Or as he is known throughout the World, Rabbie Burns. Robert Burns Born 25th January 1759 and died 21st July 1796, the Bard of Ayrshire, Ploughman Poet and various other names and epithets, a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also widely available in English and a light Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest.
He was the son of a farmer, born in a cottage built by his father, in Alloway in Ayr. This cottage is now a museum, dedicated to Burns. As a boy, he always loved stories of the supernatural, told to him by an old widow who sometimes helped out on his fathers’ farm and when Burns reached adulthood, he turned many of these stories into poems. Newly hailed as the Ploughman Poet because his poems complemented the growing literary taste for romanticism and pastoral pleasures, Burns arrived in Edinburgh, where he was welcomed by a circle of wealthy and important friends. Illicit relationships and fathering illegitimate children ran parallel to a productive period in his working life. His correspondence with Agnes 'Nancy' McLehose resulted in the classic Ae Fond Kiss. A collaboration with James Johnson led to a long-term involvement in The Scots Musical Museum, which included the likes of Auld Lang Syne. Whether his subject was a man or a mouse (or even a louse), Burns had a rare talent for putting himself into others' shoes and expressing life's universal emotions. From traditional ballads and romantic songs to humorous satires and thought-provoking poems, Robert Burns composed some of the world's most instantly recognisable lines of poetry and song lyrics. 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. 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 was also a passionately proud Scot - he even spent many years collecting and preserving traditional Scottish songs for the future. 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.
Burns's worldly prospects were perhaps better than they had ever been; but he had become soured, and had alienated many of his best friends by too freely expressing sympathy with the French Revolution and the then unpopular advocates of reform at home. His political views also came to the notice of his employers and in an attempt to prove his loyalty to the Crown, Burns joined the Royal Dumfries Volunteers in March 1795. As his health began to give way, he began to age prematurely and fell into fits of despondency. The habits of intemperance (alleged mainly by temperance activist James Currie) are said to have aggravated his long-standing possible rheumatic heart condition. On the morning of 21 July 1796, Burns died in Dumfries, at the age of 37. The funeral took place on Monday 25 July 1796, the day that his son Maxwell was born. He was at first buried in the far corner of St. Michael's Churchyard in Dumfries; a simple "slab of freestone" was erected as his gravestone by Jean Armour, which some felt insulting to his memory. His body was eventually moved to its final location in the same cemetery, the Burns Mausoleum, in September 1817. The body of his widow Jean Armour was buried with his in 1834. Armour had taken steps to secure his personal property, partly by liquidating two promissory notes amounting to fifteen pounds sterling (about 1,100 pounds at 2009 prices). The family went to the Court of Session in 1798 with a plan to support his surviving children by publishing a four-volume edition of his complete works and a biography written by Dr. James Currie. Subscriptions were raised to meet the initial cost of publication, which was in the hands of Thomas Cadell and William Davies in London and William Creech, bookseller in Edinburgh. Hogg records that fund-raising for Burns's family was embarrassingly slow, and it took several years to accumulate significant funds through the efforts of John Syme and Alexander Cunningham. Burns was posthumously given the freedom of the town of Dumfries. Hogg records that Burns was given the freedom of the Burgh of Dumfries on 4 June 1787, 9 years before his death, and was also made an Honorary Burgess of Dumfries. Through his twelve children, Burns has over 600 living descendants as of 2012. In Scotland we celebrate with the Burns Supper every year on the 25th of January. The Burns Supper is an institution of Scottish life: a night to celebrate the life and works of the national Bard. Suppers can range from an informal gathering of friends to a huge, formal dinner full of pomp and circumstance. Everyone gathers, and the host says a few words, everyone sits and the Selkirk Grace is said.
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be Thanket!
The meal would be where a starter is served, and the haggis is piped in, then the host performs an Address to a Haggis, with everyone toasting the haggis and the main meal is served, followed by dessert.
Piping of the Haggis
After the meal the first Burns recital is performed, the Immortal Memory (the main tribute speech to Burns) is given, the second Burns recital is performed, then there’s a Toast to the Lassies, followed by a Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, before the final Burns recital is performed. To end the night the host gives a vote of thanks, everyone stands and sings Auld Lang Syne, crossing their arms and joining hands at the line ‘And there's a hand, my trusty fere!’. Below is a Video made in 1995 for Burn's Bicentenary in 1996. This video is a great way to learn more about the Great Man.