Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Burns on your iphone

Discover Robert Burns' Edinburgh connections  with a new trail available now on the EWH iphone app.

Jan 22, 2016

The new trail reveals an intriguing new angle on Burns in Edinburgh – his close companions buried in the historic graveyards of the World Heritage Site.

In 1786, riding a borrowed pony, Robert Burns arrived in Edinburgh. His 13-month stay proved one of the most important and eventful periods in his short life. The trail will introduce you to life-long friends Burns made in the capital and uncover some of the ties between his Ayrshire home and Edinburgh society.

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The trail has 15 locations and includes Greyfriars, Canongate and St Cuthbert’s Kirkyards and Old and New Calton burying grounds. Among the highlighted connections are:

William Smellie - A master printer and publisher, Smellie printed the second 'Edinburgh' edition of Burns' poems and introduced him to the Crochallan Fencibles, a notorious drinking club he had founded. A sketch poem by Burns describes his rather unkempt appearance, remarking on his 'wild grizzly locks', but concludes affectionately: ‘Yet tho' his caustic wit was biting-rude, His heart was warm, benevolent, and good.’

Alexander Nasmyth - A leading society portrait painter of his day, Nasmyth painted Burn’s portrait to illustrate the first Edinburgh Edition of his verses. Nasmyth’s original painting of the poet now hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, having been gifted to the nation by Burns’ son.

Robert Ainslie - Burns greatly enjoyed Ainslie’s carefree attitude to life and his love of wine, women and song. Burns warmly summed up their friendship in a letter dated 23rd July 1787, writing 'I have not a friend upon earth, besides yourself, to whom I can talk nonsense without forfeiting some degree of his esteem'.

William Woods - The English actor William Woods was a great friend of the poet Robert Fergusson, often gifting him free theatre seats. Burns wrote the prologue for his benefit night on 16 April 1787. Opening 'When by a generous Public's kind acclaim', it celebrated Scotland’s leading role in the Enlightenment, becoming a tribute not so much to a man but to the nation.

Agnes Maclehose - The poetess Agnes Maclehose arrived in Edinburgh to escape an unhappy marriage. Introduced to Robert Burns, an instantaneous mutual attraction ensued and they enjoyed an (unconsummated) affair largely by letter. She inspired one of the most famous lines of Burns’ poetry, ‘Ae fond kiss, and then we sever; Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!’

Find out more about Edinburgh's historic graveyards and the EWH community project to conserve and interpret New Calton graveyard.

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