Representation of Tam O’Shanter at Burns birthplace.

This evening, I am reporting on the birthplace of Robert Burns, Scotland’s National Poet, an 18th century thatched cottage which is located in the village of Alloway, about forty miles S.W. of Glasgow near Ayr.

View from rear garden

Robert Burns has achieved global renown as Scotland’s national poet. During a short life span of just 37 years Burns rose from modest farming family stock in South Ayrshire to write and accumulate some 600 poems and songs including Auld Lang Syne which has become a universal song of parting and New Year welcome the world over. Burns’ literary achievements can be traced to encouragement of his father, William, at a time (late 18th century) when there were few opportunities for formal schooling. Burns achieved his literary skills through a mix of private tuition and self-learning. Burns’ early life was spent in Ayrshire towns and villages such as Alloway, Ayr, Kirkoswald, Irvine, Mauchline, Kilmarnock, Dalrymple, Tarbolton and Kilmarnock. He subsequently visited Edinburgh, the Borders, West of Scotland, the Highlands, Galloway and Dumfries. Burns died at Dumfries in 1796 and was buried there, at St. Michael’s Kirkyard.

The birthplace cottage was built by Burns father, William Burnes or William Burness with his own hands in 1758.. The poet described the building as “an ald cley biggin”. It actually fell apart during a violent storm in 1759 and had to be rebuilt.

Burns was born in the cottage on Jan 25th 1759. he spent his early years there. Influences from the nearby Brig o’Doon and Alloway Auld Kirk found their way into his poetry.

After the Burns family moved two miles away, in 1766, the cottage and seven acres of cultivated land was let to various tenants until 1781 when it was sold to the Incorporation of Shoemakers in Ayr who let it out as an alehouse. Subsequently, the Alloway Monument Trustees rescued and restored the building to more or less its current state. The cottage is now under management of the National Trust for Scotland and is a popular visitor attraction in the area.

Burns Cottage (left) in village setting.

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