Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, GA, USA
I do not recall how my first conversations about
Robert Burns got started nearly two years ago with my friend Rachel.
I do remember she was polite enough to listen to me talk about
Scotland’s National Bard. But, then, that is Rachel. I remember
sending her a postcard one time from Robert Burns. Yes, signed by
Burns! Usually the postcards to her would say something like “My
good friend Frank Shaw speaks highly of you”. Once I even sent her a
postcard from Ayr with a note from Robert Burns. Naturally, the
postcard was a picture of Burns. I still have the card that
accompanied some cookies she baked last year. The card reads, “To
Robert Burns, Love, Rachel”. This has become a little joke we kid
each other about. When all this started, Rachel must have been
around nine years old. She is now a beautiful young lady of eleven.
To say she is very special to Susan and me would not be an
Recently I took delivery
of a wee piece of sculpture of Burns. That night I had opportunity
to have a curbside conversation with Rachel and her mother, Joy. I
could not resist telling Rachel about receiving the bust of our now
“mutual” friend. I told her that there were many statues of Burns
around the world, and that I was proud to own this particular bust
even though there were others in the world like it. I invited her
over to see him sometime at her convenience.
About an hour later she
called from her home across the street and asked if she could come
over. Readily agreeing, Susan and I met her at the door. She had
something for me. It was a poem and a drawing of Burns. She had gone
home after our conversation, pulled information up on her computer
about Burns and proceeded to write a poem and sketch a drawing of
him. Both Susan and I were impressed. We took her into the office,
placed her in front of the covered bust and then removed the cover.
I chuckled at her exclamation of – “Wow!” Then she got a tour of our
“Burns Room” filled now with nearly 700 books on Burns, pictures,
and paintings of the bard, as well as a few items known in the trade
I failed to mention that
when she handed me the poem and drawing, evidently remembering what
I said earlier about a lot of people having busts of Burns, she
said, “Now you have something about Robert Burns that no one else in
the world has.” I told you she was special!
Here is Rachel’s poem:
By Rachel Bergstrand
Robert Burns was a poet,
Don’t you know it?
He was born Jan. 25, 1759.
He was very poor,
But his poems were fine.
He had little education,
Read as much as he could;
He just couldn’t help it,
The writing was good.
When his girlfriend died,
His heart did not mend.
He died soon after
And that is where
His life poem ends.
It is refreshing to find a young person who, on her own,
has engaged in dialogue with me or anyone else about “Rabbie” Burns.
Contests by grade school children in Scotland have been sponsored
over the years by the Burns World Federation with prizes given to
those judged to be winners. While this was not a contest, I feel
that I am the winner in this exercise. The gift of the poem and
drawing will become a permanent part of my Burns collection. Those
of us who go by the name “Burnsians” often decry the fact that the
vast majority of our memberships that make up the hundreds of Burns
clubs around the world are aging and not enough of our young people
are participating. Yet, as I think of Rachel growing up, entering
high school, then college, marriage one day, a career or whatever,
I’ll always be glad to know that one young person has an
appreciation for the poet, Robert Burns. Her name is Rachel, and
Robert Burns would be as proud of her as I am. You go, girl!