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A Burns Night Inspiration

Tonight is Burns Night, and I was given a monumental task, ‘Choose a piece of writing from For A’ That: A Celebration of Burns as the introduction to the ShortbreadStories competition “A Burns Night Inspiration”.’

For A’ That is an intriguing anthology of fictional and non-fictional writing inspired by Robert Burns. Published by the University of Dundee, this compilation includes poems, fiction and essays which either discuss Burns’ influence upon the world or are works of fiction influenced by Burns. Dundee University Press graciously gave ShortbreadStories permission to reproduce a few pages of this book in order to promote our ‘A Burns Night Inspiration’ competition. But which portion of the book should I choose?

Professor Whately’s intriguing essay on Burns’ influence upon Dundee? Professor Kirsty Gunn’s soft yet poignant short story about a marriage that came together – and then fell apart – under a statue of Burns? DBC Pierre’s academic discussion of Scotland’s undervaluation of Burns? Jim Stewart’s homage to Burns through poetry? Or Gavin Wallace’s essay on Burns’ influence upon us all? Eleven academics, authors and students contributed to this publication, each providing his/her own representations of the Burns influence.

Despite being a figure ingrained in Scottish identity, ‘Rabbie’ Burns is a significant aspect of a global psyche – not least because the Scottish Diaspora runs far and wide, but because Burns as an author speaks to the basics of our humanity: our appreciation of friends, food and laughter, and his recognition of home and landscape are fundamental elements of our lives.

Each of the authors participating in For A’ That have different backgrounds and approached Burns in a manner which they found most interesting. They approached Burns as part of the global psyche.

Which makes me think about the first time I attended a Burns supper. I had moved to Scotland from America four months before, and I was living in St Andrews. A friend volunteered her house, and other friend sorted out the haggis. One person brought neeps and another tatties. Someone else brought the whisky, and another person also brought whisky. Actually, I think everyone brought whisky. The Odes were rushed, and we made up the our Lads and Lassies responses. We laughed and ate and drank and sang, we would have made Burns proud.

Crammed in that little terraced house in St Andrews were Englishmen and Scots, Americans and Italians, Germans and Icelandics, Chinese and the Irish, Canadians and even a Welshman. We all found something different in Burns’ writing, but we weren’t really there for Burns. We were there for each other, we were celebrating friendship. And that, in itself, is Burns night.

Just as each For A’ That contributor found a different inspiration in Burns, we are asking Shortbreaders to follow suit.

How has Burns inspired you? Write a poem, story or an essay* and submit it to the ‘A Burns Night Inspiration’ Competition, and the winner shall receive a free copy of For A’ That: A Celebration of Burns, and their story will appear as a Friday Story.

Go to to enter.

*You know the drill. Usual competition rules apply.


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2 thoughts on “A Burns Night Inspiration

  1. Great post, I had just posted my own little piece on my blog. I must try and have a go at this one. I had to laugh reading about your Burns night super as we had one when my daughter was in University in Portsmouth and I was staying with her. The resulting high jinks make us laugh to this day and the first thing in the morning we send out own Burns Night greeting to each other. It has nothing actually to do with the great man himself but he brings him to mind and whisks us back to a happy time.

    • Diane, I think that’s exactly what Burns’ poetry does. It ‘whisks us back to a happy time’, but for each of us that happy time is different. Shall have a read of your blog, and have a happy Burns Night.

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