Burns Trivia

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Let’s start with three pieces of Trivia from across the Pond

In James Fenimore Cooper’s book “The Last of the Mohicans”, first published in the USA in 1826, each chapter begins with a quotation, which was quite common at that time. Chapter VI has a quotation from Robert Burns’  “The Cotter’s Saturday Night”:

Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,

He wales a portion with judicious care;

And ‘Let us worship God!’ he says, with solemn air.”

Ken McDonald

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In 1835, when Sam Houston was Commander-in-Chief of the Texas forces fighting against the Mexicans at the town of Gonzales, he had the following appeal for volunteers printed in a newspaper:

Freemen of Texas

To Arms!!! To Arms!!!!

“Now’s the day, & now’s the hour.”

Houston, who was a known lover of the works of Robert Burns and carried a book of his poetry, took that last line from “Scots Wha Hae.” He became President of the Republic of Texas following his defeat of Santa Ana at the battle of San Jacinto, and after Texas joined the United States in 1845, he became a senator and then Texas Governor. The city of Houston, Texas, is named after him.

Ken McDonald

 

John Muir, one of history’s most important Scots,  born in Dunbar in 1838, emigrated to America in 1849 and became a naturalist and conservationist. He was involved in the setting up of Yosemite National Park together with a number of others and became known as ‘Father of Yosemite National Park.’ He was also regarded by many as the ‘Father of World Conservation’.

He carried a book of Burns poetry on his travels and in an essay wrote:

It is glorious to know that one of the greatest men who appeared in the last century was a Scotsman, Robert Burns. His lessons of divine love and sympathy to humanity, which he preached in his poems and sent forth white-hot from his heart, have gone ringing and singing around the globe, stirring the heart of every nation and race. On my lonely walks I have often thought how fine it would be to have the company of Burns. And indeed he was always with me, for I had him in my heart. On my first long walk from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico I carried a copy of Burns’ poems and sang them all the way.’

Ken McDonald

 

 Bob Dylan is quoted as saying that Burns’ My Luve is like a Red, Red Rose was his greatest source of creative inspiration.

[ Perhaps we should write to his Agent inviting a performance at Let it Blaw’s next Supper.]

 

The USSR was the first country in the world to honour Burns with a commemorative stamp.

 

Burns’ song Auld Lang Syne gets a mention in the Guinness Book of Records as one of the three most popular songs in the English language.

The other two are ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘For he’s a Jolly Good Fellow’.

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Singer Michael Jackson, who was a big fan of Robert Burns, recorded an album with David Gest setting the bard’s poems to music.

[ Not a big deal as Jimmie Dunbar has been recorded singing Burns’ songs plenty times at the Club’s annual suppers ]

 

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US President Abraham Lincoln  was another huge fan of Burns’ work and was able to recite some of the Bard’s work from memory.

[ of course, that doesn’t rate him any higher than half the members of Let it Blaw ! ]

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US fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger is a descendant of Burns’ brother Gilbert. Records show the grandmother

of Hilfiger’s elderly aunt Rose Kirbis, was the granddaughter of Burns’ brother Gilbert,  which makes Hilfiger the great, great, great nephew of the Bard.

[ I wonder if he designed the ‘Let it Blaw’ club ties Ken McDonald lost in his desperate attempt to get home after the supper a few years back ?? ]

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A wee book of Burns’ poetry was carried into space by British-born astronaut Nicholas Patrick on a two-week journey in 2010

during which it travelled 5.7million miles completing 217 orbits of Earth.

[ As many of Let it Blaw’s members were “fleeing” when they left the 2010 Supper, perhaps they saw the book in the passing ]

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Burns’ work has appeared in hundreds of films and TV programmes,

including ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘When Harry met Sally’ and ‘Sex and the City’.

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Robert Burns provided inspiration for J.D. Salinger’s book ‘The Catcher in the Rye’

which is based on Burns’ Comin’ Thro’ the Rye

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On the subject of Comin’ Thro’ the Rye, at pedestrian crossings in Japan, the sound indicating that a walker can cross is a musical rendition

of the same song. What would J. D. Salinger think of that ? What, for that matter, would Burns think of that ?

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BBC TV’s  presenter Jeremy Paxman isn’t one of the Bard’s biggest fans referring to him as

no more than a king of sentimental doggerel”.

Paxman was a bit critical of things Scottish until, when appearing on BBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are ?”

he discovered, to his dismay, that he had Scottish ancestry

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John Steinbeck’s book ‘Of Mice and Men’ got its name from Burns’ poem To a Mouse

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Robert Burns was the first ever person to feature on a commemorative bottle of Coca Cola.

The poet’s image appeared on around one million bottles in 2009, the 250th anniversary of Burns’ birth.

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