldn’t be a Scottish party without a little bit of Whisky now would it? So serve up your guest your finest Scotch Whisky, but remember mixers are an insult to whiskey, if it’s too strong you are allowed to dilute it with water though.
While many different people have many different reasons for remembering Robert Burns we remember him most of all because he asked us simply and poignantly in poem and song to remember and celebrate our common humanity.
So let your Scottish side out and celebrate the Scottish Bard!
Until next time…