The Friends of the Scottish Museum held the 17th annual Burns Night Supper on Saturday, Jan. 19, at Tartan Hall to celebrate the 254th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. The evening began with “Calling of the Clans.” A five-course Scottish dinner menu followed, interspersed with stories and songs and concluded with Scottish Country dancing and “Auld Lang Syne,” perhaps Burns’ most famous work. Eleanor and Lloyd Swift chaired the event this year.
Robert Burns is credited with saving the folk music of Scotland. He was born just a few years after England conquered Scotland in 1746, with the intent of destroying the clan system. Edicts of Proscription were issued forbidding the remaining Scottish people from wearing tartan, playing the bagpipes and speaking Gaelic upon removal or threat of death. Scottish leaders and their families were hunted down. The lucky ones escaped, some to America. Not many decades passed before the old language was lost except in the darkest dells of Scotland.
Burns was a poor farmer in Ayreshire, Scotland, but an accomplished poet. He began to compose a collection of poems about familiar country characters and legends. To make the subjects more human, he wrote in the Old Scots dialect that was used in storytelling. He set many of these to old pub ballads.
He performed this repertoire in meeting halls and salons around Scotland, attracted mentors, and became famous. These songs and poems might not have become world famous, if England had not been the world power in the 19th century. As their armies moved, Burns’ songs and poems went with them.
Although many artists and writers have been honored, Robert Burns is the only one who has an annual celebration named for him. Two hundred and fifty years later, Robert Burns Night highlights his poems and songs which still bring people together around the world. He did not live long to do it. He died at age 37.
Submitted by Eleanor Swift.