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This week’s Friday Gem concentrates one of the most seemingly ordinary and mundane of objects, the humble coin. The poems and songs of Robert Burns contain many references to money in general and certain coins in particular. Several poems make reference to ‘airles’ or an ‘airle-penny’, the coin exchanged to seal a bargain. The opening verse of ‘O, can ye labour lea’ illustrates this admirably:

I fee’d a man at Michaelmas

Wi airle-pennies three.

Over the past two centuries Burns has been the subject of a number of medals. What you can see in the Flickr slideshow is two such examples kindly shown here from Annan Museum. They are exquisitely detailed yet show standard images of Burns and the Mausoleum. Have a look for yourself in the Flickr slideshow below…

There are a bewildering away of medals celebrating the life and work of Burns, but the commemorative medal reached its zenith at the close of the nineteenth century, but declined rapidly in popularity as other commemorative media were developed.

If you have any Burns medallions at home, then please feel free to send me an image and share the stories behind them!