January 25th is a day to celebrate the life and works of a man who only lived to be 37 years old but who left a body of poetry that will surely outlive us all
Robert Burns was born in 1759 in the village of Alloway, south of Ayr, to tenant farmers William and Agnes. He would soon turn away from the hard, physical labours of the farm and towards his passions of poetry, nature, drink and the opposite sex.
By the time he was 27, Burns was already famous across Scotland with the sensational success of his first published collection of verse, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, which included much of his best works including “The Cotter’s Saturday Night” and “To a Mouse”.
In less than two years, Burns had spent most of the wealth from his published poetry and began work as an Excise Man while continuing to pen such famous works as “For a’ that and a’ that”. Hard work and an indulgent lifestyle took its toll on the poet and on 21st July 1796, Robert Burns died aged just 37.
The first Burns Supper was held on the fifth anniversary of the poet’s death on 21st July 1801 by Robert Burns’ friends, with the first Burns club holding a supper on what they thought was the Bard’s birthday on 29th January 1802. In 1803, Parish records in Ayr revealed Burns’ birthday to be 25th January and ever since Burns Suppers have been held on or around that date.
Burns Suppers can range from an informal gathering to a huge formal event, but no matter the size, a few basic tenets are observed: the Selkirk Grace, a traditional Scottish meal, recitation of some of Burns’ works, and a good dram of whisky. Whether you have haggis, neeps and tatties or steak pie, you'll find a great dram to go with your supper in our list of Burns Night whiskies to toast the Bard in style!