Past Events

Past Events


Robert Burns Song Symposium
University of Glasgow
21st March 2014

Song Symposium 2014 for Past Events

On the afternoon of Friday 21st March 2014, the 'Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century' project team hosted their second symposium. The focus of the event was Burns's acitivites as a song-writer and collector. Burns's involvement with  James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum and George Thomson's collections of National Airs is a major research focus for the project as we produce the first three volumes of the new Oxford University Press edition of the Works of Robert Burns.

The 'Burns Song Symposium' this March gave Burnsians a chance to hear about the new work currently being undertaken by editors Murray Pittock and Kirsteen McCue. Pauline Mackay, new lecturer in Robert Burns Studies here at Glasgow, talked about Burns's bawdy songs, which has been a key focus of her own research to date. And our new Research Assistants on the project, Ralph McLean and Vivien Williams, introduced some of our new interactive resources. Moreover, we were joined by one of Scotland's foremost interpreters of Burns, Sheena Wellington, who performed a number of Burns's songs.



The Merry Muses of Caledonia - Pauline Mackay

‘Songs for George Thomson’ - Kirsteen McCue

 ‘Choral Settings Project’ - Vivien Williams

The Scots Musical Museum - Murray Pittock

Launch of website songs by Ralph McLean and performance by Sheena Wellington


Centre for Robert Burns Studies Annual Conference: Homecoming
The Mitchell Library, Glasgow
25th January 2014

Conference 2014 for Past Events

Centre for Robert Burns Studies Conference 2014

On the 25th of January, Burns Day 2014, the Centre for Robert Burns Studies held its annual conference. The conference was held at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, and for the first time was part of the Celtic Connections Festival.

This year the theme for the conference was ‘Homecoming’ and a number of high-profile speakers covered topics ranging from Burns and eighteenth-century Gaelic poetry to the Burns forger ‘Antique’ Smith.

The day began with a paper entitled ‘To follow in the steps of Burns’: James Hogg, Pastoral, and the Legacy of the ‘Heaven Taught Ploughman’, given by Alex Deans, a PhD student (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council) completing his studies at the University of Glasgow.  His paper provided a very interesting commentary on the afterlife of Burns amongst literary figures such as Hogg.

This talk was followed by Ronnie Black from the University of Edinburgh who presented various illuminating links between the work of Burns and the Gaelic poetry of the era.

After a coffee break two new discoveries were shared. Firstly, Professor Gerry Carruthers and the staff of the Mitchell library presented the Mitchell’s newly acquired Burns song manuscript (for Burns’s song ‘My Nanie O’), which was followed by the exciting new discovery of a previously unknown portrait of the bard, presented by Jerry Brannigan in the annual Burns Scotland Lecture. Mr Brannigan presented the compellign case for the artist being a previously unknown Alexander Nasmyth.  

Katherine Campbell then both informed and entertained with her paper on Burns’s songs that the poet had collaborated on with Steven Clarke (for the Scots Musical Museum), the links between the two being illustrated by performances of their jointly created work. Richard Finlay surprised many with new details tracking the reception of Burns’s standing within the Commonwealth and made suggestions about the poet’s standing in the Cold War period.

George Smith presented a very entertaining, part-dramatised, paper on ‘Antique’ Smith, which tracked the illegal dealings as well as dealing with the trial of the infamous Burns forger.

Professor Murray Pittock completed the day with a paper on ‘The Scots Musical Museum: Uncovering the Truth?’, which projected what lies ahead for the Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century project as it moves into the next phase of the editing process.

Of course no Burns celebration would be complete without a wee dram and a performance of Burns’s work. Katherine Campbell performed some wonderful renditions in the library’s Burns Room, while the attendees had a drink and viewed the Mitchell’s new Burns song manuscript.

Conference Programme

 ‘To follow in the steps of Burns’: James Hogg, Pastoral, and the Legacy of the ‘Heaven Taught Ploughman’ - Alex Deans

 ‘Burns & 18th Century Gaelic Poetry’ - Ronnie Black

 ‘A New Burns Song Manuscript at the Mitchell’ - Gerry Carruthers, Susan Taylor, and Staff from the Mitchell Library

Burns Scotland Lecture: ‘A Newly Discovered Nasmyth Portrait of Burns?’ - Jerry Brannigan

Music: ‘Stephen Clarke & Burns’s songs’ - Katherine Campbell

 ‘Burns and the Commonwealth’ - Richard Finlay

 ‘Antique Smith: The Dead Letters’ - George Smith

 ‘The Scots Musical Museum: Uncovering the Truth?’ - Murray Pittock

Viewing of Mitchell Library Burns Manuscript in the Burns Room




Centre for Robert Burns Studies Annual Conference: Robert Burns at Home and Abroad
University of Glasgow
12 January 2013

‎‎ ‎
On Saturday 12 January 2013 the Centre for Robert Burns Studies was delighted to host its annual conference, this time on the theme of 'Robert Burns: At Home and Abroad'. We are delighted to announce that you can now listen to a selection of these papers on Glasgow's iTunesU. To listen, please click here.

In his paper, 'Fresh insight into Robert Burns's time at Mossgiel Farm', Alan Reid provided insights into Burns's contemporaries and genealogy in eighteenth-century Ayrshire.

‎Peter Kormylo and Hannah Dyka jointly presented their paper, 'Robert Burns - the Ukranian Translations', in which they discussed different facets of Ukranian translation of Burns's poetry.

Professor David Purdie presented information on the upcoming and newly-revised Burns Encyclopedia, which was first published in 1959 by Maurice Lindsay. The upcoming fourth edition - edited by Professor Purdie, Professor Gerard Carruthers and Dr Kirsteen McCue, has been thoroughly revised and updated in light of contemporary scholarship, and is due to be released in June 2013.

Dr Pauline Mackay gave the first Burns Scotland lecture: 'Robert Burns and Clarinda: The Objects of the Affair.' Dr Mackay demonstrated the usefulness of the confined collections of Burns Scotland in researching Burns's epistolatory affair with Agnes McLehose.

‎Bill Adair's performance of some of Burns's earliest and best-known songs was very well received. You can hear and download some of these by clicking here.

Mr Frank Shaw, the past president of the St Andrew's Society of Atlanta, delivered a fascinating paper on 'The History of Atlanta Burns Club.'

Michael Morris discussed 'Robert Burns and the Caribbean', and paid particular attention to references in Burns's work to the slave trade.

In his paper, 'The Scott-Douglas manuscripts: recently discovered material on Burns', Mr Chris Rollie revealed recently re-discovered letters by Burns and his contemporaries.

To finish the day, Professor Nigel Leask delivered the plenary paper on 'Burns's Prose in the New Oxford edition', with particular reference to Burns's tour of the Highlands.

After this fascinating and very enjoyable day, we look forward to our next annual conference, in January 2014!


The 'Kilmarnock Edition' Symposium

On Friday 9th October 2012, the Centre for Robert Burns Studies hosted its 'Kilmarnock Edition' Symposium.  This symposium commemorated Professor Craig Sharp's generous gift of a Kilmarnock Edition (1786) to the Centre, and explored the publication and reception history of Robert Burns's first book.  At the close of the event, Professor Sharp made a further gift to the Centre: a beautifully bound, nineteenth-century miniature edition of Burns's Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect.

The audience heard a variety of papers by Burns experts: to see more, click on the Kilmarnock Edition programme.  There was also a performance by Bill Adair of some of Burns's earliest songs.  The Centre is delighted to announce that these are available on the University of Glasgow's iTunesU.

To hear a series of talks by staff and colleagues of the Centre, please click here.

To hear some of Burns's songs performed by Bill Adair, please click here.

We hope you enjoy listening!


Centre for Robert Burns Studies Annual Conference 2012: 'Artefact' 

On Saturday 14th January 2012, the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, in collaboration with the Distributed National Burns Collection, hosted the 2012 Robert Burns conference: 'Artefact'. 

The audience were shown a host of Burns-related treasures by Elinor Clark (South Ayrshire Council), Christopher Fryer (Dumfries and Galloway Museum) and Amy Miller (NTS Robert Burns Birthplace Museum) as part of a host of presentations entitled 'Amaz'd and Curious: Some unknown and puzzling Burns objects from various collections'.  Music for the occasion was provided by Kirsten Easdale (Vocals) and Gregor Lowrey (Accordion), and the diverse conference programme included papers from the following distinguished speakers:

Gavin Sprott, 'Burns an Farming Life'

Thomas Keith, 'Mauchline Ware: Taking Home a Piece of the Poet'

Gordon Ashley, 'The 250th - Is it all down-hill from here on?'

Clark McGinn, 'Burns and the Banker'

John Burnett, 'The Social Worlds of Burnsiana'

Dr Bill Zachs, 'The Private Collector'

Nat Edwards, 'The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum'

Professor Murdo Macdonald, 'Rethinking Burns and Art'



As you can see below, we had a very busy and rewarding 2009.  As a result of all this activity, we kept rather quiet in 2010!  However, a number of exiting events took place in Winter 2010-2011.  The Centre for Robert Burns Studies co-organised a conference on Byron and Burns in Manchester in December and hosted our own 1-day conference called 'Burns and Beyond' here at the University of Glasgow in January 2011.  Then later in the Spring of 2011 our Glasgow-based Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded 'Robert Burns Beyond Text' project project coordinated a fascinating conference called 'The Object of Poetry', held at the University of Dundee.

A number of publications associated with members of our Centre for Robert Burns Studies appeared in 2009-2010 and these are also listed on the website.

The Centre for Robert Burns Studies secured funding from the University's Chancellor's Fund to record James MacMillan's 'Lament of Mary, Queen of Scots' with the Haydn Trio Eistenstadt and singers Lorna Anderson and Jamie MacDougall.  This recording was made in Eisenstadt, Austria in January 2010. 

And finally, in January 2011 we received news of the major AHRC research grant awarded for our major research project, 'Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century', to produce the new Oxford University Press edition of the works of Robert Burns.



15 - 17 January 2009 

Marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, the newly established Centre for Robert Burns Studies hosted a three-day conference celebrating all aspects of Burns's life and works.

The conference took place in the prestigious surroundings of Glasgow University from Thursday 15 to Saturday 17 January 2009.

It was opened by Fiona Hyslop, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning and the University's Principal Sir Muir Russell.

The programme featured seven plenary papers delivered by distinguished academics over the three days:

Leith Davis, (Simon Fraser University) Transatlantic Burns
Jon Mee (University of Warwick) Why the English had to invent Robert Burns
G Ross Roy (University of Columbia, South Carolina) This presentation will be on film and screened.
Susan Manning (University of Edinburgh) ‘Ae spark o’ Nature’s Fire’: Was Robert Burns a Transcendental Philosopher?’
Fiona Stafford (University of Oxford) Robert Burns Addresses  
Chris Whatley (University of Dundee) "Pale Scotia's way": Memorialising Burns in Victorian Scotland
Robert Crawford (University of St Andrews) Burns and the Mind of Europe

A full programme of events, and conference information is available in PDF format: Full Conference Programme and Information

Over the three days in January, 200 Robert Burns academics and enthusiasts gathered for this event, many of whom presented papers covering a diverse range of topics associated with Robert Burns and discussing these issues across coffee breaks, lunch and dinner. A team of postgraduate student helpers from the Department of Scottish Literature helped direct people to the suite of rooms used for sessions and modelled the Centre's newly-designed t-shirt. The conference was a real team effort across the University, involving Conference and Visitor Services, Corporate Communications, Development and Alumni and Archives.

Picture Gallery of the opening and of coffee breaks


Special Partnership - CRBS and Itchy Coo Education:  Picture Gallery    Itchy Coo

The Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow was delighted to be working with Itchy Coo Education, the award winning promoters and publishers in  Scots.  A series of national schools and colleges competitions for students aged from reception class to highers (4 to 18), was in the Autumn term of 2008 and winners were announced at a specially organised event during the Conference, with competitions judged and prizes presented by Andrew Wolffe, illustrator, designer and publisher, Janice Forsyth, BBC Scotland broadcaster and Liz Lochhead, writer and formerly Writer in Residence at the Department of Scottish Literature, University of Glasgow.


Evening Events

Thursday 15 January - Songs and Supper: Picture Gallery

Complementing the full academic programme, there were several special events continuing the theme of celebration and these were also open to the general public.

This event, sponsored by the Royal Mail, was held in the main hall of Oran Mor and provided an alternative hot supper for over 100 people. The Centre was thrilled to be able to invite one of Scotland's foremost traditional singers, Sheena Wellington, to perform a selection of Burns's less often heard bawdy songs from 'The Merry Muses', which she regaled with characteristic humour and skill. Before this, the traditional band of 'gangrel bodies', Stramash, gave a spirited rendition of Burns's cantata Love and Liberty, also known as 'The Jolly Beggars'. The Royal Mail was happy to publicise its newly created Robert Burns stamps celebrating the 250th anniversary of Burns's birth.

Friday 16 January - World Premiere Performance:  Picture Gallery

On the evening of Friday 16th January, in the splendid surroundings of the Bute Hall, the Centre hosted the world premiere of 'Lament of Mary, Queen of Scots', written by Scotland's leading composer, James MacMillan.  This piece was commissioned by the Centre for Robert Burns Studies for the 'Robert Burns 1759 to 2009' conference at the University of Glasgow, and was made possible by funding from the Chancellor’s Fund, University of Glasgow.  The world premiere performance was given by the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt, and singers Lorna Anderson and Jamie MacDougall, and included an additional programme of Burns songs with arrangements by Haydn.

In the afternoon of Friday 16th January, the Conference marked the completion of the Trio's recording of the complete Haydn folk songs with Lorna and Jamie on the Brilliant Classics label. This project, involving Professor Marjorie Rycroft of the Department of Music at the University of Glasgow and both Dr Kirsteen McCue (Scottish Literature) and Dr Warwick Edwards (Music), has been connected to a larger editing project relating to Haydn's songs for the Scottish publisher, George Thomson. The complete set of recordings runs to 19 CDs with a CD-ROM full of information about these wonderful settings. The event to mark the culmination of this project was hosted by the University's Chancellor, Sir Kenneth Calman. The Trio and singers are continuing to celebrate this project by giving a series of concerts at the new arts centre, King's Place, near London's King's Cross, in September of this year. Lectures will be given by both Professor Rycroft and Dr McCue.

Saturday 17 January - An Alternative Burns Supper with Karen Dunbar:  Picture Gallery

The conference rounded off on Saturday evening with an Alternative Burns Supper, organised by the University of Glasgow's Development and Alumni department, again in the distinguished setting of the Bute Hall. Hosted by Dr Kirsteen McCue, this event featured an unforgettable Immortal Memory given by one of Scotland's funniest women, Karen Dunbar, who gave an action packed recitation of Burns's masterpiece, 'Tam o' Shanter'. Scottish Literature graduate, Nicole Irvine, impressed the 140 guests with a fabulous rendition of Burns's 'Address to the Haggis' and ceilidh band Kilter rounded off the evening, and the Conference, by leading everyone in some spirited Scottish dancing.

Academics from the Centre for Robert Burns Studies also presented papers as part of a series of lectures held by the Mitchell library between April and October 2009.

The University's international students also managed to break the world record of singing 'Auld Lang Syne' simultaneously in some 41 languages on 30 November in the University of Glasgow's Bute Hall to mark the close of the 'Year of Homecoming' and you can see how they did this in You Tube.  Many thanks indeed to Lesley Richmond at the Glasgow University Archives for masterminding this.  We supplied her with as many translations as we were able to source!

Further international events of academic interest in Robert Burns during his 250th anniversary year took place all over the world, and more information can be found at the Global Burns Network.



Dr. Fiona Stafford of the University of Oxford gave the Centre's inaugural lecture on 21 July 2007, 'A Centre in the Breast: Robert Burns and Happiness'. It was the first of four major lectures in the first year of the Centre's life. Inaugural Lecture of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, by Fiona Stafford

Other lectures given in the Centre's first year were given by Dr. Kenneth Simpson (Honorary Professor of Burns Studies in the Centre), Professor Murray Pittock (Bradley Professor of English Literature at the University of Glasgow) and Professor R.D.S. Jack (formerly University of Edinburgh).