Radio listener by Jim Gilchrist

’Tis the season of haggis evisceration once again...

Radio Scotland gets into the spirit of things as singer and actress Lorraine McIntosh goes IN SEARCH OF HIGHLAND MARY. As she strives to unravel bardolatry from fact concerning the young Gaelic-speaking girl who supposedly agreed to emigrate with Robert Burns to a new life in the West Indies then died, possibly in childbirth, she brings a singer’s insight to the poet’s portrayal of Mary in verse and song.

Victorian biographers were embarrassed by the Highland Mary connection, seeing it as a stain on their “Heaven-taught” ploughman’s reputation. Then in the 1930s, when Catherine Carswell published her ground-breakingly frank account of the poet’s life, her suggestion that Mary might have been pregnant with Burns’s child brought her a bullet through the post and an invitation to “make the world a cleaner place”.

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For his part, Murray Pittock, Bradley Professor of English Literature at Glasgow University tells McIntosh that Burns and Campbell could only have known each other for two or three weeks at most – a surprisingly short acquaintance for such an enduring, if debatable, romantic legacy.

Meanwhile, over on Radio 4, BURNS AND THE BANKERS, sees Sophie Thomson, Greg Wise, John Sessions and Peter Forbes enact Helen Simpson’s tale (dramatised by Liz Lochhead) of how a corporate Burns supper inspires one guest with a new self-knowledge and the ability to weather the event’s increasingly dramatic events.

Burns’s observation that “Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn” was never so appallingly exemplified as in the Nazi death camps. THE HIDDEN GRAVES OF THE HOLOCAUST sees Jonathan Charles given unique access to the team of British forensic archaeologists using state-of-the-art imaging technology in the first co-ordinated attempt to locate the remains of victims of the Treblinka camp in Poland, where more than 800,000 Jews were exterminated between 1942 and 1943.

Charles also interviews one of the few remaining survivors of the camp, Kalman Taigman, who has devoted his last years to preserving the memory of those who perished.

In Search of Highland Mary

Wednesday, Radio Scotland, 2:05pm

Burns and the Bankers

Wednesday, Radio 4, 2:15pm

The Hidden Graves of the Holocaust

Monday, Radio 4, 8pm

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