Robert Burns is credited with saving the folk music of Scotland. He was born just a few years after England conquered Scotland in 1746, intent upon destroying the clan system. Edicts of Proscription were issued forbidding the remaining Scottish people from wearing tartan, playing the bagpipes and speaking Gaelic upon removal or threat of death. Scottish leaders and their families were hunted down. The lucky ones escaped, some to America. Not many decades passed before the old language, except in the darkest dells of Scotland, was lost.
Burns was a poor farmer in Ayreshire, Scotland, but an accomplished poet. He began to compose a collection of poems about familiar country characters and legends. To make the subjects more human, he wrote in the Old Scots dialect that was used in storytelling. He set many of these to old pub ballads. He performed this repertoire in meeting halls and salons around Scotland, attracted mentors, and became famous. These songs and poems might not have become world famous, if England had not been the world power in the 19th century. As their armies moved, Burns songs and poems went with them.
Although many artists and writers have been honored, Robert Burns is the only one who has an annual celebration named for him. Two hundred and fifty years later, Robert Burns Night and the highlighting of his poems and songs are still bringing people together around the world, as he did not live long enough to do it. He died at 37.
The Friends of the Scottish Museum will hold its 17th Annual Burns Night Supper on Saturday, Jan. 25, at Tartan Hall with the Calling of the Clans at 5:30 p.m. The evening starts with a roll call, moves on to a five course Scottish dinner menu, interspersed with stories and songs about Burns and concludes with Scottish Country Dancing and "Auld Lang Syne," perhaps his most famous work. Tickets are $40 for adults and $25 for children 12 an under. Call (828)524-7472 or go by the Scottish Museum on Main Street in downtown Franklin.
Eleanor and Lloyd Swift chair the event this year.