Robert Burns' Ae Fond Kiss manuscript to go on show

The fragile original manuscript of one of Robert Burns' most famous love songs is to go on public display in Glasgow for the first time for just two hours to celebrate Burns Day next week.

The first page of the letter Robert Burns wrote to Agnes McLehose containing the song Ae Fond Kiss. Picture: PA

The manuscript of Ae Fond Kiss, which Burns wrote for Mrs Agnes McLehose in December 1791 as she prepared to depart for Jamaica in an attempt at a reconciliation with her estranged husband, is regarded as one of the greatest love songs of all time.

It expresses the poet’s despair at the end of their platonic affair, during which they mostly corresponded by letters using the pseudonyms Clarinda and Sylvander.

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The song, which is one of the most recorded of all Burns’s songs, has the famous opening lines “Ae fond kiss, and then we sever; Ae fareweel, and then forever!”

The National Library of Scotland is inviting people to go along and get a rare chance to see a famous Robert Burns love song in his own handwriting.

It will go on show at the National Library at Kelvin Hall in Argyle Street, Glasgow, the city were McLehose was born.

Viewing time is being limited due to the need to restrict the amount of time the 266-year-old document is exposed to the light. It can be seen from 1:30pm, and entry is free of charge.

Dr Ralph McLean, manuscripts curator at the National Library, said: “Burns’s love songs and poems are famous around the world and Ae Fond Kiss is one of his best known works.

“We are pleased to be able to offer people in Glasgow the opportunity to see the original version that Burns composed for Agnes.”

Burns and McLehose met for the last time in December 1791 and he sent her the song a few weeks later.

They never saw each other again although McLehose remembered the day of their parting forever. At the age of 72, she wrote in her journal on 6 December 1831: “This day I never can forget. Parted with Burns, in the year 1791, never more to meet in this world. Oh may we meet in Heaven.”

Married to a Glasgow lawyer at the age of 18, Mrs McLehose had four children in the first four years of marriage. She left her husband shortly afterwards, complaining mental cruelty and moved to Edinburgh.