Commemorative Stamps, Scots Wha Hae and Auld Lang Syne

Robert Burns
Fact and Fiction

Myth - Burns sent carronades to France to help the revolution.
Truth - Yes Burns was sympathetic to the cause of Liberty and, yes, he was a leading figure in the capture of the brig Rosamond. On Feb 29th 1792, he and other excise officers found themselves wading chest-deep into the waters of the Solway. The Rosamond had been involved in smuggling but was now grounded on the sands waiting for the tide to lift her off. Part of the vessel's equipment included four carronades and the story persists that Burns bought these and sent them to the Legislative Assembly of France. The guns never got there, allegedly held up by the customs officers at Dover.

The veracity of the story of the Rosamond is unquestioned but anomalies about the purchase and despatch of the carronades are plentiful.
1. The story was instigated by John Lewars but no written statement has been found.
2. There is no evidence in Dover Customs & Excise records of these guns being confiscated.

Myth - Burns was not a religious man.
Truth - Nowhere in the works of Burns will you find a single word against religion. He was against the hypocrisy of certain individuals, notably Holy Willie but Burns knew his Bible and even up to the last attended Church ardently.

Myth - Burns fathered countless children.
Truth - He had 12 children of whom 9 were to Jean Armour. Of the other three, the first, Dear Bought Bess, was to Elizabeth Paton, and was brought up by Burns mother. She returned to her own mother after Burns died.
The second was a son to Jenny Clow. Burns was willing to take him into his home but Jenny would not part with him.
The third was to Anna Park. Jean Armour brought up the child, Elizabeth, as one of her own family.

Myth - Burns was made Poet Laureate when he attended Lodge Canongate Kilwinning.
Truth - This error has probably been compounded by the painting "The Inauguration of Robert Burns as Poet Laureate of Canongate Kilwinning 1st March 1787" by Stewart Watson where Burns is shown receiving the honour. Burns only attended the Lodge once in Feb 1787 and the next mention of him in the minutes was in 1816 when he was referred to as lately Poet Laureate of this Lodge. No doubt the members considered him as such, but it is certain that he was never present to receive the honour personally.

However this story has not to be confused with him being toasted Caledonia's Bard at a meeting of Lodge of Edinburgh St Andrew where he was present.

Myth. Burns was not a good farmer.
Truth - In Jan 1783 he was awarded a premium of £3 from the government for growing 3 acres of flax. He was in Irvine to learn the trade of Flax Dressing. Crop rotation was not fully understood and the farms that Burns was involved with had very poor soil.

Myth. We should not wear the Kilt at Burns Suppers
Truth This fallacy has arisen because Burns never wore a kilt. It was an outlawed form of dress after the Jacobite Rebellion. However Burns was a fervent Scot and wrote about the injustice dealt out to John Highlandman. Burns understood the prevalent view that John Highlandman's crime was to wear highland dress and be loyal to his clan. This resulted in him being deported. The establishment had decreed that it was illegal to wear a uniform signifying membership of a proscribed clan, carry a weapon and be disloyal to the crown. All through Burns works he revived an interest in Scottish traditions and also in human rights. Highland Dress is also mentioned in Charlie he's my Darling. Let us have no more nonsense on this subject and, for those who want to, let us all wear the kilt with pride and with honour.

Magic - Some of Burns songs have been set to music by the great composers.
The most notable is "O Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast"
The tune was composed by Felix Mendelsohn, but add to that Robert Schumann, Haydn, Shostakovich, Beethoven, Bruch and Benjamin Britten plus many more and you begin to see the contribution that Burns has made to music.
Amazing but true.

Magic - Burns kept his feet on the ground in spite of all the adulation and being lionised in Edinburgh.
He wrote to Mrs Dunlop in Jan 1787 "When proud misfortune's ebbing tide recedes, you will bear me witness, that when my bubble of fame was at the highest, I stood, unintoxicated, with the inebriating cup in my hand, looking forward with rueful resolve to the hastening time when the blow of Calumny should dash it to the ground, with all the eagerness of vengeful triumph.
Amazing but true.

Magic - Robert Burns Statue.
There are two statues in George Square, Glasgow which represent Scottish Poets. One is to Thomas Campbell who was so famous that he was buried in Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey, London.
The other poet, Robert Burns, never got as far as London, in life, let alone death yet he is remembered throughout the world today.
Amazing but true.

Magic - Tam o'Shanter might never have been written if Burns had not met Captain Grose.
Grose was in Scotland collecting material for his forthcoming book. The Antiquities of Scotland. Burns took to this fat, jovial man and asked him to include a sketch of Alloway Kirk, where Burns father was buried, in the publication. Grose, who was interested in the supernatural, agreed but on condition that Burns pen a story on witches. The result was Tam o'Shanter which was reputedly written in one afternoon on the banks of the river Nith.
Amazing but true.

Magic - In the 1700's beer was drunk with every meal. It was purer than water, but by the middle of the century tea began to rival alcohol and there was a significant fall in the death rate caused by alcohol related diseases.
Amazing but true

Magic - Why do we call the poet Rabbie or Robbie? If we examine Burns Signature or Autograph we will find that he never ever signed his name as Rabbie or Robbie. He did use Robin, Rab, Rab Mossgiel, Rab the Rhymer, Robert and in his formal letters frequently used Robt. Of course in correspondence to Clarinda he was Sylvander and in one letter to Ainslie he signed off with Spunkie. Both Robbie and Rabbie are modern day misnomers.
Amazing but true

Magic - Burns had started to read plays with a view to writing a drama. He wanted a play that the Scots would appreciate. So perhaps he would have written Braveheart in the 18th Century. He wrote in a letter that he was studying Shakespeare to learn the nuances involved in such an enterprise. What a pity that this never materialised.
Amazing but true

Magic - Ay Waukin O
Ay Waukin O translates as always awake rather than always pacing the floor. This song was sung at the funeral of Donald Dewar.
Ay waukin O
Ay Waukin O
Waukin still and weary
Sleep I can get nane
For thinking on my dearie

Simmers a pleasant time
Flowers of every colour
The water rins owre the heugh
And I long for my lover

When I sleep I dream
When I wauk I'm eerie
Sleep I can get nane
For thinking on my dearie

Lanely night comes on
A' the lave are sleepin
I think on my bonie lad
And I bleer my een wi' greetin
Amazing but true

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