Burns, and the commemorations in his name, entrenched what might suitably be described as a memory community, and one effective in maintaining links globally. The Burns centenary celebrations held in 1896, honouring the poet’s death on 21 July, serve as a useful case study. Managed by various committees in connection with the Dumfries Burns Club and the Burns Federation, the centenary event organisers were keen to involve members from overseas to do honour to Burns.
National Burns Collection partner Rozelle House Galleries is holding a number of events to celebrate Robert Burns at the Burns an’ a’ that Festival in his home region of Ayrshire.
The festival, running from Wednesday 30 May – Sunday 3 June, is in its 11th year and pays tribute to Scotland’s National Bard over six days with an eclectic range of events held at a clutch of venues around Ayr town centre, including Ayr Town Hall, Wellington Square Gardens and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway.
Enjoy a wide variety of live music events from traditional Scottish and classical to folk and big-name contemporary artists. The festival programme also includes many literary and poetry events as well as some great food and drink and fascinating exhibitions showcasing Scotland’s talented artists. Some of the famous names that have headlined in the past include Katherine Jenkins, Jools Holland, Frankie Boyle and Status Quo.
Find out more information on the Festival here.
When members of the Dunedin Burns Club and its friends gathered in 1906 to celebrate the 147th birthday of Scotland's national bard, they did so 'with mirth and song and joyous acclamations'. The Club's choir and the Dunedin Pipe Band enlivened the proceedings, offering musical entertainment between the many toasts and speeches that were delivered. The key address of the evening was made by…
Above: The newly unveiled bust of Burns watches expectantly as the conference begins to proceed.
As a follow-up to the recent feature on the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, what follows is my own experience of the annual Robert Burns Conference held at Glasgow University and organised in conjunction with partners of the DNBC.
Below: Dr Pauline Mackay, Research Fellow for ‘Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century introduces the next speaker.
There were a broad range of speakers presenting papers on all aspects of Burns life, and in particular the culture which Burns inhabited. Topics ranged from farming life (Gavin Sprott from the National Museum of Scotland), to a rare glimpse into the world of the private collector with Dr Bill Zachs. Unfortunately, Andrew Presscott from UCL was unable to make the conference, but was ably replaced by Prof. Gerry Carruthers and his entertaining look into Freemasonry and Burns.
To ensure the conference wasn’t completely left to the device of academics, local councils had the chance to show off rare and previously unseen Burns ‘artefacts’ from their collections. During this segment, I had the opportunity to showcase Dumfries Museums upcoming exhibition ‘Burns and Graham – A Poet and his Patron’ (Burns House, Saturday 21st January – Sunday 15th April).
Above: Delegates enjoying a chance to relax and chat.
I have to admit, before starting work on the Burns Recognition Project my experience of Burns had been rather limited. However, attending the ‘Artefact’ Conference allowed me to gain further insight into the fascinating world which surrounds the life and times of the bard. I thoroughly enjoyed my first Burns Conference and look forward to seeing what exciting strides have been made by this time next year.
Click on the image below to hear another of the conference speakers, Clark McGinn, speaking on BBC Scotland’s Newsweek about the final days of Robert Burns.
Part of my role involves helping Dumfries Museum digitise their own collections. I recently started cataloguing and digitising a case containing over 800 postcards inscribed with music scores. On the face of it this may sound a tedious proposition, but the collection contains a fascinating array of folk tunes, many of which have been unpublished. I also came across many cards relating to Robert Burns, two of which are shown below.
The tunes on the back of the cards were written by different composers. Presumably, the postcard acted as the most convenient method for quickly noting down the tune. These humble postcards provide yet another example of the esteem in which Robert Burns life is held.
There were of course no cards or postcards available during the lifetime of the poet. However, he was a prolific writer and correspondent, and had the postcard been in vogue he would surely have taken advantage of it. The poet and his birthplace in Alloway were the first subjects to appear on a postcard. So popular were the Burns themed postcards that several publishers produced their own ‘Burns Series’. One publisher produced an entire set on the celebration of Burns Supper, and lines or verses from his works were often used to adorn Valentines, New Year and even birthday postcards.
This all day conference will take place at the Western Infirmary Lecture Theatre, University of Glasgow, on Saturday 14th January 2012.
A full programme for the event can be viewed above. If you wish to attend, simply fill out the registration form.
On behalf of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, and the Distributed National Burns Collection, we look forward to hearing from you, and we very much hope to see you there.
I recently came across the scotland.org YouTube channel which hosts two interesting videos relating to Robert Burns. The first, a short and sweet animation on the life of the bard. The narration may be somewhat suspect in parts, but it provides a fun introduction to the life and times of the poet.
The second video provides a fascinating look into the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum by its Director, Nat Edwards.
This week’s Friday Gem is something we can all relate to here in the UK, Tea!
It seems the Burns household was also rather fond of their tea drinking too, as can be seen by these two delicate teapots. These teapots, in the Romantic style, were used by the Robert Burns household during the time they lived in Burns House, Dumfries. Jean Armour, the poet’s widow, continued to live in the family home following his death in 1796.
Part of the attraction of tea drinking lay in the beautiful and elegant equipment required. Tea was expensive and consequently the teapot represented the status of the household. When Burns was alive, the practice of afternoon tea would’ve been emerging into the custom of high tea enjoyed by the working classes, where this late evening repast became the main meal of the day. The image to the right shows the exquisite detail of the flamboyant designs and swaggering, curving shapes.
Although the project is still in its early stages of digitising Burns material, it’s surprising just how many varied and fascinating objects crop up which emphasise the unique affection and fascination that Robert Burns memory inspires.
Starting today, the Friday Gem feature will showcase a particular object/s that reflect this fascination with the legacy of Robert Burns.
A recent trip to Annan Museum revealed a number of such items. Firstly, we have a commemorative plate. Pottery and porcelain afforded the most popular and enduring medium for memorabilia, and examples associated with Burns date back to the early years of the nineteenth century. Can you tell us anymore about the trade mark found on the back of this plate?
As you can see from the ceramic pictured above, rack plates have the greatest visual impact. Plates of these designs appear to have been in production until WWI. I’m sure Burns would’ve been astonished at the range and diversity of objects – the good, the bad, and the ugly – created by each successive generation in his honour.