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Robert Burns Lives!
 Volume 1 Chapter 19

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, Atlanta, GA, USA email:

Usually I have a guest writer for this column, but this time it’s my turn! I continue to read about Robert Burns on a daily basis and never tire of the many books on or about him that I can put my hands on. I attend my monthly Burns Club meetings with a degree of regularity. I have spoken at various gatherings honoring Burns, and I have come to the conclusion that there is something special about a group of men and women who pay tribute to this man who died in 1796. I am talking about those who are serious about Burns. They are just about the best people on earth! Who are these people? As the old saying goes, “Who’s like us? Damn few, and they are all dead!” Maybe the following will add a wee bit of light on that question.

Who are these Burns people?  L-R: Jack Hume (Founder and Past President, The Heather and Thistle Society, Houston, TX), Frank Shaw, Victor Gregg (Vice President, The Burns Club of Atlanta), and (seated) Walter Watson (President, Robert Burns World Federation), Burns Night, January 2005, Atlanta, GA.  Watson delivered The Immortal Memory to Burns.

The guys in the photo are gathered around a Kilmarnock edition of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, (held by Walter Watson). Of the 612 copies published in 1786, it is one of only 62 or 63 Kilmarnock's known to exist today.

Who Are These Burns People?

Who are these people who gather to read the poetry of Robert Burns, sing his songs, have a wee dram or two, eat a potluck meal if they are lucky, and listen to speakers who think they have something new to say about Scotland’s National Bard?

           Who are these Burns people?

They are many, and they are varied. It does not matter what station in life they come from. Some are university scholars, and some are ordinary laymen like most of us. (Since its inception, this column has been dedicated to the latter group.) Some are professionals, physicians, small businessmen, teachers, homemakers, attorneys, engineers, government employees, clerks, judges, professors, writers, and many are blue-collar workers. You name the profession, and I guarantee you will find those who love Robert Burns.

Who are these Burns people?

Some may be rich or well off while some manage to get by financially living from paycheck to paycheck. Most are in between. Expert tailors provide the clothes for some, while most of us buy clothes off the rack. A few live in mini-mansions (the new word in American housing today), but the majority live in middle-class homes.

Who are these Burns people?

Many have university degrees, both undergraduate and graduate, while the majority may have only high school diplomas. Some have a well-appointed Burns’ library, but the majority has a cherished volume or two. Some can quote Burns “till they are blue in the face”; others of us have a hard time reading the words of Burns from “My Luv Is Like A Red, Red Rose” to “Scots What Hae?”

Who are these Burns people?

Some are from Scotland but most live down the street, born and bred here in the States. These Burns people collect items consisting of mauchline ware, postcards, flasks, jugs, china, pictures, stamps, envelopes, paintings, medals, coins, bookends, to name a few, which are lovingly referred and known the world over as Burnsiana. On e-Bay you can find a daily market on this Burns ware. The list consists of several hundred items related to Burns and is there because these Burns people desire to own something that reminds them of him. I frequent this site on a daily basis.

Who are these Burns people?

They put on black tie or Bonnie Prince Charlie dress to celebrate his birthday on January 25th each year, the highlight of their year honoring Robert Burns. They raise their glasses in his memory, sometimes too many times, and they have the nerve to ask a speaker to present “The Immortal Memory” to Burns knowing that there are over 5,000 books written on or about him, and never ask, “What is left to be said about Burns that has not already been said?”

Who are these Burns people?

You’ll find beautiful solos of Burns sung by professional singers like Jean Redpath or Eddi Reader. Then there is our own local talent who take a back seat to none. These Burns followers are ordinary people who may mistakenly quote a song as a poem, but they mean no harm. They simply love the man they call “Rabbie”!

Who are these Burns people?

Well, they go to Scotland and visit the place where he was born and the home where Burns died and all the farms in between where he basically worked himself to death trying to provide for his family. They attend conferences around the world and at home to learn more about him. They sign up for cruises that feature speakers on Robert Burns, and they are aware there is a library in Glasgow that houses over 5,000 volumes (many of them which probably never should have been written) on or about Burns. They are now beginning to learn there is a library on this side of the pond at the University of South Carolina that houses nearly as many volumes on Burns as the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. No other Burns library in North America outranks it, thanks to a man named Ross Roy and a man named Patrick Scott and an interested staff who are there to assist anyone who is interested in learning about Burns.

Who are these Burns people?

More often than not, they gather at a hotel for their Burns Club meeting to enjoy a meal, eat haggis if it is available, and down it with a wee dram. Yet, these people who meet to pay tribute to Scotland’s National Bard all have one common denominator - they love Robert Burns. They come from all walks of life. One thing is certain, they meet as equals. They meet as one! They proudly are called Burnsians! Robert Burns does that to people. And, more than not, they all join hands to conclude their meetings by singing a song that was written by Robert Burns - “Auld Lang Syne”.  (FRS: 7-29-05)

Return to August/September 2005 Index page or Robert Burns Lives! Index Page


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