South Edinburgh Remembers Rabbie

posted 27 Jan 2009, 03:44 by
At the weekend, people all over the world will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s greatest poet, Robert Burns.

In South Edinburgh, his name is remembered in the group of streets just off Kirk Brae - Robert Burns Drive, Jean Armour Avenue, Clarinda Terrace, Alloway Loan, Shanter Way, and Mossgiel Walk. He is commemorated by a monument in Regent Road, a statue in Constitution Street in Leith, and in the Writers’ Museum in the Lawnmarket.  Many of us probably sang Auld Lang Syne at New Year.  But how much do we really know about Robert Burns?

Robert was born in Alloway, Ayrshire to William Burnes and Agnes Broun on 25th January 1759, the first of their family of seven children. Despite being the son of a poor tenant-farmer, Robert received a good education, gaining a good knowledge of English, French, and English Literature, and was already writing poetry whilst still in his teens.

Burns was always something of a ladies’ man, and fathered several illegitimate children, as well as the children he had with his wife, Jean Armour. Despite his love of Scotland, Burns became disillusioned with his lack of success at farming and with what he saw as the hypocrisy of the Scottish church, and made plans to emigrate to the West Indies.

However, the book that he published in order to fund his planned trip was a great success and he became a celebrity when he came to Edinburgh, so he decided to stay in Scotland. 
After working as a farmer in Ayrshire for some years, he moved to Dumfries in 1791 to take up a job as an exciseman in order to support his growing family. 

Burns had a passionate nature - he had a great love of Scotland, nature, and women. It is that passion that makes his work still relevant and fresh today. In his short life, he wrote over 500 songs and poems, the most famous of which are probably Tam O’Shanter, To a Mouse, A Man’s a Man for a’ That, Scots Wha Hae, and of course Auld Lang Syne.

There are also lines from Burns that are often quoted, such as “O wad some power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as others see us” and “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley”.
Burns was very versatile in his style of writing, ranging from romantic love songs, to stirring patriotic poems, to the epic tale of witchcraft in Tam O’Shanter. We can only wonder how much more he would have written, had he not died so young. 

Robert Burns died of rheumatic fever in Dumfries aged 37.

Report by Lisa Sibbald