It’s Robert Burns’ Day – Jan. 25: Scottish National Poet, Republican, Radical Democrat

The Guardian: Burns was a republican fan of French revolution, says expert
“Scottish literature professor claims that revered poet engaged in dangerous talk”

The Scotsman: ‘Today Robert Burns might have been in Barlinnie Prison writing his jail diaries’

The Telegraph: Robert Burns ‘was a republican who sympathised with the French revolution’
“Robert Burns, Scotland’s most famous poet, was a “staunch republican” who sympathised with the French revolution, an expert in Scottish literature has found.”

Scottish Republican Socialist Movement: Robert Burns – From Jacobite to Jacobin

As well as living throughout the destruction of Highland society his Lowlands was also an armed camp, planted with spies and barracks against the spreading ideas of the American and French Revolutions.
Burns wrote an “Ode to General Washington’s Birthday” and the “Tree of Liberty” for the French Revolution, which could have seen him imprisoned, deported or even executed.. Burns managed to purchase three carronades from a “Free Trader”, or seized smuggler ship and send them to the French Revolution. He sought patronage, like most artistes the world over, from the “great and the good of his day. In Celtic society the bards were feted next to the chief and revered by the clan. Burns was given a low grade revenuers job, in a deliberate set up to make him take the Oath and compromise his loyalty.

When he joined in with the Dumfries theatre “mob” in singing the Revolutionary ‘Ca ira’, he was challenged to a dual by an English army officer, a professional dualist. Wisely Burns refused this set up, which would have been deliberate murder. Ca ira, “what will be”, was a French Republican song threatening the deaths of the aristocracy and treasonable to the position he held in the Custom and Exercise, ensuring any chance of promotion would be blocked.

His ‘Scots Wha Hae’, taken from the pipe tune, ‘Hey tutti taiti about Bruce’s address to Bannockburn and in honour of Thomas Muir and the United Scotsman’, was played by the Scots in Joan of Arc’s army as they took Orleans. The French still use it as marching tune.

The ILP, CPGB and Scottish Socialists used it as an anthem from the 20’s to WWII. His ‘Man’s a Man for a’ That’, was sung by German Socialist Karl Leibnecht as he faced the firing squad.

Socialist Unity: Robert Burns – Radical, Republican, Internationalist

Works based on theme:



(Stamps from UK & USSR)

BBC: Robert Burns – Works with a theme of revolution

BBC: Robert Burns – Works categorised by theme

Some Resources on Scots and related language

Scots Language Centre/Centre for the Scots Leid:
Education Scotland/Foghlam Alba: The Kist Scots language resource
Ulster Scots Agency/Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch:
The Ulster-Scots Language Society:
The Ulster-Scots Academy:

This entry was posted in Diaspora, Heritage, Irish & Wexford Roots, Heritage, Reconciliation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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