Robert Burns wasn’t there but I’m sure he would have loved it. The driech morning that prevailed after a night of almost constant rain wouldn’t have bothered this hardy soul of the soil – at least he was hardy until his body surrendered to the strain of his lifestyle and he ebbed away at the age of just 37.
As we should all know, Burns was born on January 25, 1759, in a clay biggin across in Ayrshire and died a poor shadow of his former self in a wee house in Dumfries on July 21, 1759. He’s buried under a grand mausoleum in the grounds of St Michael’s Church, just across the road from where our National Bard breathed his last. He died as his devoted wife and childhood sweetheart Jean was about to give birth to yet another of his bairns. They weren’t all to Jean, of course. He wasn’t just a farmer and a wordsmith, you know.
If Burns died a poor shadow of his far-too-short earlier life when he combined farming, with writing, grand socialising and much loving, he left behind a legacy that stretches three centuries and spans the globe. His works have been translated into many tongues, including Russian and Chinese – but thankfully never into English as it should be spoken.
There was a debate on the radio yesterday aboutwhere Burns would have stood on the issue of Scottish independence. Would he vote Yes or No in September’s referendum? You can scan his poems, his songs and his priceless letter – as he urged us to scan our brother man – and you’ll find it difficult to come up with an answer. He was born just five decades after the 1707 Act of Union and was to blast the Scottish nobles who accepted English gold as a parcel o’ rogues in a nation.
And yet, he also wrote: “Who will not sing, God save the King, Shall hang as high’s the steepl.”
However, he added: “But while we sing, God save the King, We’ll ne’er forget the people.”
He wasnae keen on England and made only a rare visit.
But he took work as an exciseman for the government.
He backed two revolutions – in the British-controlled Americas and the fight by the French for their liberty from regal oppression.
We can scan, but only wonder where he would put his cross this September on surely one of the most important milestone moments in the recent history of this Scottish nation.
As he said to mouse: Forward tho’ I canny see, I guest and fear.”
I like to think, like me, he would have been attracted towards the Yes box.
Burns wasn’t there on Sunday, but more than 200 were, including a host of youngsters.
It was the day of the Town Arms Great Selkirk Haggis Hunt. Started as a wee bit of nonsense a few years ago, it has grown and grown, and is now a big bit of nonsense.
Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles thronged with bairns onto Selkirk Hill where, remarkably, no fewer than 57 Chietains o’ the Pudding Race were captured by the use of baggie nets and home-made bows and arrows.
The youngsters revelled in splashing through the puddles and the mud, and ploughing through the whins and the heather in search of the elusive beasties. Would Burns have approved? That’s a definite Yes.