San Diego Scottish Highland Games

2024 Highland Games June 22-23

2024 Highland Games June 22-23

Who Was Robert Burns?

More than two hundred years ago, Robert Burns, also known as Rabbie, was born in Alloway on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland. Although his father was a poor farmer, Rabbie was the eldest of seven boys and had a good education. He worked on his father’s farm, and when he was fifteen, he began writing songs to impress girls. “Oh my love is like a red red rose that’s newly sprung, in June…”

When Rabbie was twenty-five, his father died. Rabbie took over the farm with his brother. He kept on writing songs for girls and poems inspired by his farming life. Rabbie wasn’t a successful farmer, and had thoughts of moving abroad; in fact, he was offered a job in Jamaica on a slave plantation, as a bookkeeper. Fate intervened, when his first book of poems was published and Rabbie became a literary sensation. It was a massive hit with well-off readers in Edinburgh, and rather than going off to another country, he stayed in Edinburgh and became an anti-slavery advocate instead.  

After spending time in the city, Rabbie returned to the west and married Jean Armour; they had twins that same year. The money he earned from his book ran out and friends helped him to get a job as a customs officer. This allowed him to continue writing. Many of his new poems were influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution. He wrote about how the rich and poor should be equal. “…The rank is but the guinea’s stamp. The man’s the gowd for a’ that….”

Rabbie died at the early age of 37, from rheumatic heart disease. This was the same day that his ninth child with his wife, Jean Armour was born. Large crowds attended his funeral in Dumfries. His poetry became famous all over the world. On his birthday every year, people gather to celebrate and hear some of his best known words, such as ‘Address to a Haggis’. “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!…”

When midnight strikes on the 31st of December, people all over the world sing his famous ‘Auld Lang Syne’. “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot….” This song has come to be one of the most popular songs in the English language as a whole. According to some, it shares a league with ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.’ 

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