Are you celebrating Burns’ Night this year? It is our annual night of celebration of our National Bard, Robert Burns; a night of haggis and drams, poetry and tradition. We’ve been celebrating Burns’ Night since 1801, when a group of Burns’ friends held a memorial dinner in his cottage to remember his life. The first Burns’ Night happened not in January but in July, marking the anniversary of the poet’s death, and it was only the following year that it was decided to change the date to coincide with Burns’ birthday. However, his friends mistakenly thought his birthday was January 29th, and it took a trip to the registry office to confirm that Burns had in fact been born on January 25th.
But who was this man who has made such an impact on Scotland? Burns was born into a farming family in Ayrshire, and began working in the fields at the age of twelve. His flair with words was equal to his charm with women, and during his life he fathered at least fourteen children to six different women, including two sets of twins to his long suffering wife, Jean Armour.
Always short of cash in his early life, Burns very nearly migrated to Jamaica, and planned to fund the journey with a book of poetry, ‘Poems in the Scots Dialect’. However, the success of the book was so great that he was persuaded to stay, becoming one of Scotland’s greatest literary figures. He became the doyenne of society, and travelled to Edinburgh where he was welcomed into the circles of both the aristocracy and the working man.
He wrote prolifically, producing some of Scotland’s best known poetry and songs. Auld Lang Syne is still ranked as one of the top three most popular songs in the English language by the Guinness Book of Records (together with ‘ For he’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ and ‘Happy Birthday to You’, in case you’re curious!) His life, however, was not to be a long one. He died aged 37, succumbing to a life of heavy drinking and hard living, his wife giving birth to his final child on the day of his funeral.
This Burns Night, why not enjoy a wee dram, and raise your glass to our National Bard: the farmer’s lad from Ayrshire, whose legacy is still felt to this day. You can always enjoy a dram with us every day on our evening walking tour. Slàinte.