Burns' Night

Poetry Collection by Albert Semple

Collection of poems inspired by the works of Robert Burns (25 January 1759 — 21 July 1796).

Attending primary school in Ayrshire, every January after the Christmas holidays we would be assigned a Burns poem — or sometimes just a Scots language poem — to learn and recite, and there were class, school and regional recital competitions in each age group to find the best performing child.

Moving away from Scotland as an adult, I observed how important Burns was beyond our borders, and also the additional effort people would go to (compared to a native modern Scots speaker) to understand his poetry and vocabulary.

'The Traveller's Tale' (which also appears in the collection 'Tales of the Jury Room') is a modern take on Tam O'Shanter, replacing trusty old Meg the horse with a rusty old car, and moving the location to a generic service station cafe. The road in my head when writing this was the A69 running East/West from Newcastle to Carlisle with the cafe being what was then the Little Chef (now a Starbucks) at Henshaw. When I stopped at the Little Chef, nothing eventful happened, but it stuck in my mind as a bleak setting on the dark night I ended up there.

'Address to the Haggis' is a modern version of the original, largely retaining similar humour and form, except for stanza 2 — which I badly wanted to make fit the same metre and rhyming pattern of the remainder, but couldn't, and loved the stanza too much to edit it out!

And 'Auld Land Syne' is a single-punchline lyrical substitution for the original — a low effort offering, but hope it may raise a smile of recognition for some Burns' night attendees.