This is a new column that will appear regularly in our
paper. The column will attempt to bring insights into Burns for those who
may not be as familiar with Burns as they would like. On more than one
occasion I have heard people say they would like to know more about the
writings of Burn but they try to understand the Scots dialect and
eventually give up – sooner rather than later. I know. I have been there.
Well, nearly two years ago I took the bull by the horns
and joined the Burns Club of Atlanta. I felt that the only way to get past
this "bump in the road", aka understanding the Scots dialect, was to
expose myself to those who know more than me on the subject and buy books
on Burns to study. I have fallen in love with the Atlanta Burns Cottage,
which is an exact replica of the original one In Scotland where Burns was
born at Alloway. The membership has welcomed us and made the two of us,
Susan, my wife and I, feel right at home. We both look forward to the
monthly meetings. It is just a lot of fun mixed with a little learning
I have been impressed with most of the speakers,
particular those who did not try to impress you, but the general
membership is to be admired and respected for their knowledge of Burns
and, more importantly, their willingness to share their knowledge. Some of
our better speakers are among our own membership. My quest to be better
informed about Burns by joining the Burns Club has not been disappointing.
To the contrary, it has been more than I ever imagined.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a local Burns
Club to fall back on for information about Scotland’s National Bard, his
life and his work. So, I discussed with Beth Gay, our Editor, about the
possibility of having a regular column on Burns. Why wait for Burns Nicht
one time a year to honor Burns? Maybe the haggis but not Burns! This will
be like a mini correspondence course without the exams. It will be an
Introduction to Robert Burns 101, if you please. Guest authors, and
laymen like myself, will write this column and from time to time, I’ll
stick my two cents worth in with an article or two.
We’ll try to bring you pictures of Burns, the statues
of him & the places in the Burns triangle – Ayr, Edinburgh and Dumfries,
where he lived, loved, drank, ploughed, wrote, sang, collected taxes &
died. Susan and I will be in London and Scotland for a couple of weeks in
Octoberif everything works out the way we plan and, with the guidance of
Thomas Keith, our friend from New York City and fellow Burnsian, we will
search out as many of the statues as possible. We will bring you the men
and women who influenced Burns by their lives, their loves and their
writings. We will talk about the poems, songs and letters of Burns. We
will learn the difference between a "Skinking haggis" and a "stinking
haggis". We will look at the best and the worst of Burns in his writings
and his life since this by and large this will be a teaching column.
We will learn that bawdy is not necessarily dirty and
that the sublime is, sometimes, rather simple. Hopefully, some of you,
particularly those who are unfamiliar with Burns, will build a notebook of
the columns to have as a reference when needed. We will recommend books to
the beginner and tell you if some are a wee scholarly.
We’ll see how this young genius died between his 37th
and 38th year but left the world a much better place because of
what he left us. We’ll hear about his views on liberty, freedom, love, "my
Jacobitism" and whom he would hold as his chief enemy. The Burns scholar
may be bemused about this effort but we will enjoy the last laugh since
Burns was one of us!
My only regret is that The Family Tree is only
published every two months but if you hang in there with us, the ride will
be worth it. Some may scoff at this undertaking but it is at least that –
an undertaking that we all can participate in if we are willing to learn
as we go.