Scotland launches this weekend into a year of events to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, whose poems capture the essence of home for Scots far and wide.
Born on Jan. 25, 1759, Burns died when he was just 37, but filled his life with travels through the picturesque heather-flecked hills of Ayrshire and Dumfries which provided the inspiration for much of his work.
Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has recorded two of his favorite Burns poems — A Red, Red Rose and My Heart’s In The Highlands — for a BBC audio project to mark the anniversary year.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scot, is also among the poet’s fans.
Many Scots will, as every year, be sitting down to a traditional Burns Night Supper of haggis, the dish of minced sheep’s heart, liver and lungs mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet, stock and salt, and boiled in the animal’s stomach.
It is normally accompanied by “neeps and tatties,” or turnips and potatoes.
At formal Burns suppers, a bagpiper plays as the haggis is brought to the table and a guest recites Burns’s poem Address To A Haggis, which hails the dish as the “great chieftain o’ the puddin-race.”
Burns’ birthplace of Alloway in Ayrshire will be the focus of events today, opening a Scotland-wide program of poetry readings, music and dance to celebrate the life of the prolific farmer-turned-poet.
The Iconic Burns festival in Alloway will feature a tour of the humble cottage where he was born, while some of Britain’s top lighting designers have helped to illuminate sites in the town for performances of his finest work.
Tomorrow, the Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow will hold a Jamaican Burns Night, highlighting the fact that the poet was set to emigrate to Jamaica before his first book of poems published in 1786 became a success.
Veteran Jamaican reggae and funk musicians Sly and Robbie are the star attractions at an event where revellers can feast on an alternative Burns supper of jerk chicken and goat curry.
Burns’ face also adorns a set of postage stamps created by the Royal Mail to commemorate the 250th anniversary, with one featuring the words of one of his best-known poems, A Man’s A Man For A’ That.
The poem, written in 1795, became an anthem of the slavery abolitionists. Two centuries later, it was sung at the opening of the Scottish parliament in 1999.
Prince Charles joined Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond in reading poems for the Burns archive plan, which is aimed to ensure that his poems are available to future generations.
BBC Scotland’s head of radio, Jeff Zycinski, said: “Burns still resonates hugely more than two centuries after he penned over 600 poems and songs, both here in Scotland and beyond.”