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 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 dell of Scotland, was lost.
Robert 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 story telling. 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. Robert Burns Night highlighting his poems and songs are still bringing people together around the world. He did not live long to do it. He died at 35.
Merrilee Bordeaux President, Friends of the Scottish Tartans Museum