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POSTED Thursday 25-01-24

The Diverse Career of Robert Burns

Tonight is Burns Night, a time to enjoy Scottish traditions and celebrate the renowned poet Robert Burns with a classic combination of haggis, neeps, tatties and maybe reciting some of his world famous poetry. However, did you know that in addition to being a poet Robert Burns had various other jobs throughout his life?

Born in Alloway, Ayrshire on January 25th 1759, Robert Burns grew up in a farming family. Due to financial difficulties, he had to work on the family farm from a young age. As well as his agricultural work, Burns held several other occupations during his lifetime:

  1. Farm Labourer: Born into a farming family, Burns spent much of his early life working on the family farm in Alloway. Farming was not only a way of life for him but also a source of inspiration for many of his poems, celebrating rural life and the people who lived it.
  2. Flax Dresser: Burns worked as a flax dresser, a job related to the processing of flax for linen production. Flax dressing involved various tasks, such as preparing the flax fibres for weaving. This job provided Burns with exposure to different aspects of the textile industry.
  3. Land Surveyor: Burns briefly trained as a land surveyor in the hope of securing a stable income. However, this endeavour did not prove as successful as he had hoped.
  4. Tax Collector: In 1788, Burns secured a position as an excise officer, collecting taxes on goods such as salt and spirits. This job required him to travel to different locations in Scotland, and he held various excise appointments in places such as Dumfries, Ellisland, and Mauchline. While this occupation provided a somewhat steady income, it also brought challenges and criticisms, as some viewed it as contradictory to his poetic ideals of independence.
  5. Poet: While not a traditional job in the conventional sense, Burns’s role as a poet and lyricist is significant. His literary contributions played a crucial role in preserving and celebrating Scottish culture and identity. Many of his works, such as “Auld Lang Syne” and “To a Mouse,” have become iconic in the world of literature and are known globally.

His literary talents eventually gained recognition and he became widely celebrated for his contributions to Scottish literature. Today, Robert Burns is best known for his poetry and is often referred to as the “National Bard of Scotland.” Without his diverse Robert Burns would not have became the world renowned poet that he is known as today.

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