25 Jan 2019

Robert Burns - Our Own National Bard

Robert Burns was born on 25th January, 1759 in the village of Alloway in Ayrshire. He died just 37 years later, at his home in Dumfries.

Robert Burns Statue Aberdeen Scotland

Despite his short life Burns left a huge catalogue of poetry and songs that have been pored over, enjoyed and spoken aloud for over 200 years. His timeless words have echoed throughout the generations, inspiring people from every walk of life.

Although he left a great legacy, Burns' start in life was a humble one. He was born the son of poor tenant farmers and was the eldest of seven children. Even with the family's money struggles, his father recognised the importance of education and ensured that, alongside working on the family farm, his children were given the opportunity to read and learn.

There were signs of Robert's exceptional writing talent from an early age - at 15 he penned his first love poems - though it was not until 1786 at the age of 27 that he rose to fame with the publication of his first collection of poetry, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect. This masterful collection made a huge impression on Edinburgh's literary elite, and propelled Burns to celebrity status.

Robert Burns Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect

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. You'll see all of these influences captured in his dazzling collections of poetry and song - his lasting legacy to the world.

The first Burns supper was held in July 1801 when nine of Burns’ close friends got together to mark the fifth anniversary of their friend’s death. It took place at Burns Cottage in Alloway and included a meal of haggis and performances of Burns’ work and a speech in honour of the great Bard (now known as the Immortal Memory). The night was such a resounding success they decided to hold it again (this time in honour of Rabbie’s birthday), beginning the tradition we still enjoy to this day.

burns supper

Each Burns supper is individual, but the running order normally goes something like this:

  1. To start – everyone gathers, the host says a few words, everyone sits and the Selkirk Grace is said.
  2. The meal – the starter is served, the haggis is piped in, the host performs Address to a Haggis, everyone toasts the haggis and the main meal is served, followed by dessert.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!’.

Today, a Burns Supper can be as formal or as informal as you like. Our kitchens are fully equipped so you can celebrate with us in style and sip a dram on the decking as a toast to Rabbie Burns.