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A Highlander and his Books
A Chat with Jim Osborne

Friend of BURNS ILLUSTRATED author Robert Hay Carnie

Interviewed by Frank R. Shaw, FSA SCOT
Dawsonville, GA 30534 email:

Pictures of Robert Carnie provided by Andrew Carnie, his son

Editor’s note: This is the first time I have conducted an interview with someone other that the author of the book being reviewed. Since the untimely death of Robert Hay Carnie, I decided to ask a few questions of the author’s dear friend, Jim Osborne, Proprietor of The Scot Shoppe in Calgary, Canada. I have been enthralled with the book, BURNS ILLUSTRATED, A Short Study of Selected Illustrations of the Poems and Songs of Robert Burns covering the years 1795 – 1925.

Robert Hay Carnie

Q: How long did you know your good friend Robert Hay Carnie? Tell us about your relationship as much as you are comfortable doing so.

A: I knew Bob for over 20 years. We joined the Calgary Burns Club at the same time; we both had an interest in Burns (Scottish Literature in general) and old prints. When Bob gave a presentation, he held his audience with a fascination. A true teacher and scholar.

Q: Did he ever discuss with you the reasons he wanted to write this particular book on Burns?

A: Not with me in particular but the Burns Club 25th anniversary was approaching and seemed a good time to publish the results of many years of loving research.

Q: How long, in your estimation, did it take the author to complete the book from beginning to end, including the travel involved?

A: I had to ask his wife Jean for help on this one. Over 30 years including ongoing research.

Q: Why does the book cost so much money? Was it the many color pictures? Do you think the price of the book alone has prohibited many Burnsians from purchasing the book?

A:  If anyone knew Bob, he didn’t do thing by half measure. The cost of the book reflects the costly photography of the illustrations, it was printed on acid free paper, beautifully bound in a presentation box and of course the limited edition print of J.A. Christies print of Tam O Shanter.  To some he cost may have been a factor, but as Bob would have put it in his Dundee tongue, “I think it’s a bargain.” We have about 40 copies left and everyone who has bought a book has been delighted with it. I have to agree with you Frank, it is a must for every Burns collector.

Q: How has the book been received by the Burns Community as a whole?

A: The book was received very well. We sent books to Burns Clubs, individuals and Universities.

Q: What part did the Calgary Burns Club play in publishing this book? The author mentions it was the 25th anniversary Project of the club. What are some of the clubs other projects that you feel the Burns Community world-wide would be interested in knowing about? What part did Grant MacEwan play in this study of Burns?

A: The Calgary Burns Club funded the project. When it was proposed by Bob, the Club members were unanimous that it would be perfect for the anniversary.  Other projects are a facsimile of the Kilmarnock edition in 1986 and again it was done on Bob’s expertise. This book was done in hand made paper, unblocked, with a blue paper cover. It also came in a presentation box. This book never went on sale generally as it was totally subscribed to. The Club singers have made three Cds – Twas the Scots, Scots Wha Hae and Bring on the Whisky and the Haggis. Each Cd has sold successfully and in 2010 we were invited to sing at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Q: Do you mind sharing some other club information with our readers about the Calgary Burns Club? When founded? It’s size? How often does the club meet? Are women allowed to be members?

A: The Calgary Burns Club was officially formed in 1975 although two or three years prior to that meetings were held in some of the founding members homes. We have thirty seven regular members, on member for each year of his life, twelve life members, and almost as many associate members. The club meets every second Tuesday of the month upstairs in Sandy’s room at the Rose and Crown pub in Calgary. The Calgary Burns Club was formed as a Tarbolton Bachelors Club and has remained so.

Robert Hay Carnie

Q: What is the best way for someone to purchase the book? Please list your business address and all necessary information.

A:  I was asked by the club if I would quartermaster for the want of a better expression. The book can be purchased through the my store, The Scottish Shoppe, 1206 – 17th Avenue, S.W. Calgary, AB T2T 0B8. Phone (403) 264 6383. The cost is $175.00 plus $20.00  postage. It can be paid for by Master Card or Visa. One can also pay by bank draft in Canadian Funds. If paying by bank draft please make it payable to the Calgary Burns Club as all proceeds from the book goes directly to the Club.

Q: I appreciate the courtesies extended to me as to this interview. Is there a last word you would like to leave with our readers?

A: This was a lifetime of thoughts and dedication to Robert Burns who Robert Carnie’s wife  Jean can attest to. The book is dedicated to her.

For my wife JEAN
without whose help and support
this book would never have
reached conclusion.

Editor’s Final Note: Watch these pages for more speeches by Robert Carnie. I have been able to reach Dr. Carnie’s son and he has graciously provided me with additional articles written by his Dad. You will find his work highly educational and just as important, quite/very interesting. What does all of this mean? Simply put, it is amazing the many people here in the United States, Canada, Scotland and other places throughout the world that I meet through their writings and they all, like Robert Hay Carnie, keep pointing us to one fact - Robert Burns Lives!  (FRS: 1.06.09)

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