Tonight is Burns Night, as if you hadn’t already twigged, so it might be useful for you to know a few basic facts to help alleviate your intelligence status throughout today or even at a Burns’ night party, if they still exist. If you’re not going out but still fancy downing a bottle of whiskey make sure to eat a typical Burns’ Night supper before you get smashed, which is of course (!) the following Chunky Sweetcorn, Haddock and Potato Soup!
Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759 and died 21 July 1796, he was also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland’s favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, Robden of Solway Firth, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as The Bard. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language although much of his writing is also in English and a light Scots dialect making his work accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English and in these, his political or civil commentaries, he is often at his bluntest (bit like my husband).
Burns is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, after his death he became a cultural icon in Scotland and among Scots around the world. Celebration of his life and work became almost a national cult during the 19th and 20th centuries and his influence has long been strong on Scottish literature about which I’m afraid I know absolutely zilch.
As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected, revised and adapted folk songs from across Scotland. His poem (and song) “Auld Lang Syne” (which by the way wasn’t entirely written by him)is often sung at Hogmanay (the last day of the year and a humungous excuse for a piss up), he also wrote “Scots Wha Hae” which served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem for the country. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well known across the world today include “A Red, Red Rose“; “A Man’s A Man for A’ That“; “To a Louse“; “To a Mouse“; “The Battle of Sherramuir“; “Tam o’ Shanter“; and “Ae Fond Kiss“. Yes, well I’m rather more familiar with Led Zeppellin myself.
MINI FACTOID: ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ composed by Burns, is recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as being one of the top three most popular songs in the English language. The other two are ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’.
You might like to know that Burns was also quite a naughty boy (A CountryWives kind of of guy!) and was rather fond of a little rompey pompey; his first child, Elizabeth Paton Burns (1785–1817), was born to his mother’s servant (tut- tut), Elizabeth Paton, just when he was starting an affair with Jean Armour, who then became pregnant with twins in March 1786! Burns signed a paper attesting his marriage to Jean, but her father wasn’t too happy about the whole thing at all and to avoid disgrace sent her off to live with her uncle in Paisley. Although Armour’s father initially forbade it, Burns and she were eventually married in 1788; Armour bore him nine children but only three of them survived infancy.
Burns fell in love quite a few more times after that and dedicated many of his poems to his lost loves; it is commonly known that at the last tally he ended up with 14 children and through these trillions of children, Burns now has over 600 living descendants as of 2012! That’s networking for you!
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 and 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 (much more suitable!), in September 1815. There has been much speculation about the cause of his death and the responsibility for this probably lies with Burns’s first biographer, Dr. James Currie, a Scot who had settled in Liverpool. Currie was reportedly a bit prudish and frowned upon the stories he had heard about Burns as a drinker and womaniser ( jealous I’d say). Perhaps he put two and two together to make five but he suggested that Burns death was as the result of alcoholic excess and even alluded to venereal disease as being a contributory factor (NEVER!!). As a result of this assessment writers later seized on this aspect of Burns’s reputation, poetic licence was used and soon Burns’s had died from a hundred different causes.
Just to bring the poet’s news more up to date pop legend Michael Jackson is said to have been a big fan of Robert Burns and is reputed to have worked with David Guest (the one that was married to Lisa Minnelli with the funny hair and who did a memorable stint on Celebrity Get Me Out) on an, as yet unreleased album, setting the Bard’s poems to music! There is also an iPhone app to allow enthusiasts around the world to download and instantly access Burns’ poetry; from what I understand, and I don’t understand much about these things, the app includes a searchable database of every poem written by Burns, a summary of facts about the poet’s life, a guide to hosting a Burns Supper and loads more…pretty cool!!
BUT, not as cool as the next hip fact…….Robert Burns was the first person to appear on a commemorative bottle of Coca-Cola, in 2009 (he liked to teach the world to sing!!), previous promotional bottles had featured The Fifa World Cup and the Olympic Games, but never individuals, so, he really get to the top of his tree in the end!!!
Happy Burns Day you lot, no drinking now.