Robert Burns

Robert Burns

Robert Burns was born in Alloway about two miles south of Ayr, in South-west Scotland on January 1, 1759. His parents, Agnes Broun and William Burnes(s) were poor. They were a tenant farmers who, like traditional Scots, greatly valued education. They did their best to ensure Robert got a good education.

They hired a tutor and William also educated Robert himself. Robert was also an avid reader. He was familiar with traditional tales and local folk lore about devils, witches, warlocks brownies and fairies.

Most of Robert’s early poetry was written so that it could be sung to traditional Scottish tunes.

When he was 18 the family move to a larger farm in Lochlie but the hard physical work of the farm took its toll on Robert. He developed his interests in poetry, nature, drink and women which remained his passions throughout his life.

He spent some time learning surveying, became chairman of a local debating society and joined the local Masonic lodge. Then he worked in Irvine for a while as a flax dresser. He formed a friendship with a fellow who introduced him to the idea of illicit love.

He had relationships with various women. These included Elizabeth Paton, Ann Park and Jenny Clowe all of whom had children by him.

Robert also fathered twins with the woman who would become his wife, Jean Armour. During a difficult patch in their relationship Robert had an affair with Mary Campbell and planned to emigrate to the West Indies with her. In order to raise the fare he decided to try to sell a collection of his poems. The book was very well received but Mary, (“Highland Mary” in his poem) died. Robert remained in Scotland.

He returned to Lochlie when his father became ill and his father died when Robert was 25. Shortly after this Robert took a lease on another farm near Mauchline in Ayrshire with his brother, Gilbert.

Robert used his Masonic connections to publish his book, “Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect”. This was published in 1786 by John Wilson of Kilmarnock and also achieved great critical acclaim. He went to Edinburgh as a result of the success of this second collection. Indeed, a second edition was published with futher assistance from Masonic brethern. In Edinburgh he also began collecting Scottish folk songs and ballads. Burns consistently refused payment for this work. He considered it a patriotic duty and an honour.

The funds accrued from the second edition of his poetry allowed him to lease Ellisland Farm in Nithsdale in Ayrshire. When he was 29 Jean Armour joined him there as his wife.

Although he continued to write poetry and collect songs throughout his life, Burns also worked as an excise man in Dumfries from 1789. This was also achieved by assistance from his Masonic connections.

Burns died in 1796 aged 37 yet on his birthday each year people meet to celebrate his poetry all over the world.


Forever Valentine

Do you recall that far-off sunlit day,
That Whitsunday when our love was young?
We walked upon the ancient right -of-way
But strayed into the forest deep ere long.

You carved our names into the linden tree
To let the whole world know that you were mine,
That we were part of life’s great tapestry
Together then, and to the end of time.

‘Tis two score years and more since we did rest
On downy drifts of wild anemonies
And now the sun, a-glowing in the west
Will soon make embers of our memories.

But until then, let’s love, let’s wine and dine
Let’s drink a toast to dear Saint Valentine


Ode tae West Kilbride

Ah huv tae thank yi West Kilbride
For the best night o the year
You folks up there kin shew us all
How tae spread the Christmas cheer.

Yer Yuletide night wiz such a treat
A great wee family do
Yer kindness shewn tae yin an’a’
Wis credit tae yi a’

When ah arrived the place wiz buzzin’
Wi’ folks a’ staunin’ roon
That itself is quite amazing’
For its just a wee sma’ toon.

Everywhere yi’ laid on treats
Wi’ wine an’ real champagne
Ah wish ah hidnae brought ma car
An’ came up on the train.

Ah’ never felt ah’d overstayed
Ma welcome anywhere,
In every shop yi took the time
Tae handle us wi’care.

Ah ken that wiz nae easy feat
So many o’ us stood
An’ yin or twa jis tried it on
An even were quite rude.

Ma wee granddaughter hud a ball
Yi treated her real nice
Yi made her laugh and gave her sweets
Next twice she’s comin’ twice.

The way the world is goin’ noo
Wi’ talk aboot recession
Yur hospitality an’ charm
Wis really quite refreshin’.

So take a bow wee West Kilbride,
Be proud of who yi’ are
I’ll be back next year fur sure
This time without ma car.

Anon 2012

Christmas Day

xmasCarols and hope: music and sounds of
Happiness laughter and love,
Roasting the bird: brussels and parsnips
Ice for the drinks Granny sips
Snowflakes fall: make shapes on the window
Toys and games:kids faces glow
Memories form with Mother and Father
Auntie and Granny are there
Soup and then turkey, pudding with cream
Dozing, loud snoring sweet dreams
All memories warm, joyful and fine
Yesterday’s Christmas was mine.



We met when you were twenty-one
A party of family and friends
We hardly spoke: you only joked
About colours and fashion trends.

We met again in a pub or a club
The music was too loud to talk
You only drank: I never danced
So we left and went for a walk.

So much in common: so much to say
Our chatting and laughter was glad
We’re married now: I cannot think how
I got by alone as a lad.


To a Spider

Wriggling legs and fat round body
The window pane holds no fear
For you can climb that cold flat surface
Even tho’ its sheer.

You run so fast across the carpet
Escape my cat’s great chase
The distance you cover is quite disturbing
All o’er the place.

Later I watch you weave with wonder
Your web holds flies and rain
A tasty treat for lunch or dinner
Cat’s chase again.

Your wriggly legs and too enticing
That fat body too much fun
You eat the fly then cat swallows
You in the sun.


Long Ago

Letters and words and rhythm and rhyme

Sometimes I wish I had the time

To spend on reading and writing more

Telling of life in days of yore.

Days of yore were long ago

Ladies in dresses and hats galore

Dancing and stepping around and around

Dainty wee feet hardly touching the ground.

I’d write about walking or riding a horse

Picnics and luncheons or high tea, of course!

Painting or sewing to pass the days

Performing fine music in endless ways.

The life of a lady in days gone by

Is one I only dream of and sigh

Modern times have changed so much lately

Women, not ladies, hurry so hasty.

They haven’t time to sit and ponder

Rushing around going hither and yonder

Women today do not waltz paint or sew

Life is much faster than long ago.