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Robert Burns Lives!
Volume 1 Chapter 28

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, GA,

Scottish Coin To Celebrate 250th Anniversary of Robert Burns’ Birth

Painting of Robert Burns in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery by Alexander Nasmyth which is considered by many to be the most famous one of the Bard.

In their “daily news from Scotland’s Capital” on July 12, the Edinburgh Evening Press carried an announcement by Chancellor Alistair Darling to the House of Commons that a new “2£ coin will be struck in 2009 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns”.

Two of the three comments posted in response to the announcement on were rather negative with one person asking for a coin commemorating William Wallace and his fight for Scotland’s independence. Another seconded the first comment with digs at Robert Burns by saying, “Yes, William Wallace…a man who was FAITHFUL to his wife and to SCOTLAND. Let us put him on our coins. Then we will be remembering a BRAVE HEART…not a BROKEN HEART…which is what Burns’ wife must have experienced.” 

The third comment was, “I love both William Wallace and Robert Burns. A Burns coin is a good start, but let’s not forget William Wallace much less the Brus. Each is worthy of a coin regardless if they went to bed with a book and a glass of wine or a lover and a glass of wine. It is what they did for the people of Scotland that counts!”

I don’t know what history book the second responder referenced as to “William Wallace…a man who was faithful…to Scotland” inferring perhaps tat Robert Burns was not. I do not know of any man, Scottish or otherwise, who stood up for Scotland and her people any more than Robert Burns. He was the champion of liberty for the Scottish people, and it was shown in his writings until he died. The comments aside, I prefer the latter.

As a collector of everything Burns, the new coin excites me! A greater tribute could not be given to our Bard since the coin will be in circulation throughout the country. It will be in every person’s pocket or purse at one time or another as a reminder of this talented poet and songwriter.

The value of the pound versus the dollar? Well, when Susan and I first began traveling to Scotland in the early 1990s, the pound was worth approximately $1.60 to the dollar. Now the pound is worth $2.00 against the dollar. Even as the dollar slips in value (and it does not look like the slide will be over anytime soon), you can sign me up for a roll of the coins right now! Make that two since I learned long ago never to give one of the grandchildren something without having a gift for the other! Such a gesture negates the question, “Where is mine?” These two kids, Ian and Stirling, ages seven and five respectively, have been taught about Robert Burns. Hold up a picture, a bust, a small statue, a medal, or a mauchline ware piece and they will immediately tell you it’s “Robert Burns”.

Another plus for all Burns lovers will be the special celebrations in 2009 honoring the Bard led by The Robert Burns World Federation and its able leader Shirley Bell who lives in Dumfries, the last home of Burns and where he died at the age of 37. You can also look for the hundreds of Burns Clubs and St. Andrew’s Societies around the world to celebrate this very special anniversary of his birth.  I hope our own St. Andrew’s Society of Atlanta will celebrate the event in grand style. (A word to the wise!)  I also have it on good authority that there will be a Burns celebration at the University of South Carolina led by our friends Dr. Ross Roy and Dr. Patrick Scott, two of the outstanding Burns scholars in the world. Even if you are fortunate enough to attend a 2009 celebration in Scotland, as I’m sure some of us will, you will not want to miss the gala affair in Columbia. Again, on good authority, those who attend will be in for a treat!

In the meantime, why not do something unusual to prepare for the Burns celebrations in 2009 by pulling a book on Burns off the shelf to begin reading now. If you do not have one, then buy or borrow one. You’ll be a better Scot and, just as importantly, a better person. You can quote me on that! (FRS: 7-23-2007)

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