Burns Night, from Aberdeen to Ayr

25 January 2019

Cultural Studies | History

Today is Robert Burns Day, and tonight, in celebration of the Scottish poet, village halls and pubs throughout Scotland will be decked in tartan and tables set for a hearty meal of cock-a-leekie soup and haggis.

To mark the beginning of the celebrations, a piper will play the opening music, and then the host, dressed in traditional Scottish dress, will say the Selkirk Grace. After the first course of soup, the haggis is brought to the host in a lively procession accompanied by bagpipe music. The famous Address to a Haggis, the highlight of the ceremony, then takes place, involving an energetic recital of Burns’ poem as the haggis is carved. More feasting and merriment follow (often involving a generous tipple of Scottish whisky), and the evening is brought to a close by guests singing Auld Lang Syne hand in hand.

All these festivities take place to commemorate Robbie Burns (born on this day in 1759), a Scottish poet and lyricist, and pioneer of the Romantic movement. Celebrations of his life and work became a national cult during the 19th and 20th centuries – and, as a 1935 tourist leaflet reflects, another great reason to visit Scotland.

The Romance of Scotland, c.1935, © Copyright of this material is retained by the content creators. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. 

Titled ‘The Romance of Scotland’, this pamphlet, featured in Adam Matthew’s Leisure, Travel and Mass Culture resource, outlines Scotland’s many attractions, including its ‘rugged majesty’, ‘anvils of history’ and ‘age-long pageants’ (all described in suitably romantic language). The pamphlet ends with a special tribute to Robbie Burns: ‘he lives everywhere in Scotland – the authentic folk-singer of his race’. The reader is invited to visit his birthplace, ‘a cottage in Alloway; in Ayr town stands Tam ‘o Shanter’s Inn and the Auld Brig; at the Fail Burn they show you where he and Highland Mary pledged troth; and an hour’s journey off, the castle where he married – someone else.’ A poet with questionable morals, the author adds that although Burns is ‘Far short of Scott in character, he is no less beloved wherever his fellow-countryman meet.’

The Romance of Scotland, c.1935, © Copyright of this material is retained by the content creators. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. 

It’s the time of year when we might be thinking of our next summer holiday. Why not embrace your inner romantic with a visit to Scotland? (Or perhaps enjoy a book of Burns poetry with a hot toddy.)

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About the Author

Sophie Foan

Sophie Foan

I joined the editorial team at Adam Matthew in August 2018. My interests include contemporary art and design history. I'm currently working with archives and the academic community to develop new projects.

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