Rabbie Burns - the man, the myth the legend.

January 12, 2017

Rabbie Burns - the man, the myth the legend.

As the festivities of Christmas and Hogmany now seem like a distant memory, thoughts turn to the first celebration of the new year. January the 25th is Burns Night, the traditional celebration of one of the greatest Scotsman that ever lived. Robert Burns is famous around the globe as one of the greatest poets and song writers ever known. From poems such as "A Man's A Man For A' That", "A Red, Red Rose", "Ae Fond Kiss, And Then We Sever", to "Tam O' Shanter" and the most famous song of all time and sung all over the world to herald in the New Year "Auld Lang Syne"

His birthday is celebrated throughout the world as Burns Night, with Burns Suppers, poems, songs and anecdotes about Scotland’s National Bard. Burns has become a powerful symbol for Scotland and a global brand for Scots and their families across the world. Once you have piped in and addressed the haggis, toasted it with a wee dram from a traditional wooden Quaich its time to enjoy the rest of the night celebrating with poems and songs from the great man himself. 


Rabpipes haggis whisky

However, what do we really know about the man himself and what are we actually celebrating on this day, drunk?, radical?, womaniser?, poetical genius? 

Robert Burns was born on January 25th 1759 in Alloway, 2 miles south of Ayr in the “auld cley biggin” that is now known as Burns Cottage Museum. He was the eldest of seven children. His father William Burnes was a self-educated tenant farmer and Robert's mother Agnes was also a daughter of a tenant farmer.

Burns cottage 1 Burns cottage 3 Burns cottage 2

Robert Burns was born in the house built by his father but moved when he was seven. The family moved to another farm in the southeast of Alloway. Burns grew up in severe poverty and hardship, and life on the farm took its toll on him physically. His health suffered leaving him with a severe premature stoop and a weakened constitution.

Burns on the farm

Robert mostly relied on his father for much of his education as he received very little regular schooling. Robert's father taught all his children how to read as well as arithmetic, writing, history and geography. He also made sure that they had good Christian values in their upbringing. Over the years Burns received education from various different sources including an "adventure school" in which he was taught French, Latin and mathematics. He also attended Dalrymple Parish School for a summer in 1772 before returning to the farm for the harvest. Two years later by the age of 15 Burns met Nelly Kilpatrick who was to inspire his first attempts at poetry with "O, Once i Lov'd A Bonnie Lass" A year later he was sent to Kirkoswald to finish his education where he again met a young lady who would inspire this time 2 songs "I Dream'd I Lay" and "Now Westlin Winds" 

Burns and woman 

Despite Robert's father being of great character and morals he seemed to always fall on hard luck when it came to the farms he managed. Moving from farm to farm with his family without ever being able to improve their situation. In 1777 they moved to Tarbolton. Here Robert intergrated himself with the local community by joining the local dancing school and formed the Tarboltan Bachelor's Club a year later. Letters from this time that have survived show his early attempts at trying to woo a local girl. However even though he wrote her our songs and marriage proposal she rejected him. Soon after at the age of 22, Robert joined the local Masonic Lodge. 

Hoping to improve his employment status, Burns moved to Irvine in 1781 to train as a flax-dresser. Ironically whilst celebrating New Year with his fellow workers, the flax shop caught fire and burnt down to the ground. With this opportunity now closed to him Robert returned home to the his family and the farm. It was during this time however that he became friends with a Captain Richard Brown. Captain Brown encouraged Burns to pursue his career in poetry.

Captain brown

Whilst Burns started to encounter success with his poems and songs, his personal life also proved somewhat of a constant inspiration to him. It is well documented that Robert Burns had many relationships and children over the years. It does at times read like a script from a soap opera. Wives, girlfriends, love affairs, various children. Sometimes it seems often all at the same time.

 burns woman 1 burns woman 2 burns woman 3 

What followed over the coming years is now written in Scottish history for ever. Robert Burns went on to write some of the most famous poems ever written and are still read all over the world today. They dealt with love, life, death, social injustice. Although Burns became famous for his writings he never forgot his roots and his love for farming stayed with him throughout his life. His poems dealt with issues affecting the poor, and highlighted the need for greater social equality. His poems and songs are his lasting legacy to Scotland and the world.

Burns Night is just around the corner and so are we. Why not pop in and see our range of hand made Wood for food chopping and serving boards. Ideal for serving your Burns Night haggis on. As well as our hand made wooden Quaichs. The very traditional way to drink your wee dram to celebrate the great man himself. 

Paul Hodgkiss Designs  31 Gavinton Street Glasgow G44 3EF
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