1. American President, Abraham Lincoln introduced to the works of Robert Burns at an early age by Scottish-American Jack Kelso. Lincoln developed a lifelong admiration for his work, some claiming that the poet’s verse played a key role in helping Lincoln win the American civil war and abolish slavery.
2. In 1865, Scotsman Alexander Williamson, Secretary of the Washington club, asked Lincoln for “a recognition of the genius of Scotland’s bard, either by a toast, a sentiment, or in any other way you may deem proper”. Lincoln penned a hasty note that was dutifully read at the celebration. It read: “I cannot frame a toast to Burns. I can say nothing worthy of his generous heart and transcendent genius. Thinking of what he has said, I cannot say anything worth saying”.
3. The work of Burns has appeared in hundreds of films and television programmes, including ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946), ‘When Harry met Sally’ (1989) and the 2008 film version of ‘Sex in the City’.
4. US fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger is a descendant of famous Scottish poet Robert Burns but wasn’t told until he was older. Hilfiger said. “It was never discussed in our house, because it was said that Robert Burns was a womaniser and a boozer. The family were embarrassed he was related, so we weren’t told until we were in our teens or maybe twenties.”
5. When Burns body was exhumed in 1815 to be placed in a new mausoleum in Dumfries. a plaster cast of his skull was taken for study. His skull was measured and discovered to be bigger than the average man’s.
6. Michael Jackson was an avid admirer of Robert Burns and worked with American Producer David Gest to record a collection of show tunes inspired by Burns’ life and work.
7. Gest explained to BBC Alba that he and Jackson were Burns fanatics. “I said to Michael, let’s do a play [based on] Burns’ life and he said he would help me with the music. Michael believed in the project so much,” Gest said. “We took about eight or 10 of Burns’ poems and put them to contemporary music, such as A Red Red Rose, Ae Fond Kiss and the story of Tam O’Shanter.”
The recordings have never been released.
8. Robert Burns’ beloved collie dog Luath, named after a dog in Ossian’s epic poem ‘Fingal’, was tragically killed on the eve of Burns’ father’s funeral. Burns later immortalised him in his epic social commentary, the Twa Dogs,
“The tither was a ploughman’s collie
A rhyming, ranting, raving billie,
Wha for his friend an’ comrade had him,
And in freak had Luath ca’d him,
After some dog in Highland Sang,
Was made lang syne, – Lord knows how lang”
9. Burns appeared for the third time in an issue of Postage Stamps. Winston Churchill managed two while Shakespeare and Charles Dickens had to settle for one each.
10. Robert Burns great, great, great grandson, Group Captain Goring was a Commander of the “Red Arrows’ while in the RAF. The chair occupied by Burns when visiting the Globe Inn span in Dumfries remains in position to this day. Hundreds – if not thousands – are photographed sitting there each.