The poet also wrote songs and is said to have been able to play the trumpet, violin and guitar.
Burns, however, was more interested in women and soon became somewhat of a ladies’ man: while engaged to Jean Armour, his affair with his mother’s maid Elizabeth Paton led to him having his first child in 1784; The following year, Armor gave birth to twins.
Around the same time, Burns also became involved with Mary Campbell – who inspired the poems “The Highland Lassie O”, “To Mary in Heaven”, and “Highland Mary”.
Struggling for money, Burns made plans to move to Jamaica to work as an accountant on a slave plantation, a role he may have been struggling with, given the futuristic, abolitionist views he expressed in his song “The Slave’s Lament”.
To pay for his trip, Burns published his poems in a book known as the Kilmarnock Tome. The works were an immediate success, and the published poet put aside his plans for Jamaica, instead setting out for Edinburgh where he found literary fame.
Over objections from her father, Armor and Burns eventually married in 1788. During their life together, they had nine children, though only three survived. Over the years he continued to publish poems, work on farms and as a tax officer to support his family financially.
However, Burns only lived to the age of 37. His poor health due to a weak heart and frequent drinking led to his early death on July 21, 1796, from rheumatic fever.
Born into poverty, he never escaped financial crisis: when his tailor learned he was dying, he presented him with a bill on his deathbed.
The poet’s funeral took place four days later, on the day Armor conceived his first son, Maxwell. By the time of his death, Burns had fathered 12 children with four different women.
How is Burns Night celebrated and what are the traditional activities?
Whether or not Burns would have worn a kilt is still debated, with some arguing that he did not wear it as a Lowlander – although he was a champion of the right to wear traditional garb.
The full night’s ritual includes whiskey, haggis, and poetry readings. Those who take part are piped and then the Selkirk Grace – a prayer of thanksgiving attributed to Burns – is said before dinner.
Some hay and canna meat eats,
and some fillings you eat you want;
But we have meat, and we can eat
He told me thank the Lord.
The traditional burn dinner begins with soup, often Scotch broth. Haggis is then served with turnips and potatoes – known as neeps and tatties if you’re a true Scotsman. The haggis, usually carried on a silver serum, is carried around by diners with slow clapping.
He is “the great leader of the race of religion” according to the “Khattab al-Hajji”. During the address (which Burns wrote), the speaker draws a knife and, on the line “Your cut and slice ready,” cuts the dish open. Once all the commotion is over, the guests toast the haggis and enter.
The meal is followed by a toast to the immortal memory, during which a guest delivers a speech in honor of the great poet. Then toasting the Lassies, once an opportunity to thank the women who cooked the meal, is now a humorous highlight of the evening. The Men’s Diner provides an interesting yet gratuitous exposition of the role of women in public life, taking quotes from Burns’ work and making references to the women in the group.
Any man making a toast should tread carefully, because it is followed by an answer from women.
The rest of the night is filled with votes of thanks and guests performing for Burns, and ends with Auld Lang Syne. The group stands and holds hands to sing along.
Could haggis actually be English?
While the dish may be a Scottish favorite, it also may have English roots. A 1430 cookbook called Liber Cure Cocorum from Lancashire contains the oldest known recipe for haggis.
The meal is a savory pudding, made from a mixture of sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, oatmeal, onions, suet and broth. While it was served for centuries in an animal’s stomach, that tradition has (thankfully) been lost.
Food historian Katherine Brown believes that Scottish nationalists may have appropriated the haggis as a symbol of their nation in the decades following the Act of Union with England in 1707.
She said, “There seems to be something about identity. We’ve lost our property, we’ve lost our parliament and we’ve gained our obsession.”
“There was a latch on all that marked Scotland, and Burns defined the dish in an evocative way.”
She added that Burns had claimed pudding to be Scotsman with his poem “A Letter to Haggis” of 1787, because it was a frugal contrast to the elaborate and refined French cuisine that was popular in Edinburgh at the time.
Things you didn’t know about Haji
Haggis has been banned from imports into the United States since 1971, with officials stating it was unfit for human consumption due to the use of sheep’s lungs in its making.
Haggis throw something. In June 2011, Lorne Coltart set the record, throwing haggis at 217 feet.
An ancient version of haggis is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, “a man before a blazing fire swirls quickly in that direction and the stomach full of fat and blood, so eager to roast it quickly”.
The world’s largest haggie was made by Halls of Scotland and weighs 2226 pounds 10 ounces – about as much as a small car.
Burn night dinner recipes
From haggis pancakes to delicious Scottish puddings, here are the best recipes for Burns Night dinner.