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Robert Burns Lives!
Robert Burns Lives! Publishes its 150th Chapter by Bill Dawson

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA

This following article appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of the Burns Chronicle, a publication of The Robert Burns World Federation. It was written by editor Bill Dawson and relates to our web site Robert Burns Lives!. I wish to extend my thanks to each contributor over the years for their help in making our site what it is today. It is always a surprise to be reading a journal, turn a page, and there suddenly is an article concerning your efforts. Bill wrote in a recent email that “certainly (the) Chronicle endorses RBL! as I always have myself.” The first Burns Chronicle and Club Directory was published on 25 January 1892.

I am grateful for the kind remarks, and thus their article becomes Chapter 162 on Robert Burns Lives!.

Robert Burns Lives! Publishes its 150th Chapter

When Frank Shaw started his column, Robert Burns Lives! (always with the exclamation mark) it was printed in “The Family Tree”, a publication out of Moultrie, Georgia with a circulation of just over 75,000. He set out his aim. “It will be an Introduction to Robert Burns 101” and he has not lost that view on his readership. Albeit there have been a few significant changes: Firstly “The Family Tree” ceased publication, a tragedy for all of us who love the printed page, but an opportunity for Frank as he transferred his column to the web site “Electric Scotland”.  I knew about Electric Scotland long before I knew Frank.  It is aimed mainly at expat Scots or those of Scots descent outwith Scotland, but it has long had a following at home in Scotland for those who love the traditions of being Scottish.  It was therefore a natural home for Frank and “Robert Burns Lives!” and provided the benefit of a vastly increased circulation and ease of further outside access. 

The second influence on RBL! was the fortunate involvement of Prof G Ross Roy, contributing from the earliest stages with an article in Chapter 6. I say this is a fortunate involvement, but it is no great surprise that Frank had quickly found Ross and appreciated that he could make valuable contributions to his column.  From there he could see what value can be added to a site such as RBL! by those working at the more academic edge of Robert Burns. That is very typical of Frank’s astute and sharp perception of what it is all about - he can see what the big picture is and he knows who to go to in order to get the fine brush strokes defined. That is not to say that he does not have a discerning eye himself; his introductory paragraphs to his various chapters often have a similarly valuable take on the subject under examination, but he is so much the southern gentleman that one might take him for a simple layman as he described himself in Chapter one.  Gentleman he certainly is, but it is also certain he knows how to get the job done and he has built his site on effort that he has applied on a daily basis, chasing every slight lead that may give him a chapter, and not being afraid to approach anyone who has published to seek their contribution to RBL! or an opinion for a future chapter. This drive has enabled his column to number among its contributors all the best brains and thoughts working on Burns today. RBL! is probably the premier exchange of fresh thinking in the Burns world today, certainly if there is a bright idea, it will not be long before Frank publishes it. He credits this to the input of Prof G Ross Roy, and no doubt he has been the catalyst that has propelled Frank up to the level of Burns expertise that few reach in their lifetime. It is therefore exceptionally fitting that the 150th chapter in “Robert Burns Lives!” is written by the Chairman of the Bard, Prof G Ross Roy.  Frank’s list of correspondents and contributors may have moved on beyond his initial concept for his column, but his growing readership is still very much with him and appreciate his approach to giving us all the benefit of “Burns 101” and the extra benefit of the best Burns research of the day, and as soon as it is published.  We all look forward to RBL! achieving further milestones in its development.

I have the very good fortune to count Frank and Susan as sincere friends. On more than one occasion I have enjoyed their company and hospitality and I look forward to our ongoing friendship. I enjoy visiting Robert Burns Lives! although I admit not as often as I might, and I encourage all enthusiasts to keep an eye on the site as this is where the really good stuff sees the light.  As editor of a hardcopy four-monthly periodical I am quite envious of the medium of putting articles of quality in front of the readership at the click of the mouse. Best wishes to Frank, Susan and Robert Burns Lives! for a further 150 chapters.

Bill Dawson
Editor, Burns Chronicle

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