Burns’ Cottage, Alloway

Robert Burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire on 25 January 1759.

His father was a gardener and tenant farmer, and the life he was brought up in made him acutely aware of society’s unfairness as he laboured hard yet lived in poverty.

In 1786 he published 612 copies of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, the preface of which explains his early need to write to find ’some kind of counterpoise’ in his unhappy life. The book’s success changed that life.

He moved to Edinburgh and was welcomed into the literary circles. With the earnings from an expanded volume of his book, Burns began to travel around his country, drawing inspiration from the environments and people. As important to him as his own writing was the collecting of traditional works he came across.

In time he returned home to farming and trained to become a full-time excise officer in Dumfries. As well as editing volumes of James Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum from 1788 until his death on 21 July 1796, he wrote copiously and collected works with almost all his spare time.

With what remained of his spare time he socialised. Whether the women in his life brought to him his romantic words or vice versa, he wrote often of love and loved many women. His tolerant wife was Jean Armour.

With his eloquent identification of the injustices of society and his ability to describe the little sensations that make life bearable, such as the pleasure of drinking, the ‘Heaven-sent ploughman’ is held as a poet who belongs to the workers before the intellectuals, and his work still speaks for people all over the world today.