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THERE WAS A MAN by Tom Wright


Just now Ive taen the fit o rhyme


My barmie noddles working prime


My fancy yerkit up sublime


Write your There Was a Man by Tom Wright research paper


Wi hasty summon


Hae ye a leisure - moments time


To hear whats comin?


Robert Burns born 5th January 175 died 1st July 176 iis one of the great romantic poets and one of the worlds great songwriters. He is also Scotlands national bard and the hero of the Scots and people of Scottish descent everywhere. The play traces his life through an exciting part of the eighteenth century and provides not only an insight into the man, but presents some of the best known works of the artist.


When, after an absence of years, the Scottish Parliament reopened in Edinburgh in 1, it chose to mark the occasion not only with the usual speeches and pageantry, not only with words from royalty and politicians, but with a song from a traditional folk singer. And not only that, the last verse of the song brought accompaniment from all the members of the parliament in a joint declaration of proud intent and in the spirit of brotherhood to which Scotland lays claim. Sheena Wellington’s memorable rendition of “A man’s a man, for a’ that” has become a national icon, a cherished centrepiece to that day of hope and expectation. There was really only one song to use that day, and one poet could have created it, indeed that one poet represented and reflected the national aspirations of millions of Scots for over 00 years.


David Sibbald, in his excellent essay on Burns’ importance to Scotland postulates that Burns and Scotland each challenged the others authenticity, and that Burns became the real bard of a potentially real nation.


He states that Burns “kept alive the idea that there was such a thing as a Scottish identity. He helped to keep our belief in ourselves breathing through a long, long hibernation…


“The central preserve of Burns identity as a poet, the part that might have helped him to come to terms with the contradictions in himself, was his Scottishness. He was first, last and always Scottish. It was his greatest love affair and perhaps in a quiet way it broke his heart. Central to this, argues Sibbald, was the poet’s Highland Tour which “ runs like a San Andreas Fault across the life of Burns. If we read and understand the journal Burns kept of his Highland tour we realise one of the reasons why we are living in a new Scotland. The very centre of Burns sense of himself as a poet had been challenged, his self-confidence breached and Scotland, trying to become English, had done it”.


Although his hopes for the tour had been great, he returned from it very disillusioned. He spoke afterwards of his mind being “enervated to an alarming degree”. His early visit to Bannockburn brings from him a passionate celebration of Scottishness (the poem “Scots Wha Hae”). Yet, by the time he reaches Culloden, he is almost silent Thursday 6 September - Come over Culloden Moor - reflections on the field of battle.


David Sibbald continues “What those reflections were Burns doesnt say. The certainty of response he felt at Bannockburn seems to have evaporated. There were for Burns 10 days between Bannockburn and Culloden and in that short time he travelled the distance between certainty and doubt, the journey Scotland itself had made. No wonder he was silent there”.


But however damaged he was by his experiences, he continued to work and to create. “Through the power of his art he expressed our feelings in his own. He reminded us subversively of who we really are. Any nation is a landscape of the mind and he has left us that landscape haunted by the voices of its people - their personal and national griefs, their unrealised dreams, their lost aspirations”.


Robert Burns Fact and Fiction


Myth - Burns sent carronades to France to help the revolution.


Truth - Yes Burns was sympathetic to the cause of Liberty and, yes, he was a leading figure in the capture of the brig Rosamond. On Feb th 17, he and other excise officers found themselves wading chest-deep into the waters of the Solway. The Rosamond had been involved in smuggling but was now grounded on the sands waiting for the tide to lift her off. Part of the vessels equipment included four carronades and the story persists that Burns bought these and sent them to the Legislative Assembly of France. The guns never got there, allegedly held up by the customs officers at Dover.


The veracity of the story of the Rosamond is unquestioned but anomalies about the purchase and despatch of the carronades are plentiful.


1. The story was instigated by John Lewars but no written statement has been found.


. There is no evidence in Dover Customs & Excise records of these guns being confiscated.


Myth - Burns was not a religious man.


Truth - Nowhere in the works of Burns will you find a single word against religion. He was against the hypocrisy of certain individuals, notably Holy Willie but Burns knew his Bible and even up to the last attended Church ardently.


Myth - Burns fathered countless children.


Truth - He had 1 children of whom were to Jean Armour. Of the other three, the first, Dear Bought Bess, was to Elizabeth Paton, and was brought up by Burns mother. She returned to her own mother after Burns died.


The second was a son to Jenny Clow. Burns was willing to take him into his home but Jenny would not part with him.


The third was to Anna Park. Jean Armour brought up the child, Elizabeth, as one of her own family.


Elizabeth Paton Burns 1785-1817 (Dear Bought Bess)


Jean Armour Burns 1786-Died 11 Months (twin to Robert � below)


Robert Burns 1786-1857 (twin to Jean)


Robert (Clow ) 1788-?


Twin Girls 1788 Died at Birth


Francis Wallace Burns 178-180


Elizabeth Park Burns 171-187


William Nicol Burns 171-187


Elizabeth Riddell Burns 17-175


James Glencairn Burns 174-1865


Maxwell Burns 176-17


Myth - Burns was made Poet Laureate when he attended Lodge Canongate Kilwinning.


Truth - This error has probably been compounded by the painting The Inauguration of Robert Burns as Poet Laureate of Canongate Kilwinning 1st March 1787 by Stewart Watson where Burns is shown receiving the honour. Burns only attended the Lodge once in Feb 1787 and the next mention of him in the minutes was in 1816 when he was referred to as lately Poet Laureate of this Lodge. No doubt the members considered him as such, but it is certain that he was never present to receive the honour personally. However this story has not to be confused with him being toasted Caledonias Bard at a meeting of Lodge of Edinburgh St Andrew where he was present.


Myth. Burns was not a good farmer.


Truth - In Jan 178 he was awarded a premium of £ from the government for growing acres of flax. He was in Irvine to learn the trade of Flax Dressing. Crop rotation was not fully understood and the farms that Burns was involved with had very poor soil.


Myth. We should not wear the Kilt at Burns Suppers


Truth Burns never wore a kilt as it was an outlawed form of dress after the Jacobite Rebellion. However Burns was a fervent Scot and wrote about the injustice dealt out to John Highlandman. Burns understood the prevalent view that John Highlandmans crime was to wear highland dress and be loyal to his clan. The establishment had decreed that it was illegal to wear a uniform signifying membership of a proscribed clan, carry a weapon and be disloyal to the crown. Highland Dress is also mentioned in Charlie hes my Darling. Let us have no more nonsense on this subject and, for those who want to, let us all wear


Fact Tam oShanter might never have been written if Burns had not met Captain Grose. Grose was in Scotland collecting material for his forthcoming book. The Antiquities of Scotland. Burns took to this fat, jovial man and asked him to include a sketch of Alloway Kirk, where Burns father was buried, in the publication. Grose, who was interested in the supernatural, agreed but on condition that Burns pen a story on witches. The result was Tam oShanter which was reputedly written in one afternoon on the banks of the river Nith.


Fact Why do we call the poet Rabbie or Robbie? If we examine Burns Signature or Autograph we will find that he never ever signed his name as Rabbie or Robbie. He did use Robin, Rab, Rab Mossgiel, Rab the Rhymer, Robert and in his formal letters frequently used Robt. Of course in correspondence to Clarinda he was Sylvander and in one letter to Ainslie he signed off with Spunkie. Both Robbie and Rabbie are modern day misnomers.


Fact Burns had started to read plays with a view to writing a drama. He wanted a play that the Scots would appreciate. So perhaps he would have written Braveheart in the 18th Century. He wrote in a letter that he was studying Shakespeare to learn the nuances involved in such an enterprise. What a pity that this never materialised.


Fact There are some amazing resources today for Burns information and background.


I am particularly indebted to David Sibbald, for his excellent website www.robertburns.plus.com


and to www.robertburns.org for the superb Burns Encyclopedia.





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