A view of the kitchen showing the hearth and spinning wheel in Burns Cottage.
Ayrshire & Arran

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

The Life o Burns

Portrait of Robert Burns

Wha wis Robert Burns?

Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns sits prood atap the rowth o Scottish poets. Fae ‘Auld Lang Syne’ tae his ‘Address to a Haggis’, Burn’s wirk is intreensically jined wi Scottish culture.

His traivels fae a hummel kintra stert tae internaitional kennin tell the tale o a man roused by naitur, cless, culture an luve.

Airlie life

Burns wis born in Alloway in 1759, in a cottar hoose biggit by his faither. He wis the auldest son o cottars William Burnes an Agnes Broun, but in spite o thir laich rank Robert’s mither an faither mak’d siccar he wis weel schuiled. He wis tocht tae read fae he wis wee, an een tendit wan year o mathematics schuilin.

The young Burns wis mair intae hings thit gied him pleesure – poetry, naitur, weemin, drink – thin wirkin oan the fairm. Whin his faither deid in 1784, Robert an his brither Gilbert taen ower the fairm, but eftir a few year, they wir skint. Tae mak hings worse, Burns wis aaready the faither o a wean oot o wadlock. – the furst o his 13 weans.

A white thatched cottage stands on the side of a road with a blue sky background.

Burns an weemin

Burns hankered eftir luve wi the sam virr as he hud fir poetry, an his luve fir the lassies set in stane his life an wirk, in aqual pairts. Fae his teenage years tae the heichts o his career, he git himsel envaigled in a wheen o heidie trysts, some o thaim owerlappin wi each ither.

Hooiver, thir wis wan wummim whae wis aye in Burns’s life whin he wis a grown man: Jean Armour. They wint oan tae spen maist of thir days thigither, bit whin they furst ettled tae be wad, Armour’s faimily tore apairt the writ. Bealin mad, Burns wis supposed tae hiv ettled tae rin awa tae the Caribbean wi anither wummin caad Mary Campbell ( also kent as ‘Heilan Mary’), bit at the feenish up, he wis perswadit tae bide in Scotland as by that time fowk wir stertin tae tak tent o his poems.

Wirk & inspeeration

Forby his mogre o a haim life, Burns managed tae publish his furst collection in the simmer o 1786 – it mak’d him a leetirary superstaur whin he wis jist 27 year auld

Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect wis the ootcome o a proleefic rowth o poetry atween 1784 an 1786. It wis pit thegither fae a wheen o braw wirks, sic lik ‘To a Mouse’ an ‘Address to the Deil’, that reflectit oan the wey Burns wis reart, his luve fir kintra life an maist of aa his virr fir the weys o fowk.

Robert Burns's first book ‘Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect’
A 1786 copy o ‘Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect’ (Burns’s furst buik)

Eftir his furst collection did sae weel, Burns bidit in Embra fir a wee while afore him an Jean Armour wir offeecially wad in 1788 an flitted tae Dumfries. In 1790, he scrievit the muckle braw narrative poem Tam o Shanter, a kiddie-oan-heroic tale aboot a feckless fermer, thit wis rootit in Burns’s luve fir Scottish culture. This wirk pit Alloway Auld Kirk, Souter Johnnie an the Brig o Doon, doon in history fir aa time.

Burns’s virr fir Scotland an its cultural tradeetions cam tae the fore in the hinneren o his life, whin he wirked oan The Scots Musical Museum an A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs. Pittin wirds tae tradeetional fowk sangs as weel as makin up his ain tunes, Burns gied hunners o sangs an leerical poems tae these volumes, sic lik 'Auld Lang Syne’, ‘A Red, Red Rose’ an ‘A Man’s a Man for A’ That’.

Did ye ken?

Burns’s haundscrievit writ o Tam o Shanter hud twa o three threapin lines thit he wis telt tae tak oot afore publeecation.

A white thatched cottage stands on the side of a road with a blue sky background.

Daith & legacy

Robert Burns deid whin he wis jist 37 year auld, in 1796, fae a rheumatic hairt condeetion. Jean Armour gied burth tae thir last son, Maxwell, oan the day Robert Burns wis beerit.

Burns’s legacy lee’s oan owre Scotland an aa roon the wurld – in monie kintras it’s noo tradeetional tae sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at Ne’erdaay. Ower the centuries, Burns’s wirk hus inspeert a rowth o poets sic lik Wordsworth, Coleridge an Shelley, an hus seen him celebratit in sangs, pentins an een stamps.

Oan 25 January 1859, a hunner year eftir his burth, events wir haudit aa ower Scotland tae mind o him, an noo Burns Nicht is mair or less a naitional day aff! In honour o oor weel luved an maist weel kent poet, we sing sangs, belt oot his poems, swallae a wheen o drams an address Scotland’s naitional dish yaisin Burns’s ain poem, ‘Tae a Haggis’.

Fiddler on Burns Night
Musical entertainment is popular after the meal on Burns Night.