Alphabetical Burns

Ashwini Ponnampalam 25 January 2014

A – Auld Lang Syne: Robert Burns was a poet and lyricist. Several of his compositions are well known; perhaps the most famous is ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (traditionally sung at Hogmanay). Others, often written in English with a slight Scottish dialect, include: “A Red, Red Rose”, “The Battle of Sherramuir” and “Tam o’ Shanter”. 

B – Burns: Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759 in the village of Alloway. Though his parents were tenant farmers, they ensured their children received a good education. Burns Night is celebrated on or around January 25 every year to commemorate the life and works of Robert Burns.

C – Campbell, Mary Campbell: Burns’s relationships with women provided inspiration throughout his life: “Highland Mary” was inspired by his relationship with lover Mary Campbell, while “Ae Fond Kiss” was the result of a relationship with Agnes ‘Nancy’ McLehose.

D – Dumfries: For financial reasons, Burns took a job as an Excise Officer in Dumfries, despite his deteriorating health. He died on 21 July 1976, aged just 37. By the age of 27, Burns had already become famous across the country. After marrying Jean Armour, he spent time in Edinburgh and continued to publish successful works.

E – Europe: Robert Burns is considered the pioneer of Romanticism – an artistic, literary and intellectual movement in Europe during the early nineteenth century

F – French Revolution: Directness, intensity and sincerity are hallmarks of his works, which often touched upon political themes including republicanism, Scottish patriotism, class inequalities and gender roles. In his later life, Burns expressed radical political views through his works, in response to events of the French Revolution.

Throughout his life, Burns completed 559 pieces – his own compositions as well as Scottish folk songs. His works influenced literary figures across the world: from poets – such as William Wordsworth – to novelists – such as John Steinbeck and J. D. Salinger – to musicians – such as Bob Dylan. In addition, he is highly regarded in Russia, where he is known as the ‘people’s poet’: he was commemorated by the USSR with a postage stamp in 1956 and remains popular today.