What’s Burns night all about?
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What is Burns night all about? Well for those that have no idea, it is a celebration that happens once a year and is mainly celebrated by Scots people throughout the world. However the intrigue of it all is rubbing off and more Burns nights are appearing every year. Many associations such as Golf clubs love to use Burns Night as an excuse to get their clan together and celebrate the event with Scottish food, songs and poems as well as dancing until the wee small hours, which they call The Burns Supper
In short, Burns Night is the celebration of the Scottish Poet Robert Burns, who? you may ask. Well if you did already know, here is a brief history of the man of the moment for you to make up your own mind if he was a talented poet or just a rouge and womaniser as some have claimed. Whatever your thoughts, he certainly made a lasting impact.
Born on the 25th of January 1759 in Alloway Ayrshire to William Burness a tenant farmer and Agnes Broun. He was one of seven and brought up to work on his father’s farm. At the age of 15 he penned his first verse “My handsome Nell” which was an ode to one of the subjects in his life – Scotch women!
Burns had several illegitimate children including twins to the woman who eventually became his wife Jean Armour.
(The poor woman gave birth to 4 children before he married her and 5 more after that and that still did not stop him straying).
They say that most of Ayrshire is related to him due to his infidelities with the local ladies. Just look at the poems he wrote on the women of his life, if your name was Anna, Alison, Katie, Mary, Jeanie, Chloris, Clarinda, Nancy, Nell, Molly, Polly, Peggy, Bessie, Jessie, Eliza, Maria, Delia and – rather weirdly – Davies…. To name but a few!
Burns died at the age of 37 on the same day as his last son Maxwell was born. There were more than 10,000 people attended his funeral to pay their respects, however his popularity then was nothing compared to the heights it has reached since.
Burns Night is a celebration of the birth of Rabbie Burns held on or as near to the day of his birth throughout Scotland and all over the world and would undoubtedly have made him proud. The first Burns night was reputedly held ten years or so later in Tarbolton in Ayrshire of which Burns himself once wrote :
I’ve been tearin’ oot ma hair
Ye’ think ah’d been multin
Trying tae think o a word,
That rymes wie Tarbolton
As well as all the poems that he penned there are more than 400 songs in existence written by Burns of which it is said that some of the songs were what he had heard sung in taverns whilst collecting taxes during his days as an excise man. It is claimed some he did not compose but was just the first to actually write them down! His most famous is Auld Lang Syne and my favourite is:
Cock up your Beaver
When first my brave Johnnie lad came to this town
He had a blue bonnet that wanted the crown
But now he had gotten a hat and a feather
Hey, brave Johnnie Lad, Cock up your beaver!
Cock up your beaver, and cock it fu’ Sprush!
We’ll over the border and gie them a brush:
There’s somebody there we’ll teach better behaviour –
Hey, brave Johnnie lad, Cock up your beaver!
and the key to a good Burns night is to get a group of friends together, read poems and sing his songs, dance some jigs and most of all enjoy, with losts of toasts!
A History of Robert Burns by Issy Wiggins-Turner
Images Source Burns Scotland