Advent Blog Day 17: Memories of Rabbie Burns

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Don’t know about you, but I’m all set.

I got all the traditional stuff in and have enjoyed a stay-at-home on my own, pandemic-infused Burns Supper, accompanied by Scottish Whisky.

Recollections from my childhood flow.

I haven’t written poetry every day of my life, though it’s an almost daily event these days. At ten years old I only ever wrote poetry in my head, though I loved writing essays at school. I knew very little of Robert Burns at that age but can’t help feeling that the only very short poem I remember writing (in my head) was influenced in some way by him. It’s not Ayrshire Doric but it’s in a Scots vernacular which I certainly didn’t use in my everyday speech.

A wilnae gae oot in the powrin rain
No e’en fur a king’s ransom should ony wee wean
A ken it’s guid fur the floo’ers an’ a shouldnae complain
But a wilnae gae oot in the powrin’ rain

When I was fourteen, I was one of a group of child actors from Glasgow who performed on TV as part of an improvised acting competition, which we won and got the chance to perform another play (live on tv) a couple of months later. One of the other actors, Joe Macdonald, visited me some time later and gave me a tiny book of Burns Poems as a present.

After all these years, it is still intact but very much the worse for wear. It used to have a metal medallion representation of Burns on the cover but that has become detached.

There was always an ambivalent attitude towards Burns as I grew up. People were generally proud to have a National Bard but concerned about promoting to their young people a man with such a lascivious reputation. 

In my childhood days I was certainly transported by the representation of the bard by the fabulous actor, John Cairney.

Many years ago, I wrote a very rough-and-ready tongue-in-cheek poem which at that time attempted to sum up my relationship with the man.

To a Mouse 
 

 Twa watter-cairtin bairnies we were,
 Baith poet an’ me dark and curly. 
 When ah wis wee ah loved his verses,
 ma faither shocked and pale wi’ worry.
 

 Wid his son be an Excise mannie,
 Wi’ gypsy soul and long dark lashes?
 Wid his wee laddie chase the lasses 
 An’ bed them in the swirlin’ rashes?
 

 Or poetry be his son’s undoin’?
 He didnae ken the wiles o’women, 
 The more accepted ways o’wooin’;
 Wid poets’ sangs send women rinnin’?
 

 Sic lengthy lives await the canny
 Ye first pay dues and then stay restful
 Faither thought o’ what he shid be
 But wis never that successful.
 

 Each year he prayed on Rabbie’s birthday,
 ‘A poet’s life can be fulfilling,
 Sae fu’ o’ incident and intrigue,
 My son be saved frae that, God willing!’

Before signing off, I’ll make a recommendation that you go to Soundcloud and listen to a fresh rendition of Robert Burns’ love song Red Red Rose by Linda Jaxson. That would be a lovely way to round off tonight’s celebration of Burns!

4 Comments

  1. Great Peter. I remember that wee book, I hadn’t realised you had got it from JMcD.

    I enjoyed your Scots poetry

    Like

    1. You remember most things! Thanks Mary, I’m glad you enjoyed my ancient attempts at Scots poetry. This was a blog fuelled by haggis with whisky cream sauce and, of course, 🥃 x

      Like

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