Jan. 25 is Robert Burns’ 260th birthday.
As usual, there will be festivities, bagpipes and Haggis to be had throughout Victoria. But what makes Burns’ legacy — who only lived 37 years — travel 6,100 km from his birthplace of Alloway to Victoria?
“He is the national poet of Scotland,” said Irwin Henderson, past Provost of the Victoria Saltire Society. “He was voted in Scotland, within the last ten years, to be their most important person. Ahead of their Scottish engineers and philosophers and so on. I think this is because of his poems, and he wrote over 200 of them, were in the Scottish dialect when everybody else was doing elevated English.”
The Saltire Society hosts an annual wreath laying at the Robert Burns statue in Beacon Hill Park. Henderson explained that the statue was built in 1900 after a group of Scottish ex-pats managed to raise $2,000. The base of the statue used to be a working fountain, until the plumbing gave out sometime in the 1950s, Henderson said.
Although not on Robbie Burns Day proper, this years’ wreath ceremony begins at the statue at 1:45 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24. Henderson said the ceremony will last about 15 minutes, and will include a piper, some poetry, and little sprigs of heather handed out to the crowd. Although not entirely sure, he felt this year’s poem would be A Man’s A Man For A’ That.
“He celebrated the common man and woman in his poems, he dealt with ordinary things: love, nature, he wrote a poem to a mouse, he took highland ballads and turned them into poetry. So it was very much the common touch. He’s been called the plowman’s poet, the people’s poet,” Henderson said.
“It’s that egalitarian plus Scottish Nationalism, plus there are many telling phrases in his poetry that have survived in common English. My love is like a red, red rose; A man’s a man for all that; and so on.”
After the ceremony is completed, participants traditionally head to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk Hall on Courtney St. for tea, snacks, and Scottish entertainment. Those events begins at 2:30 p.m., and are by donation.