Robert Burns is Scotland’s national poet and rightly considered one of the most famous figures of Scotland. Over two hundred years since his death, Rabbie Burns, is celebrated and remembered annually at Burns suppers, not just in Scotland but all over the world.
Robert Burns was born on the 25th of January 1759, in the village of Alloway, in Ayrshire, Scotland. Although he was to leave a great legacy, his start in life was a very humble one. He was born the son of poor tenant farmers and was the eldest of seven children. Importantly for him and us, his father recognised the importance of education and ensured that, alongside working on the family farm, his children were given the opportunity to learn how to read and write.
There were signs of Robert’s exceptional writing talent from an early age – at 15 he penned his first love poems and in 1786 at the age of 27 he rose to fame with the publication of his first collection of poetry, “Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect”. This masterful collection made a huge impression on Edinburgh’s literary elite, and propelled Burns to a somewhat celebrity status.
In his personal life, Burns dedicated hundreds of lines of verse to the fairer sex and went on to father 12 children, nine with his wife Jean Armour.
He died at just 37 years, at his home in Dumfries, from an illness that sadly would have been easily treatable today. He was buried with full civil and military honours on the same day his wife Jean, gave birth to his youngest child, a son.
Despite his short life Burns left a huge catalogue of poetry and songs that have been poured over, enjoyed and spoken aloud for over 200 years. His timeless words have echoed throughout the generations, inspiring people from every walk of life.
For all his fame, Burns never forgot his roots. His love for farming stayed with him throughout his life and his writing often dealt with issues affecting the poorer classes, notably highlighting the need for greater social equality. You’ll see all of these influences captured in his dazzling collections of poetry and song – his lasting legacy to the world.
His words have been cherished and passionately recited for the past two centuries. Indeed, it’s because of this great man that we promise, every Hogmanay, to ‘tak a cup o’ kindness’ with our neighbours and go forward into the New Year with a sense of belonging and hope for the future.
If you’ve ever welcomed in the New Year with a rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” or enjoyed a whisky and haggis on the 25 January, then you are in good company with the millions of Robert Burns’ fans around the world.