The 25th January is Burns day in Scotland. Those who like his poetry get together at some point during the day or the evening and they have a Burns Supper. A Burns Supper involves people reciting some of his poems, singing some of his songs and eating haggis, mashed turnips mashed potatoes. There may also be some drinking of alcohol some of which will be whisky.
I’ve never been to a single Burns Supper, not a one. Now that is slightly surprising given that my Dad used to go to between 15-20 every year. He performed for years and did Tam O’Shanter, Holy Willies Prayer, Tae a moose, various and toasts and sang songs as well. He even made it onto Scottish Television one year providing an opinion of tasting various recipes for haggis.
I’m not altogether sure why I didn’t go to any and there was no real pressure from my Dad to go. He enjoyed it and I have a video somewhere of him doing Tam O’Shanter.
How did Robert Burns manage to write his poetry? He wasn’t from a moneyed background and he had no real advantages in his early years. So what sort of education must he have had? Bear in mind that at the time he was going to school very few children had access to books and school.
Robert Burns was a product of the Scottish Enlightement. Enlightenment was happening all over Europe with differing results. The enlightment in Scotland changed the world. If you don’t believe that for a moment you might want to check out read “The Scottish Enlightenment – The Scots invention of the modern world” by Arthur Herman ISBN 1-84115-276-5. This book should be required reading for everyone living in Scotland, who will be able to vote, ahead of the Scottish Independence Referendum.
Back to Burns though. The Church in Scotland and the Scottish parliament decided that the best way forward for the country was to educate the people. Again at this time it was only people with loadsa money who could get their children really educated. The intent was a good one but how to achieve it. Basically they set up a library in every town and city in Scotland. A library could be set up anywhere there was room so it might have been in the local butchers or any other shop or building. Children were encouraged to read and they were helped in this because at the same time local schools were also formalised and a certified teacher had to be employed by the local population.
The effect of this was pretty incredible. Over a period of years the levels of literacy soared in Scotland. The level of literacy in Scotland (75%) outstripped England (53%) by a huge amount.
So Robert Burns had access to books, he was taught by a real teacher to read, ask questions and along with other the other things happening in Scotland at the time which, widened his horizons. The education system in Scotland was the best in the world. Things have changed now and modern politics or modern politicians have managed to mess it up.
What would Rabbie Burns think about how things are now and how would he view the opportunity to gain Independence for Scotland.
You know what his answer would be.