Burns Night – school resources and some memories

Tonight is Burns Night and ex-pat Scots all over the world will be eating haggis and toasting the bard. I can’t help but wonder what that gloriously irreverent poet would have made of all the mad trappings of a classic Burns Night.

Anyway, enough of my babble! If you want good resources for using Burns in school you could do worse than start with

The National Burns Collection.

Lovely resources, download-able packs for different key stages, virtual tours of various Burns Museums.

The National Library of Scotland

Lots of images and scans of original materials, chronological account of his life in various places, audio available.

Family myths about Burns

One of my ancestors (a Kirkpatrick) attended the first ever Burns Supper in Burn’s birthplace in Alloway.
My grandmother (a Wilson of that ilk) in a fit of ‘cleaning’ before moving to a new house in 1958 threw away a ‘Kilmarnock edition’. (1786 published by John Wilson of Kilmarnock only 600 copies ever printed “Scottish Poems by Robert Burns”)

My Memories of Burn’s Night

When I was a child my parents used to disappear to Caledonian Society ‘doos’ on the Saturday nearest Burns Night. This usually involved my father donning his kilt, (not the dusty coloured one that smelled of bracken that he occasionally wore from choice when we were ‘up home’ on holiday) but the ‘dress Lindsey’ one and a velvet jacket. My Mum wore a white frock with a sort of sash of tartan over one shoulder, (a plaidie – but a sort of fake one, no use what so ever in the North West rain!) a big fancy broach with an purple stone pinning it to the frock.

My dad said he felt a bit silly in that get up, though he was usually gallant enough to say my Mum looked lovely. He wasn’t a Highlander after all, but a Lowland Scot. Just like Burns himself. Still Burns liked to romanticise the noble Highlander and I suppose he’s partly responsible for the spread of the belief that that’s the true version of Scottishness. Most of it came later with Queen Victoria and all that Balmorality 🙂 but Burns was there at the start of it.

All that tartan, all those formal speeches! If I believed in an after-life, (slipping quickly past that topic!) I’m sure he’d be wetting himself laughing at what it has turned into.


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