The Fatherland Of Robert Burns
The Notice Board at the entrance to the Burns Memorial Garden in Stonehaven
Internationally acclaimed as Scotland’s greatest poet, Robert Burns was born in a humble cottage in Alloway in the county of Ayrshire on the 25th January 1759. It was, however the area around Stonehaven which was Burn’s Fatherland.
Burns was a genius who knew and understood the nature of man (and woman). He was charged with emotion, awareness and sensibility. His sympathies were for the poor and the oppressed and even extended to include nature and the animal kingdom. Being a humanitarian, a libertarian,and an egalitarian, he achieved universal appeal and the anniversary of his birth is now celebrated at annual Burns Suppers by many nationalities in every corner of the Globe.
It was here in this community of the Mearns that his forbears dwelt. His father William was born in the Stonehaven area in 1721 into the established agrarian lifestyle which he followed until 1748 when he decided to depart and seek better fortune elsewhere. The Burnes family (as the name was then spelled) had worked a number of farms in the valley before Robert’s grandfather settled at Clochnahill, a few miles South of Stonehaven on the A90 where William was born. The location, which is still being farmed today is marked by a stone cairn at the side of the roadway.
The Burnes heritage in the Mearns valley can certainly be traced back to Robert’s great great grandfather Walter, who was born at the Bogjorgan farm around 1615. His great grandfather (James) was born about 1656 at Brawlinmuir farm where he remained until his death in 1743. He is buried at Glenbervie Cemetery, as are his wife (Margaret Falconer) and Robert’s great grand uncle William Burnes and his wife.
William Burnes childhood and early maturity were obviously greatly influenced not only by his family but by the traditions , culture, behaviours and moral values of the people of the Mearns valley. Through William, by precept and example, those same values contributed significantly to the development and moulding of the character, personality and philosophy of his son. His father also ensured that Robert received an education which for the time was comprehensive and thorough. He was a keen scholar and was proficient in the three R’s at an early age.
The rigours of family survival, however, meant that in his formative years he also had to be proficient at ploughing the fields of a poor and under-capitalised farm. Early exposure to such physical effort strained his heart and almost certainly contributed to his too early demise in Dumfries on 21st July 1796 at Just 37 years of age
How much greater would have been the heritage of Robert Burns had his life not been cut so short?