Wednesday, January 08, 2020

The legends of Robert Burns in Ulster

Many years ago the Director of a local museum recounted to me an oral tradition story which had been passed on to him by the late librarian Jack McCoy (1950–1987) of Ballynahinch. [ Jack McCoy was a renowned Local History Librarian and a collector of local folklore on a wide variety of subjects with a specific interest in County Down - his investigations into the Betsy Gray traditions, published in 1989 as Ulster's Joan of Arc, are exemplary]. The version I heard was of a Robert Burns visit to Donaghadee, via Portpatrick. I have now come across a very similar version of the same story in a book called Burns and Tradition by Mary Ellen Brown (Macmillan, 1984) which was evidently collected in Scotland.

From memory, the version I heard was:
I can tell by your claes
And the cut o your hair
You're the fam'd Rabbie Burns
Frae the auld toon o Ayr.

Sadly I can't remember the wording of the response, but it was very similar to the above.