Robert Burns

Portrait of Robert Burns

Robert Burns is remembered as the Scottish National poet and is famous worldwide. He was born in Alloway, Scotland on 25th January 1758 and died in Dumfries, Scotland on 21st July 1796 aged 37.

Major Works

“Green Grow the Rashes O”. (1784) 
“Kilmarnock Edition of Poems, “Address to a Haggis.” (1786) 
“Tam O’ Shanter”. (1790)
“For a’ That and a’ That”. (1795) 

Biography Timeline

Robert Burns was born on 25th January 1759 in a cottage built by his father at Alloway in Ayrshire, Scotland. Robert was the eldest son of seven children to a poor tenant farmer William Burnes and Agnes nee Brown. He was educated at John Murdoch’s School in Alloway and. at Ayr Grammar School as well as being taught at home.

1765: His father rented the farm of Mount Oliphant in order to make a living and Robert works as a labourer in the fields even though the soil was very poor.

1777: He writes many of his poems “Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect” here.

1780: He and his friends David Sillar and John Rankine found the Tarbolton Bachelor’s Club, a debating society on 11th November and he is elected as chairman.

1781: He becomes a Freemason on 4th July with meetings being held at James Manson’s inn in Tarbolton. He finds employment as a Flax dresser in Irvine lodging at 4 Glasgow Vennel.

1784: After his father’s death Burns rents the farm of Mossgiel with his brother Gilbert.

1785: Birth of his illegitimate daughter Elizabeth to a farm servant Elizabeth Paton. Birth of illegitimate child to Jean Armour the daughter of a master mason who issued a writ against him. He threatens to escape legal action by emigrating to the West Indies possibly with Mary Campbell of Dunoon, a dairy maid, as he was barred from seeing Jean.

1786: Death of Mary Campbell. The first appearance of the “Kilmarnock Edition” is published by John Wilson which receives much praise. Jean Armour’s father reviewed his opinion of him now he has become famous. He borrows a pony to travel to Edinburgh on 27th November to arrange for a second printing and is introduced to the leading people in the city’s intellectual and social life by the Earl of Glencairn. 

1787: The second impression of the Kilmarnock poems is published on 21st April selling 3,000 copies which made it a phenomenal bestseller for the day. “The Scots Musical Museum” is published in several parts. “Old Lang Syne” appears in Volume 5. 

1788: He marries Jean Armour in Mauchline. Birth of an illegitimate child to Jenny Clow. Burns and his wife rent a room in Castle Street, Mauchline which is now called the Burn’s House. In June he takes on the lease of Ellisland Farm, north of Dumfries.

1789: He is appointed as Excise Officer for Dumfries, a post he held until his death.

1790: He writes “Tam O’ Shanter” at Ellisland Farm.

1791: Birth of an illegitimate child to Ann Park. Birth of son William Nichol to Jean. The farm is not a financial success and the family has to leave, moving to a house in Dumfries.

1794: Birth of his Son James Glencairn.

1795: Publication of the radical “For a’ That and a’ That”. 

Robert “Rabbie” Burns died on 21st July 1796 in Dumfries, Scotland of rheumatic fever. (His son James Maxwell is born on the day of Burn’s funeral). He was buried in Dumfries, Scotland.

Please see Britain Unlimited’s Robert Burns page for further information.