Contributed by Marilyn McPhie
Robert Burns is known worldwide as one of Scotland’s most famous sons. He was born on January 25, 1759, in Ayrshire, Scotland, and every year on his birthday there are many, many festive gatherings to celebrate this Scottish poet.
As with most celebrities, fans have always wished to have a souvenir of the man – something – small or large – that belonged to him, or, if that were not possible, at least some trinket that brought back his memory.
Robert Burns himself made the souvenir-seeking easier. In his considerable library of books, he often inscribed them with his name and occupation – “Robert Burns, Poet,” leaving no doubt of the provenance of these volumes.
After his death, the desire for souvenirs continued, and those who possessed such objects displayed them proudly. In 1875, a man in Dumfries named John Brodie boasted of possessing a brace of pistols and a sword that had once belonged to Robert Burns.
An interesting story of a relic-hunter is told of an English gentleman who came to visit the widow of Robert Burns. He explained that he wished to obtain something that had belonged to the poet. When the widow replied that the sort of items he sought had long been given away to others, the man was not deterred. Wasn’t there something, even something small like a paper with his handwriting on it? No, there was not, the widow replied. But the man would not give up. He insisted that there must be something he could have.
Finally, the widow simply said, “Well, sir, unless you take myself, I really can think or no other relic of him that it is in my power to give or yours to receive.”
Whether the souvenir-hunter wanted to press forward with the suggestion or not, it is reported that this ended the discussion.
If you wish to have a Burns souvenir today, you may not find anything the poet actually owned. But there are plenty of other possibilities. A simple internet search will offer you Burns t-shirts and mugs, of course – but also kitchen towels, spoons, thimbles, bookmarks, teacups, cufflinks, and even socks.