Robert Burns
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Robert Burns (1759 - 1796)

Robert "Rabbie, Robin" Burns aka Burnes
Born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotlandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married Apr 1788 in Mauchline, Ayrshire, Scotlandmap
Descendants descendants
Died at age 37 in Dumfries, Dumfriesshire, Scotlandmap
Profile last modified | Created 21 Jan 2014
This page has been accessed 23,253 times.



Notables Project
Robert Burns is Notable.
Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the Bard or national poet of Scotland.[1]


Robert Burns was born in a house his father built (now part of the Robert Burns Museum) in Alloway, South Ayrshire, Scotland, the eldest of the seven children of William Burns and Agnes Broun.[2][3][4][5] William was a tenant farmer and estate gardener from Dunnottar while Agnes was born in Moggsiel, Ayrshire, Scotland. Her father was also a tenant farmer.

Oldest known engraving of Burns Cottage 1805

When Robert was seven years old, his father sold his birth home and took possession of a 70 acre farm at Mount Oliphant.[6] Robert spent his youth there in poverty and had a very difficult childhood. All the manual labor Robert did on the farm led to health issues throughout his life as well as a stoop in his posture.

Robert attended an "adventure" school started by his father and several neighbors.[1] He went to a mathematics school in 1775 in Kirkoswald.[1] Robert's early love of literature often set him at odds with his tiny part of the world, which was so focused on agriculture.[1] It was only after his father's death that he felt free to pursue his love of writing.[1]

Robert loved women and had children with several during his life. Robert's first child was Elizabeth Paton Burns, born in 1785, from a relationship he had with one of his mother's servants, Elizabeth Paton.[7][8]

In March 1786, his second and third children, twins, were born of a relationship with Jean Armour. Robert signed a paper declaring his marriage to Jean, but her father destroyed the document and refused to acknowledge the venture.[1] To avoid dishonor and scandal, Jean's parents sent her to live with her uncle in Paisley. Despite her father's objections, Robert and Jean were married in 1788.[9] They had nine children but only three survived childhood.[10][11][12][13]

Being married did not stop Robert from pursuing other women, including but not limited to Margaret Campbell[14], May Cameron, Agnes McLehose[15], Jenny Clow[16], and Ann Park.

Robert Burns - Margaret Campbell


At first, Robert followed his paternal heritage in becoming a tenant farmer.[1] He started writing poetry, but to make sure he could stay away from the farm, worked to be an excise officer.[1] He started writing poetry and songs following the death of his father.[1] His first tome, "Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect", was printed in Kilmarnock in 1786 and paid for by subscriptions.[1]

Robert's poetry explored the worlds of farm life, Scotland's culture, religion, and his life experiences.[1] He began his writing career writing for his local audience, but started to reach out to the rest of his country and embrace his identity as a Scotsman.[1]

One reason Robert was lauded as Scotland's poet, apart from so many viewing him as the Scottish "every man", was because he marked the end of an era in which the poets of the country wrote in their ancient vernacular. The shift was eminent in Robert's time, toward the use of English, as is seen in his published works being in print in both languages.[1] Alternately, Robert's works mark the beginning of another era, his own poems often called "Pre-Romantic" for their sensitive focus on nature, high emotion, and backward seeking interest in legends and folk songs.[1] Some of his work even included the collecting and revising of those old tunes. One of his best known works, the poem "Auld Lang Syne", is often sung at Hogmanay, or New Year's Eve.[17] "Scots Wha Hae" served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of Scotland. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well known across the world today include "A Red, Red Rose", "A Man's A Man for A' That", "To a Louse","To a Mouse", "The Battle of Sherramuir","Tam o' Shanter", and "Ae Fond Kiss".

Illustration to Robert Burn's poem Halloween


Robert Burns died in Dumfries on July 21st, 1796, of rheumatic fever (some note it was likely endocarditis).[1] He was only 37 years old.[18] On his deathbed, Robert spoke to his wife Jean, then to James Maclure, his attendant, telling him to "Be a good man; be virtuous; be religious. Nothing else will give you comfort when you come to be here."

Robert was buried in St. Michael's Churchyard, Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway Scotland.[18] In September 1815, his body was transferred to the Burns Mausoleum, which was paid for with public subscriptions. It was erected in the southeast corner of the churchyard.[19][10] Jean Armour's remains were added to the mausoleum in 1834. At the same time, a cast was taken of Robert Burns's skull.[10]

Burns Mausoleum
Inside the Mausoleum

Burns Suppers are held annually on or near Robert's birthday to pay tribute to the life, works, and spirit of the Scottish poet. The supper parties are most common in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with some celebrations in the United Kingdom and the United States as well. The gatherings may be formal or informal, but almost all include haggis and the drinking of Scotch whisky, as well as the reading of Burns's works.

A little-known fact is that President Abraham Lincoln, who himself penned a few verses, much admired the writings of Robert Burns. He attended the 1859 "Burns Nicht" [Night] celebration at Springfield's Concert Hall, marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's Bard. One newspaper of the day reported that "The toasts offered on this occasion were most appropriate, and were responded to by some of the most talented men of the state, among whom were, Abraham Lincoln ..."[20]


Robert Burns - Anna, Thy Charms
  • 1759 – Robert "Rabbie" Burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire on January 25, in the "auld cley biggin" that is now known as Burns Cottage.
  • 1766 – Burnes family moves to the 70-acre Mount Oliphant Farm, near Allaway
  • 1774 – Robert writes his first song, "O Once I Lov’d (a bonie lass)"
  • 1777 – Burnes family moves to a larger farm at Lochlea, near Tar Lotion
  • 1781 – Moves to Irvine, North Ayrshire, to learn flax-dressing
  • 1781 – Becomes a freemason
  • 1784 – Robert’s father William dies
  • 1784 - The family changes their name to Burns and moves to Mossgiel farm near Machine
Kilmarnock volume
  • 1785 – Meets Jean Armour. Daughter Elizabeth Paton Burns born.
  • 1785 – Writes "To a Mouse"
  • 1785 – 6 – Has an affair with Margaret Campbell ("Highland Mary")
  • 1786 – The first edition of Burns’ poetry, "Poems", chiefly in the Scottish dialect, known as the Kilmarnock edition, was published. It sells out within a month.
  • 1786 – Becomes a father to twins, Robert and Jean, born to Jean Armour
  • 1786 – Abandons plans to emigrate to Jamaica to work as a bookkeeper on a slave plantation. Instead, travels to Edinburgh to look into publishing a second edition of his poems.
  • 1786 – Mary Campbell (Highland Mary) dies of typhus
  • 1787 – Second edition of poems is published in Edinburgh.
  • 1787 – Has a child in Edinburgh with servant, May Cameron
Auld Lang Syne
  • 1787 – Meets Agnes McLehose
  • 1788 – Marries Jean Armour.
  • 1788 - Takes a lease on a farm at Ellisland near Dumfries but also trains as an exciseman should farming prove unsuccessful.
  • 1788 – Twin daughters born to Robert and Jean Armour.
  • 1788 – Son, Robert Burns Clow, born to Robert and Janet Clow, a domestic servant.
  • 1788 – Burns writes "Auld Lang Syne"
  • 1789 – Begins work as an excise officer
  • 1789 – Son, Francis Wallace Burns, born to Robert and Jean Armour.
  • 1790 – Writes "Tam o’ Shanter"
  • 1791 – Moves to Dumfries
Holy Willies Prayer
  • 1791– Writes "Ae Fond Kiss"
  • 1791 - Daughter, Elizabeth, born to Robert and Ann Park.
  • 1791 – Son, William Nicol Burns, born to Robert and Jean Armour.
  • 1792 – Daughter, Elizabeth Riddell Burns, born to Robert and Jean Armour.
  • 1794 – Son, James Glencairn Burns, born to Robert and Jean Armour.
  • 1796 – Dies in Dumfries on July 21st at the age of 37
  • 1796 - Robert’s youngest son, Maxwell Burns, is born to Jean on the day of the poet’s funeral.


(1) The book "No' Rabbie Burns: Poetry the Bard Would Not Have Put His Name To", by Stuart McLean, includes these examples ...

  • In the introduction : "Rabbie Burns is indisputably (well I'm certainly not disputing it) Scotland's favorite poet."
  • The verse : "What's the weather like today, Bob?" "Is it no still June, Rabbie?" "Aye, it is that, Bob." "Well, it'll be raining then, Rabbie."
  • A verse inscribed on an old goblet owned by one Mr. Dunbar : "Rabbie wis here, Drinkin' beer."

(2) The introduction to the book "Robert Burns: A Life", by Ian McIntyre, states in part ...

  • "... Robert Burns (also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland's Favorite Son, the Ploughman Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire or simply the Bard)."

(3) The book "The G. Ross Roy Collection of Robert Burns", by Elizabeth A. Sudduth, includes these entries ...

  • "Rabbie Burns and his friens," (1825 )
  • "Rabbie Burns 1759-1796: Poet Admired by Ulster-Scots" (2005)
  • "Original blue cloth, stamped in gold. Poem in pencil with first line 'Oh, Rabbie! Once comes around' on verso of half-title page", along with the "Signature of Alexander Sinclair Lauries, former owner"


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 Brown, Mary Ellen, "Robert Burns",, Indiana University. Accessed 26 Nov 2018
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Burns Cottage," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Burns Cottage Museum (accessed November 26, 2018).
  3. Family Search: "Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950," database, reference ; FHL microfilm 1,041,330.
  4. Wikipedia contributors, "Agnes Broun," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Agnes Broun, (accessed November 26, 2018).
  5. "William Burnes", The Burns Encyclopedia,, accessed 26 Nov 2018
  6. "Mount Oliphant", The Burns Encyclopedia,, accessed 26 Nov 2018
  7. "Elizabeth Paton", The Burns Encyclopedia,, accessed 26 Nov 2018
  8. "Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950," database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018), Robert Burns in entry for Elizabeth Burns, 24 May 1785; citing , TARBOLTON, AYR, SCOTLAND, reference , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 1,041,472.
  9. Scotland, Select Marriages, 1561-1910 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Wikipedia contributors, "Jean Armour," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Jean Armour (accessed November 26, 2018).
  11. "British Newspaper Archives, Obituaries," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 18 March 2018), Robert Burns in entry for Jean Burns Also Armour, 12 Apr 1834; citing Obituary, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, England, United Kingdom, page 0004, Records extracted by FindMyPast and images digitized by FamilySearch. The British Library, London; FHL microfilm 102,001,236.
  12. "Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950," database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018), Robert Burns in entry for Jean Burns, 05 Sep 1786; citing , MAUCHLINE, AYR, SCOTLAND, reference , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 1,041,395.
  13. "Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950," database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018), Robert Burns in entry for Robert Burns, 03 Sep 1786; citing , reference 2:15G9HK5, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 1,041,395.
  14. "Margaret Campbell (Highland Mary)", The Burns Encyclopedia,, accessed 26 Nov 2018
  15. Wikipedia contributors, "Agnes Maclehose," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Agnes Maclehose (Clarinda) (accessed November 26, 2018).
  16. Wikipedia contributors, "Jenny Clow," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Jenny Clow (accessed November 26, 2018).
  17. "Auld Lang Syne" The Burns Encyclopedia,, accessed 26 Nov 2018
  18. 18.0 18.1 Find a Grave, database and images : accessed 17 June 2022, memorial page for Robert Burns (25 Jan 1759–21 Jul 1796), Find A Grave: Memorial #1853, citing St Michael's Churchyard, Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland ; Maintained by Find a Grave.
  19. Burns Mausoleum,, accessed 26 Nov 2018
  20. "The Lincoln Log", Lincoln Sesquicentennial Commission, Tuesday, 25 Jan 1859, citing four Illinois newspapers. (Accessed 17 Jun 2022>

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Comments: 13

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this is Scotland's great poet ever and we still have every February have haggis neeps and tatties
posted on Burns-17678 (merged) by Elizabeth (Russell) Alderdice RGN SCM
I have attached a document to my grandmother, Doris Armour Aikman - Aikman-841 - showing links to Robert Burns. My 4G-Grandmother, Frances 'Fanny' Burns, appears to have been Robert Burns' first cousin, and her husband my 4G-Grandfather Adam Armour was brother of Robert Burns' wife Jean Armour (the links in the ancestry charts show incorrectly, with each child attached to one parent instead of both, but it shouldn't be too difficult to interpret correctly).

There's also some information about Robert Burns which I think is not in the Wikitree page (or I missed it), eg. the story of the Inveraray Punch Bowl, now in the British Museum. Whether the information is worth adding or is solid enough for Wikitree is your decision.

posted by Mike Jonas
My husband's (Colin John Sherman) 5 x great grandfather. My husband has taken a DNA test. Should I put it on WikiTree?
Burns was contemporary to my Scottish Poet ancestor James Grahame 1765-1811 (Grahame-52) and I believe from the diaries and letters of his grandson Will, that he and Burns knew each other. In fact Grahame wrote a poem about Burns: [1]
posted by Judith Robinson
Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,

O, what a panic's in thy breastie!

To the master of the Wikitree, Ms. Terry Wright who I see is quietly polishing another of her masterpieces.

posted by Vincent Piazza