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A Burns Night tune

Welcome to the first ever Kinlochlaich House blog! Our idea is to give you a little flavour of the fascinating area of Appin and the wider Scottish Highlands that we particularly enjoy. We will touch upon some interesting aspects of the landscape, nature and culture to be experienced in this part of Scotland. You may notice a bias towards food, literature and music! as particular interests in the family - we will be taking turns to write the blog. During these difficult times, we hope this will maybe bring back happy memories, or help you plan future ones, once travelling is possible again. This first blog is written by Tasha Burns, our resident clàrsach player


Well, what a snowy few days we’ve had in the run up to Burns night. Hasn’t it been great for snowball fights and snowmen! For my first blog, I thought I would say a bit about Robert, or Rabbie, Burns (1759-1796) as the 25th January - his birthday- is when his extraordinary genius is celebrated throughout Scotland. Known as the National Bard, Burns was a story-teller, composer and poet. He didn’t only leave an amazing legacy of work, but also influenced - and continues to influence - cultures around the world.


He wrote often in the Scots language, despite ill-judged criticism that he should write instead in English. Scots, which was found more in the lowlands of Scotland is completely different to Scottish Gaelic which had a stronghold in the Highlands and Islands. I was interested to read that Scots is now recognised as a vulnerable language by the United Nations, and celebration of Burns and his poetry has played a key role in keeping this threatened, indigenous language alive.


Burns collected traditional songs from across Scotland, often adapting them, as well as writing his own compositions. Here you can hear me play the tune associated with one of his most famous poems - O My Luve is like a Red, Red Rose. I am playing on the clàrsach or celtic/lever harp. Although bagpipes are an integral part of many Burns night celebrations, in fact the clàrsach is Scotland’s oldest national instrument. Pictish stones dating back to the 8th century feature pictures of the similar harps. It wasn’t until seven centuries later that the bagpipes made an appearance!


O My Luve is like a Red, Red Rose is often seen as one of Burns’ most perfect poems. At first, I though it was deceptively simple but the lyrics powerfully tackle the big themes of ever-lasting love across distance, time and eventually death. Bob Dylan said this poem was his greatest inspiration. It was adapted from a simple traditional song Burns had heard in the country. The poem was set to a number of tunes, including ‘Major Graham’ by famous Scottish fiddler Niel Gow. However, in the most popular version it paired with the tune of “Low Down in the Broom’ from a 1821 book called the ‘Scottish Minstrel’. This is the tune my arrangement here is based on.


I’ve also made a short video of the scenery around home over the last couple of days to go with the music. You will see January is far from dull. It’s my first go at doing a movie from clips on my phone so excuse any bumpiness!


I hope this has inspired you to enjoy Burns Night yourself. Although, things will be very different this year, www.scotland.org has ideas for BurnsNightIn including some great recipes for haggis or as the bard described it the ‘great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race’! See you again soon.



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