Global appeal of the Bard endures with 2,500 Burns Suppers plotted on world map

He spoke simply from the heart, his messages seemingly universal.

A painting of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth.

Now, the appeal of Robert Burns around the world continues to endure with more than 2,500 Burns Suppers planned for this later month plotted on a new map.

The celebrations of the bard’s birthday have been tracked by a research project at Glasgow University with academics asking Burns Clubs and Scots across the world to join a virtual Burns Night on 25 January by sharing photos and details of their suppers and toasts using the hashtag #VirtualBurnsNight.

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The new interactive map – part of The Burns Supper in History and Today project – features Burns Suppers across five continents and gives an inventory of their menus, settings, entertainments, and orders of ceremony.

This is the broadest, most detailed record of Burns Night activities ever made by the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, the largest concentration of Burns experts in the world.

But researchers hope that their call to Scots to join in their #VirtualBurnsNight will help expand the map and their research project even further.

Since the first supper was held in July 1801 by the bard’s close friends as a memorial dinner it has morphed into a global event celebrating Scotland’s distinctive heritage and culture.

Professor Gerard Carruthers, Co-Director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies (CBRS) based at the University’s College of Arts, and principal investigator on the The Burns Supper in History and Today project, said: “Robert Burns is global writer whose life and work have given rise to one of the great world cultural phenomena – the Burns Supper.

"At the heart of this celebration of Scotland’s national bard is his word – from poetry to song. And this Burns Night 2021, due to a global pandemic, many of us won’t physically be able to come together.

“In a testimony to the bard’s ensure appeal not only in Scotland but around the world, we are calling Scots, at home and abroad, and lovers of Burns to join with us in Glasgow to virtually celebrate and map this global impact and appeal.

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“Burns speaks strongly to people through his words which still have resonance right up to today not just in Scotland.”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Burns Night is one of Scotland’s most well-known and best loved celebrations, enjoyed here and across the world. Although we are unable to meet up physically this year, we can still come together and continue the traditions of Burns Night from the safety of home.”

The History of the Burns Supper project will build on the pioneering work of Dr Clark McGinn, an advisor on the project.

The project will be part of the celebrations to mark the 220th anniversary of the first Burns Supper – held in Burns Cottage, Alloway on the 21 July 1801 commemorating the date of the bard’s passing rather than his birth.

Those friends met again, as did the founders of Greenock Burns Club, holding the first public Burns Supper on 29 January 1802, getting the poet’s date of birthday wrong by four days.

Today it is estimated that over nine and a half million people around the world take part in a Burns Supper every year.

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