Monday, January 25, 2010

Burns Night

(NB: If you're reading this on Facebook, the original post is from my blog) I've blogged about Rabbie Burns and Ulster a few times here. Seeing as he's been deid iver twa hunner years there's no fresh news to report. Sadly, one of the world's most important collections of Burnsiana still languishes in the bowels of Belfast's Linenhall Library - although I understand it might be put on display some time soon-ish.

Burns is the acceptable face of Scots language, and Ulster-Scots remains strong in pockets of Ulster. I was talking to a "townie" Ards man yesterday who's been living in Ballywalter for about 15 years, and who still struggles to communicate with some of the local shop staff. Outside of these pockets, everybody says "aye" for "yes" and "wee" for "little" - so whether they realise it or not, almost everybody in Northern Ireland uses Scots words and expressions every day of the week.

Robert Burns is buried at St Michael's Kirk in Dumfries, where James Hamilton of Ballywalter was minister from 1638 - 1648, and where I had the privilege of speaking in their annual Covenanter memorial service back in November last year.

It's nice to see the media coverage of Burns increasing every year, but we still have a way to go until we return to the dizzy heights of 1870s Ulster.

Finally, here's a reference from the famous old Ards Peninsula antiquarian, James Shanks of Ballyfounder:

"...Burns threw light upon navigation, mathematics, classics, religion, everything. No matter what formed the body of a subject, Burns formed the tail, and the tail always wagged the body... in my boyish enthusiasm I believed that Burns was the short cut to everything, and the open sesame to the doors of knowledge..."

Enjoy your haggis!

Previous articles:
- The Ulster visit legends
- Orangeman and Freemason?
- Burns and Belfast
- Burns and the Covenanters