The Great Rabbie Burns

Blog 23 Jan 2014

Ever wondered why some people sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at the beginning of the New Year at the stroke of midnight? And ever wondered why Scots love to celebrate the 25th January?

All of this celebration is down to one Scot – Robert Burns. Burns was a Scottish Poet and Lyricist and was named Scotland’s favourite Scot, beating William Wallace. Scots around the world pay homage to his great works every January on Burns Night.

So what is Burns Night?

Burns Night is a day for Scots around the world to celebrate the life and works of Robert Burns. It is more widely celebrated in Scotland than the official national day, St. Andrews Day!

A typical Burns night celebration in Scotland can be both informal and formal; however it will usually consist of the following:

  • Haggis – A traditional Scottish dish of minced offal with spices, celebrated by Burns in an Ode to a Haggis:

    Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
    Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
    Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
    Painch, tripe, or thairm:
    Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
    As lang's my arm.
  • A Toast to the Lassies – a short speech given by a male, wherein the men toast to the women’s health
  • A Toast to the Laddies – a short speech given by a female
  • Poetry readings – Guests will sing Burns songs and recite poetry in homage to the great poet
  • A traditional ceilidh dance to finish!

So who was Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns?

Rabbie Burns is arguably Scotland’s most well-known poet. He was born on 25th January 1759 in Alloway, Ayr. As he grew up, Burns increasingly turned his attentions towards his passion for writing, nature, poetry, and women – interests that would come to influence his works and characterise his life.

Burns was interested in the romantic nature of poetry, and released his first work in 1786 entitled, “Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect”. The work was based on a broken love affair, and found him literary fame at the young age of 27.

Did you know...?

There are more statues of Burns around the world than any other writer!

In a matter of weeks he was transformed into a national celebrity. Burns’ works ranged from the comical ‘Ode to a Haggis’ to great poetic masterpieces such as ‘Tam O’ Shanter and ‘Red Rose’. But his great fame did not bring him great fortune; in 18 short months, Rabbie had spent most of the wealth he had earned from his published poetry, and in 1789 he was forced to take up a job as an Excise Officer to supplement his meagre income.

Sadly, after living a somewhat tough existence, Rabbie Burns died on 21 July 1796 of heart disease. Despite his relatively short career, he published an impressive amount of literary work, with some 400 songs still in existence today!

Did you know...?

Rabbie inspired modern culture greats such as Michael Jackson, as well as JD Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’.

So, on 25th January each year - the anniversary of his birth – people all round the world pay homage to Robert Burns with a supper, where they address the haggis, the ladies and the whisky. A celebration which we are sure would make him proud!