Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759 in the “auld cley biggin” that is known as Burns Cottage.
His birthday is celebrated throughout the world as Burns Night, with Burns Suppers, poems, songs and anecdotes about Scotland’s National Bard.
Burns undoubtedly remains a hugely important historical literary figure, but of course he was – and is – so much more than that.
Burns has become a potent symbol for Scotland and a global brand for Scots and their descendants across the globe.
Scottish Television (STV) viewers voted Burns ‘the Greatest Ever Scot’ in a 2009 poll and his song ‘Is there for Honest Poverty’ was chosen to open the new Scottish Parliament in October 2004.
Behind the global brand, lies a complex and surprising man. A man who rose from the obscurity of a small, rural Scottish village, to become perhaps the first modern celebrity.
Robert Burns Timeline
|1759||Born in Alloway on 25 January|
|1765–8||Burnes family move to Mount Oliphant Farm, near Alloway|
|1774||Writes his first song, ‘O once I lov’d [a bonnie lass]’|
|1777||Burnes family move to Lochlea Farm, near Tarbolton|
|1781||Becomes a Freemason|
|1781||Moves to Irvine to learn flax-dressing (turning flax into linen)|
|1784||Father William Burnes, dies. The family move to Mossgiel Farm, near Mauchline|
|1784||The family change their name to Burns|
|1785||Meets Jean Armour. Fathers his first child, born to maidservant Elizabeth Paton|
|1785–6||Has an affair with Margaret Campbell (AKA ‘Highland Mary’)|
|1786||The first edition of Burns’ ‘Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect’ is published in Kilmarnock|
|1786||Abandons plans to emigrate to Jamaica to work on a slave plantation. Instead, travels to Edinburgh to look into publishing a second edition of his poems|
|1786||Enters into ‘a form of wedlock’ with Jean Armour|
|1786||Becomes a father to twins Robert and Jean Burns, born to Jean Armour|
|1787||Second edition of poems is published in Edinburgh. Meets James Johnson and agrees to contribute to ‘The Scots Musical Museum’|
|1787||Tours the Highlands, Stirlingshire and the Borders, collecting local songs and airs|
|1787||Becomes a father to a child, born to Edinburgh servant girl May Cameron|
|1787||Meets Agnes McLehose (AKA ‘Clarinda’)|
|1788||Marriage to Jean Armour is officially recognised by the Kirk|
|1788||Becomes a father to twin daughters, born to Jean|
|1788||Moves to Ellisland Farm, near Dumfries|
|1788||Fathers son Robert, born to Edinburgh serving maid Jenny Clow|
|1789||Fathers son Francis Wallace Burns, born to Jean|
|1789||Begins work as an Excise Officer|
|1790||Writes ‘Tam o’ Shanter’|
|1791||Fathers daughter Elizabeth (‘Betty’), born to barmaid Anna Park|
|1791||Moves to Dumfries|
|1791||Fathers son William Nicol Burns, born to Jean|
|1792||Fathers son to Elizabeth Riddell Burns, born to Jean|
|1792||Begins work on ‘A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs’ with George Thomson|
|1794||Fathers son James Glencairn Burns, born to Jean|
|1796||Dies in Dumfries, aged 37|
|1796||Robert’s youngest son, Maxwell Burns, is born to Jean on the day of Burns’ funeral. Jean is unable to attend the funeral.|