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Robert Burns - the Belfast connection

Robert Burns - the Belfast connection
As the strains of Auld Lang Syne subside and we approach Burns Night on 25 January, how many of you are aware of the Scots Bard's Ulster connections?

Robert Burns was born in Ayrshire on January 25 1759, six years after the publication of The Ulster Miscellany one of the first Ulster publications in the Scots language. It had been published in Belfast in 1753 and included nine Scotch Poems.

When Burns' poems were first published in Kilmarnock in 1786, the Belfast News Letter - the world's oldest newspaper still in circulation - was the first in the British Isles to print extracts of his work. The Edinburgh edition of his poems was published in 1787, and the third printing was - you guessed it - in Belfast, in the same year.

History records that a number of Ulster folk, including Samuel Thomson, one of the most renowned Ulster-Scots poets of the era, travelled to Scotland to visit Burns. And there are at least two legends of Burns having visited Ulster - to Co. Antrim and also to Donaghadee in Co.Down - but sadly these can't be confirmed.

During this time, many local fans of Burns' poetry established scores of 'Burns Clubs' across Ulster; it was also said that every Ulster-Scots home had two books - a Bible and an edition of Burns.

In August 1844, Burns' son travelled to Belfast to attend a supper at the city's Burns Tavern, and his daughter, Eliza Burns Everitt, eventually came to live here. Eliza passed her collection ofBurnsiana to her own daughter who, in turn, gave it to the city's Linenhall Library.

So, why not drop in to one of the hundreds of Burns Suppers taking place in hotels, restaurants and pubs across Ulster this January 25. And as you enjoy your haggis and 'wee dram", remember that Ulster and Scotland have had an 'auld acquaintance' for many centuries. 

And for true Burns afficianodos among you, why not take a trip over the border to Dundalk, Co. Louth, where there is a memorial to Burns. His sister, Agnes Burns Galt, lived at Stephenstown Pond from 1817 until her death in 1834 and was buried in St Nicholas Presbyterian Church.

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  • David J. Welham - UK 04 July 2012
    I have a medal dug up in a garden which commemorate the banquet August 6 1844 I think it is made of Pewter as it is quite soft it has a hole in so it can be worn on a chain the inscription reads"and wear thou this he solemnly said" Has this any value?.

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