Robert Burns 1759-1796
One of Scotland’s favourite sons, Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759 in a humble cottage built by his father, a struggling farmer, in Alloway, Ayrshire. His was to be a short but colourful life. In 1784 he fell in love with Jean Armour, the ‘jewel’ of ‘The Belles of Mauchline’, and she was to make him a devoted wife bearing him nine children. Burns had many love affairs, however, and remembered them all with tender affection in his works. By his own admission it was love that inspired him: ‘For my own part I never had the least thought or inclination of turning Poet till I got heartily in Love, and then Rhyme and Song were, in a manner, the spontaneous language of my heart’.
He published his first collection of poems in 1786. Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect was an enormous success and shot Burns to fame virtually overnight. Although his poetry did not bring him complete financial security, he remained a prolific writer. Thus when he died on 21 July 1796, he left a wonderful legacy of joyous songs and poems that, in celebrating humanity, continues to touch the hearts and minds of people all over the world.
For Auld Lang Syne
Burns’ most famous work is perhaps Auld Lang Syne, a song celebrating friendship and sung every year on New Year’s Eve in the English-speaking world. In a note to George Thomson in 1793 Burns described it as ‘the old song of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript, until I took it down from an old man’s singing’. Words taken from Auld Lang Syne, exactly as written by Burns in the old Scottish dialect, have now inspired a splendid reverse design for the £2 coin marking the 250th anniversary of his birth.
BURNS NIGHT – To The Immortal Memory Each year, on 25 January, Scots the world over celebrate the birth, life and works of ‘Rabbie’ Burns with a Burns Night Supper. The first supper was held on the 5th anniversary of his death and remains an annual event though the date has changed to the anniversary of his birth. Nevertheless, the ritual remains much the same and always concludes with a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne.