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Robert Burns Lives!
Celebrating Frank's 200th Chapter of Robert Burns Lives! By Alastair McIntyre

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

I began writing this column even before it first appeared in September 2002 on  At times it seemed like a chore with my work pulling me to different cities throughout the southeast United States on a weekly basis (after all the bills had to be paid!) but yet most of the time it was a joy. Through this website I have met many a good man and woman, many a layman or professor, Burnsians and some who wanted to be. I have met a vast number of friendly people, but one time I encountered a rascal of a man who told me I had offended him because I mispronounced a word. He was the exception! I’ve often wondered how this Glaswegian would have sounded to my fellow Southerners here in America. I have made permanent friends with some over the years and eaten with many in their homes and in restaurants throughout Scotland, England, France, and in the States. Quite a few have even been overnight guests of Susan and me in our home, some so long it was tempting to put their names on strips of paper, drop them in a hat, and then naming the guest room after the person whose name was picked.

I have grown tremendously in my knowledge and understanding of Burns. He is not simply someone to study, he is someone I cannot help but love. I am not afraid of Burns and neither do I feel unworthy to write about him. I do not worship him and neither do I feel unworthy to represent him. Why, you ask? Because Burns championed the dignity of man! If I chose to, I could verbally arm wrestle or tilt with many Burnsians but I see no need to find out who can quote the most of Burns, as if quoting is what makes one a Burns scholar.

As any rookie might, I made a big error in introducing this website when I stated it was for laymen. How foolish of me!  Now as I look back on the history of Robert Burns Lives!, I find that professors, others with earned doctorates, and lecturers volunteered to write for the website.  I have been introduced as a Burns scholar on more than one occasion, but I beg to disagree.  I have made it clear that a Burns scholar is usually one who has given his or her entire life to teaching Burns. Ross Roy is a great example as are many associated with universities. I may collect Burns books, manuscripts, busts, as well as pictures and paintings, the so-called Burnsiana, but that does not make one a scholar, particularly me.

I have been lucky to meet and cultivate many friendships in the name of Robert Burns. Alastair McIntyre stands out in this category. He wrote me sometime back with a reminder that we were approaching our 200th chapter of Robert Burns Lives!. As owner and publisher of electricscotland, he suggested I ask someone to write about this milestone. (For the 150th chapter, Professor Ross Roy willingly accepted my invitation.)  So following Alastair’s idea, I made a list of ten people whom I felt comfortable contacting and, not surprisingly, one of the names was Alastair himself. After a short time of reflection, I chose Alastair because only he knows of the many times we have worked together to get a chapter right, many times right up to his deadline. He has always been a gentleman and, for someone who has lived all over the world, he is a “down to earth” fellow.  Alastair had earlier shared with me his goal to reach “a million hits” (or “visits” as he calls them) on electricscotland and I’m happy to report that the projected number of hits has come and gone by millions more.  I cannot imagine reaching a million viewers, much less millions upon millions, as Alastair has. It seems strange to welcome him to the pages of Robert Burns Lives! but that is what I have the honor of doing now.

(FRS: 5.7.14)      

Celebrating Frank's 200th Chapter of Robert Burns Lives!
By Alastair McIntyre

Picture of Alastair sitting outside a local pub in Aberfeldy in Scotland having had a dish of haggis stovies and a pint, hence the smile!

I first met Frank Shaw at the Scottish Weekend in Moultrie in Georgia. I had been invited to give a talk at the event while I was living in Scotland.  This was in February 2004.

Robert Burns Lives! column was first launched in the two monthly Family Tree Newspaper which was edited by Beth Gay.  It is worth quoting Frank's Introduction at the time...

This is a new column that will appear regularly in our paper. The column will attempt to bring insights into Burns for those who may not be as familiar with Burns as they would like. On more than one occasion I have heard people say they would like to know more about the writings of Burns but they try to understand the Scots dialect and eventually give up – sooner rather than later. I know. I have been there. Done that!

Well, nearly two years ago I took the bull by the horns and joined the Burns Club of Atlanta. I felt that the only way to get past this "bump in the road", aka understanding the Scots dialect, was to expose myself to those who know more than me on the subject and buy books on Burns to study. I have fallen in love with the Atlanta Burns Cottage, which is an exact replica of the original one in Scotland where Burns was born at Alloway. The membership has welcomed us and made the two of us, Susan, my wife and I, feel right at home. We both look forward to the monthly meetings. It is just a lot of fun mixed with a little learning each month.

I have been impressed with most of the speakers, particular those who did not try to impress you, but the general membership is to be admired and respected for their knowledge of Burns and, more importantly, their willingness to share their knowledge. Some of our better speakers are among our own membership. My quest to be better informed about Burns by joining the Burns Club has not been disappointing. To the contrary, it has been more than I ever imagined.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a local Burns Club to fall back on for information about Scotland’s National Bard, his life and his work. So, I discussed with Beth Gay, our Editor, about the possibility of having a regular column on Burns. Why wait for Burns Nicht one time a year to honor Burns? Maybe the haggis but not Burns! This will be like a mini correspondence course without the exams. It will be an Introduction to Robert Burns 101, if you please. Guest authors, and laymen like myself, will write this column and from time to time, I’ll stick my two cents worth in with an article or two.

We’ll try to bring you pictures of Burns, the statues of him & the places in the Burns triangle – Ayr, Edinburgh and Dumfries, where he lived, loved, drank, ploughed, wrote, sang, collected taxes & died. Susan and I will be in London and Scotland for a couple of weeks in October if everything works out the way we plan and, with the guidance of Thomas Keith, our friend from New York City and fellow Burnsian, we will search out as many of the statues as possible. We will bring you the men and women who influenced Burns by their lives, their loves and their writings. We will talk about the poems, songs and letters of Burns. We will learn the difference between a "Skinking haggis" and a "stinking haggis". We will look at the best and the worst of Burns in his writings and his life since this by and large this will be a teaching column.

We will learn that bawdy is not necessarily dirty and that the sublime is, sometimes, rather simple. Hopefully, some of you, particularly those who are unfamiliar with Burns, will build a notebook of the columns to have as a reference when needed. We will recommend books to the beginner and tell you if some are a wee bit scholarly.

We’ll see how this young genius died between his 37th and 38th year but left the world a much better place because of what he left us. We’ll hear about his views on liberty, freedom, love, "my Jacobitism" and whom he would hold as his chief enemy. The Burns scholar may be bemused about this effort but we will enjoy the last laugh since Burns was one of us!

My only regret is that The Family Tree is only published every two months but if you hang in there with us, the ride will be worth it. Some may scoff at this undertaking but it is at least that – an undertaking that we all can participate in if we are willing to learn as we go.

One thing is for sure, we’ll take this journey together and somewhere down the road we will look back and feel good about where we started. Welcome aboard!


Frank's first column was published on 11th September 2002 and was entitled "Background of the Times in Which Burns Lived, Loved and Wrote".

Unfortunately the Family Tree newspaper was closed down by the Moultrie Library and so it was suggested that I might take over this regular column on my Electric Scotland web site. I was happy to do so and ever since have worked with Frank and Susan on posting it up on the site.

Robert Burns Lives! covers all aspects of Robert Burns and how he has affected people's lives over the years.

In chapter 11 he wrote of his young friend Rachel.. at the time she would have been nine years of age. He told the story of how he told her about Burns and how she developed on interest in him.  You can read this at 

In chapter 121 Frank also gave us an update on Rachel in which she said...

Her “thank you” note said, “I will be attending Indiana University in the fall, where I hope to study writing of some kind. It all started with Robert Burns and I have the bust statue to thank for that!”

Now between these 110 chapters Frank has brought us a whole series of columns on "what Robert Burns means to me" in which folk like, Professor David Purdie, Dr. Carruthers, Billy Kay, Eddi Reader, Dr. Kenneth Simpson, G. Ross Roy, James Macsween, and others contributed articles.

In an introduction to one of these articles he said...

Robert Burns made haggis the National Dish of Scotland in 1786 when he published “Address To A Haggis”, a dish you either love or dislike. I fall in the former category – I love good haggis! I now want to introduce you to James Macsween who makes a living selling haggis and is known all over Scotland as “the king of haggis”. He and his sister Jo operate Macsween of Edinburgh, the business started by their grandfather, making them third-generation haggis makers. To hear James Macsween present the “Address To A Haggis” at a Burns Night Supper would be a royal treat. Unfortunately, you can’t buy his haggis here in the States (the “food police” will not allow you to do so), but when you are in Scotland, you can find it almost everywhere. If I told you it was good, that would not be good enough! The Macsween recipe is as well protected as that famous American icon, Coca-Cola.

The article itself by James Macsween starts...

"From a young age, Burns spoke to me as no other poet did. The first time I had to learn Burns, aged about ten, was for a school project in which we had to learn a verse of To a Haggis. I ended up learning the whole poem. I never took to other poets like I took to Burns. Dulce et Decorum Est was just schoolwork; Shakespeare went right past me. I took to Burns because he used such simple images, which stuck in my mind. For instance, the simple honesty of To A Mouse."

You can read this article at Chapter 63.

He has also brought us chats with significant Burnsians, explored great Burns collections such as the one of G. Ross Roy who passed away recently to everyone's great regret.

In that article he says...

G. Ross Roy has done it again! He has published another masterful book that will be used by scholars and laymen alike for years to come. The new publication was compiled by Elizabeth A. Sudduth with the assistance of Clayton Tarr. Sudduth is the head of Rare Books and Special Collections Processing and Services for the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina and is very experienced in this field of work and publishing. This catalogue contains over 6,000 items on Burns. Written between the lines of this book is the story of a book collector’s dream – to build one of the world’s most significant libraries or collections on Robert Burns. Mission accomplished!

You can read this article at Chapter 41.

LR: Wife Susan, Son Scott holding Stirling, Frank with Ian and Denise, proud mother of the bairn-folk. April 27, 2002. Culloden, Georgia.

Many significant Burnsians have also contributed articles and you will likely know of them if I mention, Dr. Carruthers, Professor David Purdie, G. Ross Roy, Patrick Scott, Robert Crawford, Dr. James W. Flannery, Clark McGinn, Chris J. Rollie, Megan Coyer, Gerard Carruthers, Robert Carnie, and many others.

In his 200 chapters to date Frank has followed up on his promise to tell us of statues of Robert Burns. He has brought us articles from Russia and Ukraine and a number of Immortal Memories.

Frank himself gives a number of Immortal Memories around Burns Supper season and we have a video recording of one given at the Burns Cottage in Atlanta.

He has also given talks at the Burns conference at Glasgow University and he took his family to Scotland, England and France in which he took then to visit places of Robert Burns interest in each of these countries.

An example of one of his interesting articles is by Clark McGinn in which he said...

"My life with Burns is truly a journey (and not the reality TV cliché!) in the last seven years travelling 166,000 miles (6.7 times round the globe) with 100 speeches in 26 different cities in 13 countries!  Each time has been a great occasion: from major Corporate Hospitality events in some of the most stunning locations in the world (like the Sydney Opera House!) to the prestigious Society of Scots Lawyers in London Burns Supper or The Burns Club of London: to Ayrshire Burns Clubs and private functions; across the US, the UK and Europe; audiences ranging from 50 to over 700 people have enjoyed my trademark style of combining humour, poetry, history and an ability to tailor a message from Burns and his work which touches that particular group of men and women in that particular evening’s audience – every speech I give is unique."

Frank said at the time... Can you imagine going around the globe 6.7 times speaking about Burns? With countless years yet to go, there is no telling how many more times Clark will circle our globe. If you check out his website mentioned above, you’ll be in for a real treat.  I say again in closing that one of my dreams is to have him speak at the Burns Club of Atlanta which has met the first Wednesday of each month since its inception in 1896 and in the Burns Cottage since 1911.

Like Johnny Rodger said about Clark’s article, “it’s great stuff”.

And then he goes on to give as Clarke's article about "Robert Burns and The Invention of the Haggis" which he started by saying...

Cynics might well describe the Burns Supper ritual of addressing the haggis as the inedible praised by the incomprehensible, and, to be fair, it is a hard concept to explain.  I was travelling to New York to speak at a Burns Supper and when I arrived at the fearsome JFK Immigration Desk, the border officer stared at me and asked why I was seeking entry to the States. I nearly said ‘I am going to put on a skirt, stand in front of six hundred people and use the language of eighteenth century Scotland to declaim a love poem to a sausage which I shall then eviscerate with a huge knife.’ In the end it seemed simpler to say that I was there on business.

You can read this article at Chapter 148.

Frank always gives an excellent introduction to each article. For example in the article "Robert Burns and the Excise by Gerard Carruthers" he says...

"One of my favorite Scottish journals is THE DROUTH, and one of the reasons I enjoy it so is because its two editors, Mitchell Miller and Johnny Rodger, write and live on the cutting edge of Scottish life. THE DROUTH also has a guest editor for each issue and for the Winter 2009/2010 volume it was none other than Dr. Rhona Brown who has written two articles for Robert Burns Lives!, both concerning the man affectionately known as the Chairman of the Bard, Professor G. Ross Roy.

One of the major contributors to THE DROUTH is Dr. Gerard Carruthers whose contributions are usually about one person – Robert Burns. Thus, “Robert Burns and the Excise” which appeared in the above mentioned issue will now grace the pages of Robert Burns Lives! thanks to the writer and editors who have consented for it to appear on our web site as the 102nd chapter or article about Burns. Little did I know when I started editing RBL a few years ago that so many would be so willing to contribute to its pages.

A lot has been written about Burns the exciseman, some of it good, some of it…well, you finish the sentence. This is an excellent piece, and over lunch recently at the University of South Carolina, two of the people who should know the good from the bad and the ugly pronounced it very good! Thank you, Drs. Robert Crawford and Patrick Scott. And, I offer my thanks on behalf of our readers for such a quality example of writing by Dr. Gerard Carruthers."

While there are many scholarly works in these chapters Frank always manages to find grand wee stories to add to the mix and one such was "Burns Supper held at the Stonehouse Primary School near Larkhall, Glasgow" in which he says...

"Last month Susan and I had the privilege of attending the annual conference at the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Robert Burns Studies. It always provides an opportunity to hear several outstanding speakers, renew auld acquaintances and make some new ones. At dinner one evening, Kirsteen McCue, Co-Director of the Centre, told us about an intriguing Burns Supper put on by school children. Kirsteen’s son, Gregor, was a participant in the supper, so I did what I always do when I hear something interesting about Burns - I asked for a copy of the program and pictures of the event!  With thanks to Gregor, his classmates and his mother, I hope you enjoy this rare Burns Supper held at the Stonehouse Primary School near Larkhall, Glasgow that these young people attend.  You will also find an email of introduction from Gregor as well."

The article starts...

"Dear Mr Shaw,

My mum is Kirsteen McCue – I think you met her? I am Gregor. I am sorry you couldn’t come to our Burns supper this January. But I’m enclosing some pictures, and some documents (like the lassies toast and my immortal memory and some memories of the event) which were written by me and some of my classmates."

Another article is his International collection is "Rehabilitating the Radical: Robert Burns in the Belfast Press in the Period of the Irish Act of Union by Dr. Carol Baraniuk."

And again an excellent introduction to this article...

"I met Dr. Carol Baraniuk while attending the annual Robert Burns International Conference at the University of Glasgow in 2010. While at a post-conference dinner for the symposium speakers, we were able to talk a wee bit about family, friends and Burns. I learned that Dr. Baraniuk is the aunt of Jennifer Orr who recently published The Correspondence of Samuel Thomson (1766-1816) which has many references to Burns. (See Chapter 138 in the index to Robert Burns Lives! for a review of this magical book.) I met Jennifer several years ago at the University of South Carolina while attending one of Ross Roy and Patrick Scott’s outstanding conferences. This is the first time I have had the pleasure of publishing articles by family members, an aunt and a niece in this case, and it is a joy to do so.

Carol Baraniuk was a school teacher for many years and had the pleasure of teaching her niece Jennifer when the latter was preparing for university. Carol moved into university academic life when appointed to a position at Stranmilis University College in Belfast. She was awarded a PhD by the University of Glasgow for her thesis on the Ulster-Scots poet James Orr. She has been widely published on the Ulster-Scots poetic tradition and has delivered conference papers in Ireland, Scotland, Europe and the United States. Carol has a particular interest in the relationship between Robert Burns and the Ulster poets who wrote in the Scots tradition. She is currently a researcher with the Ulster-Scots Poetry Project at the University of Ulster and a member of the Ministerial Advisory Group for Ulster-Scots. Carol recently visited British Columbia and the Yukon, following in the footsteps of her grandfather and great-grandfather, both of whom spent time in Canada as young men – her great-grandfather helped lay the Canadian Pacific Railroad. We are all glad he found his way back to Ireland, otherwise we would not be writing this story. I think you will enjoy this connection of Burns and Ireland as we continue to celebrate the fact that Robert Burns Lives! after all these years."

Another example of the content of his Robert Burns Lives! is "Flow Gently Sweet Afton. The Story Behind the Song by Norrie Paton."

Again here is his introduction...

"His name may be Norman but his friends call him Norrie, and I wish there were more people like him.  Norrie Paton has a gifted pen and can tell a story as good as anyone I know. He has as much to say on his subject as any university professor does and continues to go out of his way to support Robert Burns Lives!. Visit Chapter 129 of this website which was published on December 14, 2011, and read his excellent piece on Highland Mary. And then listen to what this Campbelltown, Scotland man has to say below regarding the young lady who captivated the heart and thoughts of Robert Burns until death took her away from him.

Norrie is always welcome to these pages dedicated to Burns. But Norrie, please do not wait two years next time to surprise me with another article! For our readers who have not visited the monument of Highland Mary, go back to Chapter 129 for a great picture of it. Norrie, it has been said, is “one of the good guys.”

Here is how the article starts...

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
Flow gently, I’ll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

On the 5th February, 1788, Robert Burns wrote to his constant correspondent, Mrs Dunlop, enclosing a song that he had, apparently, just composed, and he described it thus:

There is a small river, Afton, that falls into the Nith, near New Cumnock, which has some charming, wild, romantic scenery on its banks. I have a particular pleasure in those little pieces of poetry such as our Scots songs, &c. where the names and landskip-features of rivers, lakes, or woodlands, that one knows are introduced. I attempted a compliment of that kind, to Afton, as follows: I mean it for Johnson’s Musical Museum."

And just one more example is an article by Dr. Natalia Kaloh Vid (Slovenia, University of Maribor, Faculty of Arts) on "Ideological Adaption of Robert Burns in the Soviet Union".

As he says in his introduction...

Attending any conference on Robert Burns has always been a treat for me. Attending an international conference in Scotland is indeed a rare treat. Susan and I were able to do just that on January 15th when we visited the University of Glasgow to participate in a one-day conference hosted by The Centre for Robert Burns Studies entitled Burns and Beyond. There were only six speakers and yours truly was lucky enough to be invited as one of them. We heard some great presentations with outstanding messages about Burns. One of the best, if not, in my opinion, the best, was Dr. Natalia Kaloh Vid, who has a PhD from the University of Maribor, Slovenia. Her speech on Robert Burns and Russia was mesmerizing.

She says in her opening sentence...

This paper focuses on ideological adaptation of Robert Burns’s translations in the Soviet Union which underwent numerous adaptations and changes caused by editorial politics and the overwhelming influence of ideology on literary production.

Frank has also forged links with folk in Kiev in Ukraine and you can read more about this in Chapter 192 entitles "Robert Burns 255th Anniversary from Robert Burns Kiev Junior Club". It is worth including a bit of Frank’s comments on this article...

A few weeks ago an article was posted on Robert Burns Lives! about three Ukrainians and their outstanding work on Robert Burns. This week I want to tell you a bit more about one of them, Hanna Dyka, and a Burns event she and her students put on in honor of Burns’ 255th birthday celebration. Today a treat awaits you as we look at some youngsters from the school in Kiev which, interestingly, is a twin city of Edinburgh in gymnasia 56 (high school). These students do not come from one class but come from many grades and are naturally of different ages. Hanna, quite a Burns enthusiast, is a relatively new friend of mine, and she recently wrote in an email that “in 2012 our Junior Robert Burns Club was enrolled into membership of the Robert Burns World Federation (N 2097).” Hanna goes on to say that “the youngest children are in the 3rd grade and the rest are from the 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th grades.” I think that is quite an accomplishment for this group of youngsters to be a registered member of the Burns Federation. There are many Burns Clubs in America that are not members even though it’s so easy to become a member and so worthwhile not only to the clubs but to the federation itself. To paraphrase, let the little children lead them!

Frank was a good friend of G. Ross Roy and he did a special article about Professor Ross Roy’s Gift of Robert Burns Manuscripts to the University of South Carolina. You can see this article at the foot of his page.

And so in all these 200 chapters to date he has covered many aspects of the poet by producing detailed articles on many aspects of his life and work from slavery to humour and much in between.

It is clear in all this tremendous work that Frank is a true Burnsian that wants to share with the world the love he has for the bard and that Robert Burns Lives on!

And in his final paragraph of his introduction in which he said "One thing is for sure, we’ll take this journey together and somewhere down the road we will look back and feel good about where we started. Welcome aboard!"

Well done Frank! I think we can all say we feel good about what you started all those years ago! and "lang may yer lum reek!" and we look forward to your next 200 chapters!

You can get to all these 200 chapters at:

Alastair McIntyre

Return to Robert Burns Lives! Index Page


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