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  • Writer's pictureSharon Michalove

Tak a Wee Dram Wi' Me on Burns Nicht

Portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787, Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Happy Birthday, Robbie Burns

Every year, on January 25, Scotland observes the birthday of their most celebrated poet, Robert Burns. The author of "Auld Lang Syne," "A Man's A Man For A That," and my favorite, "To A Mouse," Burns is nicknamed "the ploughman poet."

Born in Ayrshire in 1759, The son of an unsuccessful farmer, Wiliam Burns, Robert followed in his father's footsteps. But however unsuccessful he was in farming, his meager education didn't keep him from becoming one of the greatest poets of the romantic era.

Offered a job in Jamaica, Burns struggled to raise funds to emigrate. A friend advised him to publish a volume of verse. Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish dialect was published on July 31, 1786, by John Wilson and sold for 3 shillings. The book was an immediate success.

Instead of leaving for Jamaica, Burns went to Edinburgh, where a subscription edition for the book was published in 1787. He became made many lifelong friends and was welcomed into the city's literary social life. But, in 1788, he went back to farming life, leasing Ellisland Farm, Dumfriesshire. He also trained to become an exciseman, and took a job in Customs and Excise in 1789. By 1791, he had given up farming.

In 1790, Burns produced his masterpiece, "Tam O' Shanter." He was offered several positions in London and Edinburgh, but declined them, choosing to write lyrics and collect Scottish folk songs.He had also alienated some of his friends by sympathizing with the French and American revolutions.

Burns died on July 21, 1796, in Dumfries at the age of 37.

The first Burns night was celebrated in 1801. Have your own traditional Burns Night with this menu.

Enjoy the meal with a dram of fine Scottish single-malt whisky and recite "Address to the Haggis" and "Selkirk Grace."

If you want to listen to some of Burn's lyrics, you can't do better than Jean Redpath.

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