Around January 25th, Burns’ Clubs & other lovers of the poet, arrange Burns Suppers. Burns has always attracted massive support.
This painting, by an unknown artist, depicts the 1844 Burns Festival. The procession, which started in Ayr, is shown passing over the new and old brigs o’ Doon and entering the festival site at the Burns Monument, where Burns’ three surviving sons were guests of honour. The event attracted over 100,000 participants and involved the construction of a banqueting marquee for 1400 invited guests, seen to the right of the picture. A platform was constructed in front of the Monument to enable the guests of honour to be seen by the crowds and to deliver the speeches.
Greenock enthusiasts founded the earliest Burns’ Club on 21st July 1801 and had their first supper on 29th January 1802; which at that time was mistakenly thought to be the anniversary of his birth. Following close on their heels were clubs at Paisley, Kilmarnock and Dunfermline. Throughout the century more and more clubs sprang up either in Scotland or wherever Scots met. One of the earliest in England was the Bristol Caledonian Society founded in 1820. By 1885 there were so many Burns’ Clubs in existence that an international Federation of clubs was instituted.
Format of Burns’ Supper
A few welcoming words start the evening & the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace:
Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
Piping in the Haggis – Before the Haggis appears, one should hear the skirl of the bagpipes and the company should stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table. The guests accompany this with a slow rhythmic hand clap.
Address to the Haggis – The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns’ famous poem To A Haggis. When he reaches the line “an cut you up wi’ ready slight”, he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife. The company applauds the speaker and then are asked by their host to stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky. The meal is then served.
The Immortal Memory – An invited guest is asked to give a short speech on Burns. There are many different types of Immortal Memory speeches, from light-hearted to literary, but the aim is the same – to outline the greatness and relevance of the poet today.
Toast to the Lasses – The main speech is followed by a more light-hearted address to the women in the audience. Originally this was a thank you to the ladies for preparing the food and a time to toast the ‘lasses’ in Burns’ life. The tone should be witty, but never offensive, and should always end on a friendly note.
Response – The turn of the lasses to detail men’s foibles. Again, this should be humorous but not insulting.
Poems & Songs
Once the speeches are complete the evening continues with songs and poems. The evening will culminate with the company standing, linking hands and singing Auld Lang Syne to conclude the programme.
The food varies according to custom and locality but, in general, the meal should feature a Haggis. The usual accompaniment is Tatties [potatoes] and Neeps [turnips or swedes]. Other components might include a soup such as Scotch Broth or Cock-a- Leekie and there may be Atholl Brose or cheese and bannocks [oatcakes].
Images © Trustees of Burns Monument & Burns Cottage, National Museums Scotland, Whithorn Photographic Group & Scottish Life Archive and an Unknown | Licensor Scran
Robert Burns is not only Scotland’s best known poet and songwriter but one of the most widely acclaimed literary figures of all time. He is held in very special affection by millions around the world, with Burns’ suppers taking place on or near his birthday on the 25th January.
Burns’ stature owes much to the huge range of his songs and poems, some of which are still familiar nearly two hundred and fifty years after his birth. In fact, there would be few English speaking people who do not recognise “Auld Lang Syne” – a staple at New Year celebrations.
His popularity is also linked to his association with a brand of socialism radical for his time and timeless in its understanding of the plight of the common man. Burns would have naturally understood these issues having experienced hardships not untypical for the ordinary man of the eighteenth century.
Birth & Youth
He was born in 1759 in the village of Alloway, in Ayrshire and was the son of a small farmer, Jacobite in sympathies, who had moved from near Stonehaven in Kincardineshire. In Scots rural tradition – which Burns himself recognised in “The Man’s the Gowd for A’ that” – and probably because of his father’s support of education, Burns had a fairly extensive education. He attended several schools and was given lessons from his tutor, John Murdoch, who introduced him to Scots and other literature in the English language. The family was never wealthy, living on and scraping a bare living from poor farming land. When Burns’ father died in 1784, he and his younger brother, Gilbert, tried and failed to make a success of farming at Mossgiel, near Mauchline. Also at this time, Burns began what was to be a stormy relationship with Jean Armour whom he left and betrayed many times.
His intensity, bred of hardships, seems to have caused Burns to produce some of his finest literary achievements. With a formal educational background, supplemented by a desire to read great literature and an admiration for the work of Allan Ramsay the elder, and steeped in Scots traditional ballads and legends, Robert Burns began to create his earliest and some of his best loved poems.
Poetry & Fame
In 1785 and 1786 alone, Burns wrote, amongst other works, ‘The Address to a Mouse‘, ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer‘, ‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night‘ and ‘The Twa Dogs‘ and published his later famous Kilmarnock Edition with the intention of emigrating to Jamaica to seek a better existence. However, the popular response to his book of poems attracted him to Edinburgh to receive the adulation of the polite society of the capital, who became fascinated by the ‘ploughman poet’ and dubbed him “Caledonia’s Bard”. 3,000 copies of his Edinburgh Edition of poems were selling well at this time.
In 1787, he first visited Dumfries and was immediately made an honorary burgess. In 1788, unsure of making a living from the pen, he signed a lease on Ellisland Farm on the banks of the Nith and sought employment as an Exciseman. This was a latter day VAT man and Burns used his income to supplement his farm. His health was variable but during that time, he edited – with James Johnson – the second edition of the ‘Scots Musical Museum’. It was published in 1788 and contained 40 of his own songs. The third volume, which appeared in the following year, had 50 more.
Burns asked Captain Francis Grose who was compiling a book on the antiquities of Scotland to include an illustration of Alloway Kirk. Grose agreed provided the poet would contribute a ‘witch story’ to accompany the drawing. The result was ‘Tam O’Shanter’. The poem was written in a single day on the banks of the Nith and is arguably one of his best works.
After two years, Burns gave up the farm and moved to Dumfries as a full-time Exciseman. During this time, Burns had at least one major affair and sired a daughter whom his own wife agreed to raise. Burns led an erratic lifestyle, being alternately drawn to and repelled by the bourgeois lifestyle. He wrote poems in English instead of his vernacular Scots, and flirted with ‘Clarinda’, Agnes McLehose.
In May 1793 the family moved to a better quality house in Mill Street (now Burns Street). Their standard of living was good and they employed a maid servant. He was now writing songs for a new book ‘A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs’ produced by George Thomson. At the same time, some of his most lasting songs like ‘My Luve is like a Red, Red Rose‘ and others set to traditional airs, which revived the words and tales of ballads, were produced.
Ill Health & Death
The war with France was causing food shortages in Britain. In March 1796 there were serious food riots in Dumfries. Gradually, during the year, Burns’ health became poorer and in April he was unable to continue with his Excise duties. His friend Dr Maxwell mistakenly diagnosed his illness as “flying gout” and prescribed sea bathing as a cure. On the morning of Thursday 21st July he became delirious. His children were brought to see him for a last time and shortly afterwards he lapsed into unconsciousness and died. He was 37 years old.
It was the intention of friends that a biography of Burns should be written as soon as possible and the profits used to aid Mrs Burns. Dr James Currie, a Liverpool physician, who came originally from Annan, was chosen as biographer. The biography, published in 1800, was an immediate success and raised £1400. However, when Dorothy and William Wordsworth visited Dumfries in 1803 they had difficulty in even finding Burns’s grave. So, in 1813 subscriptions were sought. One of the subscribers was the Prince Regent, later George IV. On the 19th September 1815 Burns’ body was exhumed and placed in the new mausoleum. In 1823 the cenotaph on the banks of the Doon at Alloway, Burns’ birthplace, was completed at a cost of £3300. In 1844 a huge festival in his honour was held at Alloway, presided over by the Earl of Eglinton. The centenaries of his birth in 1859 and his death in 1896 saw nationwide celebrations.
The cult of Burns rapidly rose. As the ‘National Bard’ he assumed spiritual dimensions, becoming all things to all people – admired as poet, nationalist, democrat, republican, conversationalist, womaniser, drinker, naturalist, folklorist, lyricist, Freemason and atheist to name a few. His humble origins, in particular as the ‘heaven taught ploughman’, have added to the idolatry.
1759 January 25 Robert Burns born at Alloway
1781 Works as a flax-dresser in Irvine
1782 Returns to Lochlea after the burning of the Irvine shop
1784 Father dies. Robert moves to Mossgiel. Meets Jean Armour
1785 Birth of Elizabeth, daughter by servant Betty Paton. Writes To a Mouse. Affair with Highland Mary Margaret Campbell.
1786 Kilmarnock Poems published. Re-unites for a time with Jean Armour. Plans emigration to Jamaica. Stays in Edinburgh. Jean remains with family in Mauchline.
1787 Edinburgh Edition of Poems
1788 Ellisland Farm, Dumfries. Commissioned as exciseman. Marries Jean Armour. Writes Auld Lang Syne.
1790 Tam o’ Shanter completed
1791 Jean and Robert move to Dumfries
1792 Accused of political disaffection during revolutionary commotion in Dumfries.
1793 Second Edinburgh edition of Poems
1795 Ill with rheumatic fever
1796 July 21 Burns dies at Dumfries
1796 July 25 Son Maxwell born on day of his funeral
Images © Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Trustees of Burns Monument & Burns Cottage, Bayley & Ferguson Ltd| Licensor Scran
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was born on November 13 1850 in Edinburgh to parents Thomas Stevenson and Margaret Balfour. The Stevenson family were already well known as Thomas and his father, Robert Stevenson, were both famous lighthouse designers and engineers. From them, Robert Louis inherited his adventurous nature that would stimulate his imagination and spark his interest in literature. As a child Robert was severely ill due to a weakness in his lungs which he inherited from his mother. His health improved with age and after a troublesome time at Edinburgh Academy he entered Edinburgh University at the age of seventeen. Lacking the necessary approach for engineering, he instead pursued law and was called to the bar at twenty-five. This was a reserve plan to fall back on should his true passion – literature – fail.
A man who saw great romance and art in all aspects of life, Stevenson decided to travel. This was most likely in search of better health but also for adventure. As a writer, he craved stimulation for his imagination and he created notes of all he saw. His travels took him to Grez-Doiceau, Belgium and France where he visited Nemours and Paris often. A canoe trip in 1878 inspired his travelogue An Inland Voyage and later Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes. He also wrote a number of articles and essays to generate income. Two years before this, he had met Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, an American divorcee, in France and fallen in love. A few months later she returned home and fell ill. When the news reached him, Stevenson, against the advice of his friends, departed for San Francisco. The journey from New York to California almost killed him. However, it inspired his works An Amateur Immigrant and Across the Plains. He eventually arrived in San Francisco with scarcely any money at all. By the end of winter 1879 his health declined once more. Fanny nursed him back to health.
Master of Literature
In May 1880 he and Fanny married. They would spend the next seven years seeking a suitable environment for his ever declining health. Having suffered so terribly in winter during his life, they would reside in Scotland and England during the warmer months, and spend winters in France . His greatest works were created in this period: Treasure Island, The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Kidnapped. He also published two volumes of poetry: A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods. Stevenson’s father died in 1887. In June 1888 Stevenson chartered the yacht Casco and he and his family sailed around various locations. This period also saw the production of further work including: The Master of Ballantrae, The Bottle Imp and The South Seas.
The Latter Years
In 1890 Stevenson and his family moved to the Samoan island of Upolu where he would live out his final years. He named his estate Vailima, meaning “Five Rivers”. His literary work and reputation was influential and the locals would consult him for advice. They named him the Tusitala – the Teller of Tales. His interaction with the locals led him to observe that European rule was less than benevolent and he published the highly critical A Footnote on History. Given his literary power, his work caused two officials to be recalled. As well as supporting the natives and building his estate, Stevenson published further works such as David Balfour and Ebb Tide. He also wrote the Vailima Letters in this period. With his health waning, Stevenson became depressed and concerned that his creativity was being exhausted. His spirit refused to succumb and he began his masterpiece, the Weir of Hermiston. He apparently remarked: “It’s so good that it frightens me.” He would not complete it. On December 3 1894, after working on his book, Stevenson collapsed in the company of his wife. He was 44 when he died as a result of a cerebral haemorrhage. The natives surrounded his body and carried their Tusitala upon their shoulders to a cliff top where he was buried.
Imagery © Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Historic Environment Scotland, Dundee Central Library – Licensor Scran
“My Grandfather Dreams Twice of Flanders“, is a poem based on an experience Ron Butlin had when he was around six years old. That was when he first noticed people wearing poppies, and he asked his mother why. She explained about war, and about death, neither of which made much sense.
Then she told him about his grandfather who had ironically died on the day peace was declared, after lying in hospitals for years with injuries sustained earlier in the war. As a child he had nightmares, and the poem is a sort of exorcism.
Ron Butlin was born in Edinburgh in 1949, but grew up in the countryside in the village of Hightae near Dumfries. He has been a computer operator, security guard, footman and model, as well as Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University. He writes in English and Scots.
Images: © Poppy Scotland (Eamonn McGoldrick), National Library of Scotland (Moving Image Archive) & Newsquest (Herald & Times).
Regarded as one of Scotland’s most popular writers, Sir Walter Scott produced an exemplary body of work, notably his famous Waverley novels.
Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh on the 15th of August 1771. He was born in a house on College Wynd where the Old College building of Edinburgh University now stands. He was the 9th child of Walter Scott, writer to the Signet, and Anne Rutherford. At the age of two he contracted polio which rendered him lame for the rest of his life, often walking with a limp. To attempt to cure his illness, he was sent to live with his grandfather, Robert Scott, at Sandyknowe, near Smailholm, in the Scottish Borders. It was his time spent at Smailholm where he developed his love of the Borders. In 1778 he returned to Edinburgh. By now the Scott family were living in grander accommodation at 25 George Square.
Scott began his education in October 1779 at the High School of Edinburgh. His education was interrupted by a period of ill health and he was again sent to Sandyknowe. One year later he returned to the city and to his studies. In 1786, he was apprenticed to his father’s law firm; however he soon decided he wanted to become a lawyer and returned to Edinburgh University where he qualified as an advocate in 1792. He practiced as an Advocate in Edinburgh where he dealt with more provincial matters, his first Edinburgh case not presented until 1795.
When Scott met Burns
The only known meeting between Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns took place during the winter of 1786/87. At a house on Sciennes House Place they both attended the literary salon of Scott’s university friend Adam Ferguson. This meeting had a lasting impression on the young Walter Scott.
Scott married French-born Charlotte Carpenter in Carlisle on the 24th of December 1797. Following the wedding, they moved into rented accommodation at 50 George Square, Edinburgh. Their first child, Sophia, was born in 1799 prompting Scott to seek more stable means of employment. He successfully petitioned Henry Dundas, controller of Crown patronage in Scotland, for the position of Sheriff-depute of Selkirkshire. Between 1801 and 1806, Charlotte gave birth to three more children; Walter, Anne and Charles. The growing in size of the family meant Scott had to find more sizable accommodation and so built 39 Castle Street in Edinburgh’s New Town. It was this house that was to become Scott’s winter residence. Scott was to also have properties in Lasswade on the banks of the River Esk and also Ashestiel near Selkirk but he eventually found a prized home in Cartley Hole Farm near Melrose, which he was to rename Abbotsford.
Scott the Writer
Since childhood, Scott had maintained a strong interest in the literary world. He wrote his own poetry as well as collecting celebrated works by Shakespeare and Fielding. At university he formed the Poetry Society and was an avid member of the Literary Society. His position as the Sheriff-depute allowed him considerable time to work on his poems and novels and also gave him ample time to collect various ballads pertaining to the Borders. Regarded as his first major piece of work, ‘The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’ was published in 1800 though it wasn’t until the release of ‘The Lady of the Last Minstrel’ in 1805 that he was to find popular acclaim. Scott’s status as a writer was rising and demand grew for his works. ‘Marmion’ was published in 1807 selling 28,000 copies over three years. It was followed three years later by ‘The Lady of the Lake’ which broke all previous sales records and proved his popularity in Britain as well as the United States of America.
The Waverley Novels
In 1814, Walter Scott published his first novel Waverley. This was to become a series of novels, each depicting periods of Scotland’s history. Scott’s romantic view of Scottish history gave rise to the boom in tourism throughout the Victorian period as his books became popular with new audiences. The ‘Waverley’ novels, as they became known, spanned 28 books including well known titles such as ‘The Heart of Midlothian’, ‘Ivanhoe’ and ‘Rob Roy’. The last volume was published in 1831 shortly before his death. Scott published most of his works alongside his childhood friend James Ballantyne, whom he met at Sandyknowe. Scott became a silent partner in Ballatyne’s publishing company, successfully encouraging him to move his works from Kelso to Edinburgh. It was a business relationship that saw Ballantyne become his publisher and editor.
Due in part to Scott’s passion for his home at Abbotsford, which he frequently extended and renovated, he built up sizeable levels of debt. He would have lost Abbotsford had he not signed over ownership to his son. To raise vital funds he sought advancement in royalties for books not yet published. This was a risky strategy that paid off as his popularity as a writer continued into the late 1820s.
Visit of George IV
In 1822 King George IV made the first visit to Edinburgh by any monarch since the mid-17th century. As a baronet, awarded for the discovery of the ‘Honours of Scotland’ in 1818, Sir Walter Scott was instrumental in organising the royal visit, promoting the best of what Scotland had to offer. It was during this visit that the wearing of the kilt once again became popular.
In May 1826, Scott’s wife, Charlotte, died. He channelled his energies into his writing to pay off debts amounting to £140,000. This was to the detriment of his health. In the final years of his life he suffered a stroke and haemorrhaging as the strain of his personal life and his finances took hold. Sir Walter Scott died on the 21st of September 1832 and was buried next to his wife at Dryburgh Abbey. His debts were eventually paid off following posthumous sales of his novels and collections of poetry.
Sir Walter Scott remembered
In the years following his death, a subscription was raised for the building of a national monument to honour Scott as one of Scotland’s greatest writers. Designed by George Meikle Kemp, the Scott Monument was opened in August 1844.
“And come he slow, or come he fast, It is but death who comes at last.” Sir Walter Scott, ‘Marmion’ (1808)
Image © Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Historic Environment Scotland, The City of Edinburgh Council, Special Collections-Glasgow University Library | Licensor Scran
Tom Morris known as ‘Old’ Tom Morris is a Scottish golfing legend and famous golf course designer.
In recognition of his achievements, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club House in St Andrews permanently displays his portrait. Born and bred in St Andrews, at age eighteen, Tom Morris was apprenticed to Allan Robertson (1815-1859) the greatest player of his time. Tom Morris was a golf ball and club maker before turning to professional play. In 1862 he won the British Open by 13 strokes and this margin of victory still stands as a record. He won the Open Championship four times. In 1867 Morris won his final Open.
‘Old’ Tom and his son ‘Young’ Tom became the only father and son to hold successive open titles when ‘Old’ Tom became the oldest player to win a title, aged 46 years and 99 days, in 1867. ‘Young’ Tom won in 1868 and in the following year he won again and his father finished second. ‘Old’ Tom later became custodian of the links at St Andrews. As a renowned as a club and ball maker, he established his own club-making firm and designed many famous Scottish golf courses.
‘Young’ Tom Morris (1851-75) was outright winner of the Open Golf Championship at St Andrews 1868-1870, when he claimed the Challenge Belt as his own after the hat trick. ‘Young’ Tom Morris has the distinction of being its youngest ever winner. There was no Open Championship in 1871. He won the 1872 Open and was awarded the new Claret Jug trophy. Young Tom died at the age of 24, just three months after the death of his wife. His grave is in the grounds of St Andrews Cathedral, beside that of his father, Old Tom Morris; a memorial stone is set in the old priory wall.
The origins of golf are a matter of controversy. Only from the mid 18th century, when the first golf clubs were formed, do records appear which give a more detailed account of the game. Golf was almost exclusively a sport for the Scots until the second half of the 19th century, and it was played by a limited number of people. It expanded quickly, particularly after 1880 and was taken up by the English and by women. The game became increasingly popular, leading not only to the creation of new golf courses, but also to an outpouring of golf literature. This is apparent in the appearance of books of instruction in golf, such as this, histories of clubs, anthologies of golfing prose and verse, and journals devoted entirely to the sport.
Sir Walter Simpson’s 1887 book, ‘The Art of Golf’, was the first to feature photographs and is informative as well as humorous. Discussing the mental qualities needed to be a good golfer, he famously wrote, Excessive golfing dwarfs the intellect. Nor is this to be wondered at when we consider that the more fatuously vacant the mind is, the better for play. It has been observed that absolute idiots play the steadiest!
Images © Historic Environment Scotland, National Library of Scotland, St Andrews University Library| Licensor Scran
This term in Perth & Kinross, two schools are working in partnership with Scran to focus on Expressive Arts. Both Abernethy Primary School & Dunbarney Primary School are taking a whole school approach to teaching Art & Design.
Before Christmas staff came together for the project brief. The challenge was to come up with common schemes of work for each year group, across both schools. Below are the topics each year group is investigating at present;
- P1/2 – all aspects of tartan & weaving
- P2/3 – Roman life & collage
- P4 – Wallace & Bruce through targe construction
- P5 – Mary Queen of Scots through jewellery & feltmaking
- P6 – Burns by drawing & painting portrait work
- P7 – Scottish Landscapes looking at Jolomo
As well as these Studying Scotland themes, classes will be identifying opportunities for IDL. Significant aspects of learning and progression pathways are being addressed throughout the teaching & learning activities which are currently underway. This area for development is set to conclude during mid February, when both schools will exhibit the pupil outcomes, inviting parents to come in to celebrate the pupils’ achievement.
Our hard-working colleagues in the Scots Language department of Education Scotland have just unveiled their new “hub”, offering links to Scots language resources, guides to how to use Scots within the English language and literacy curriculum, and a history of the Scots language among other goodies. You can find the hub here. The team also run the Scots language “Blether” on Glow, and you can see this at http://bit.ly/scotsblether
The Scran image shown here, incidentally, is of Mairi Robinson. Under Mairi’s editorship the Scottish National Dictionary and the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue were updated and combined to form the Concise Scots Dictionary. It was first published in 1985 by Aberdeen University Press. In 1987, a revised edition of 820 pages was published. The dictionary contains words used from the twelfth century to the present, with meanings, pronunciations and origins included.
Image: ©National Museums Scotland. Licensor www.scran.ac.uk.
If you want to incorporate some Scots language into your classroom, our friends at Scuilwab can help. Run by the lovely people at Education Scotland’s Scots Language department, it’s aimed at “Teachers an young people fae nursery tae university.” It features links to Scots dictionaries, activities, downloadable resources and even a “Wird o’ the month”. Did we mention that it’s free? Take a look!