Robert Burns is regarded as the national poet of Scotland and his work is celebrated across the world. He travelled much of Scotland during his life, his visit to our town Coldstream in May 1787 is marked with a plaque on Coldstream Bridge to honour this. Most people will know Robert Burns through the celebration of Burns night, the night of his Birthday the 25th of January which is celebrated with the traditional dish of haggis, neeps and tatties and of course a wee dram of whisky. Burns wrote “Address to a Haggis” as he was fond of the classic Scots dish and it is now tradition that on burns night the haggis be served on a silver platter with a reading of the poem.
Born in the village of Alloway in South Ayrshire on the 25th of January 1759, Robert or “Rabbie” was the son of William Burns and Agnes Broun. Roberts early years were spent working with his father and brother on farms in Ayrshire. At the age of 15 he had written his first attempt at poetry “Handsome Nell”, the poem was written for Nelly Kirkpatrick whom he had worked with during the harvest of 1774. Burns was a romantic and a great number of his poems were written about the women in his life but he also wrote and collected folk music from across Scotland. In the 1780’s Burns had planned to emigrate to Jamaica but with the little money he had made farming he could not afford the fare. He was encouraged to sell his poetry to raise the funds for his voyage and in 1786 his first works were published in the Kilmarnock Volume. Robert did not travel to Jamaica as planned because of the birth of twins to Jean Armour. He went onto publish more volumes and quickly became a cultural icon writing in a light Scots dialect of English, allowing his work to reach far beyond the borders of Scotland.
Robert Burns visited Coldstream May 7th 1787 where there is a plaque on Coldstream Bridge in honour of this. During his visit Robert crossed Coldstream bridge where the river Tweed forms a natural border with England. Upon stepping onto English soil Robert knelt to pray and blessed his native land with these words:
“O Scotia! My dear, my native soil! For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent! Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content!”
Sadly Robert Burns passed away at the young age of 37 due to heart problems, but to this day he still remains one of Scotland’s Treasures and he is celebrated every year on January 25th “Burns Night”.