The Dafter and I recently had a great day out, long-planned and long-awaited. I dropped her off at the house of a friend in Ayrshire, where (fortified by white bread and chocolate for energy) she had a wonderful couple of hours. I, meanwhile, went to visit the Robert Burns Birthplace in Alloway.
Flowerbed sculpture, Robert Burns Birthplace museum. Alloway, Scotland, November 2013.
It’s more than just a museum, and I could easily have spent an entire day there if I’d had the time. I was very impressed with what I saw. What struck me immediately, and throughout my visit, was how the Scots words of Burns’ poetry was at the forefront. The verse in the flowerbed sculpture above is, I believe, from “To a Mouse”:
Wee sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie
What a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need not start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
The museum itself is only one part of a large compound, which includes the cottage where Burns was born, the original Brig o’ Doon, the Auld Kirk, a memorial garden and other things beside. I walked down to the Auld Kirk, past beautifully golden birch trees:
Beautiful “birks” (birch trees). Robert Burns Birthplace, Alloway, Scotland, November 2013.
As my own girl was having a good giggle with her friend, I enjoyed watching these teenage boys playing in the leaves and the lower branches of the trees. I think young people get a very hard rap these days – there are plenty of really great teenagers around.
Boys playing in the fallen leaves, Robert Burns Birthplace museum. Alloway, Scotland, November 2013.
The Auld Kirk is where Tam O’Shanter encounters the witches, and even on a bright day, I didn’t feel enticed to go inside to investigate!
The Auld Kirk, Alloway, Scotland, November 2013.
But I found the gravestone of Burns’ mother and father very touching:
Robert Burns’ parents’ grave, the Auld Kirk, Alloway, Scotland. November 2013.
Back at the museum, I found more words everywhere I went, even before going inside:
Beside the entrance to the Robert Burns Birthplace museum. Alloway, Scotland, 2013. Daimen-icker = rare ear of corn; cranreuch = hoar-frost; cauld = cold; stibble = stubble; bughtin = milking?; owsen = ? (possibly oxen?). The source for my ‘translations’ is the Concise Scots Dictionary.
I enjoyed the museum, and could have spent a very long time there looking at all the original documents, background information and objects associated with Burns’ life. The National Trust has a good website for the Robert Burns Birthplace, including interactive pages related to the collections, and if you’re interested in Burns, you might find them interesting.
Inside the museum; Robert Burns Birthplace, Alloway, Scotland, November 2013.
The written commentary mixed standard English and Scots in an entertaining (to me) way. For example, the sign on the exhibit covering the well-known ‘Auld Lang Syne’ said:
Ane o Robert’s greatest hits, this classic sang aboot freenship and pairtin is noo sung oot-through the warld, especially at New Year. Auld lang syne is sung in mair Hollywood movies nor ony ither sang forby Happy Birthday.
And in the section covering some of Burns’ more bawdy writing, you read:
Robert didna intend aw o his love poetry for the lugs o weemen. … If ye’re easy affrontit, luik awa noo.
I tore myself awa(y) from the museum and went for a cup of coffee. I felt almost as if I’d suddenly been transported to Oregon! There was something about the wooden beams and the views out into the trees:
The coffee shop, Robert Burns Birthplace, Alloway, Scotland, November 2013.
Even there, you are wrapped around by Burns’ words:
Scots words on the windows of the coffee shop. Robert Burns Birthplace, Alloway, Scotland, November 2013.
I very much enjoyed a bit of time to explore things, and to sit and think (or not think!). And then it was time to go fetch my bonnie lassie. She had had a wonderful afternoon, and wasn’t too badly knocked back by her big afternoon in the days that followed. Certainly the time with her friend was a huge boost to her morale. She’s been making slow progress since her setback in August – but progress nonetheless.
Check back in the next few days, because I am going to do a little Burns-related giveaway. Happy start of the week, everyone!