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Highlight Talks

On selected days throughout the year the team at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and volunteers hold a Highlight Talk exploring the life and works of Robert Burns!

Highlight Talks

About Highlight Talks

6th March 2024
20th March 2024
3rd April 2024
plus 5 more date(s), see below for more info
2.30pm - 3.30pm
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
Murdochs Loan Alloway, Ayr KA7 4PQ
what3words location: backup.sleeps.until
Free but booking required
Call 01292443700
Visit the event website here

13th September: Scotland’s Other, William McGonagall: The World’s Worst Poet?
Stanley Sarsfield, Retired Cultural Coordinator at East Ayrshire Council, discusses Scotland’s Other, William McGonagall: The World’s Worst Poet? including how some of McGonagall’s best worst works are the verses he wrote in tribute to Scotland’s National Bard, Robert Burns. Hear and be amazed by McGonagall’s avoidance of poetic structures, metric insensitivity and daring efforts at rhyming couplets. Smiles and tears are guaranteed in equal measure.

27th September: The Power of Pee
John Rattenbury, Volunteer Guide Organiser at the Burrell Collection, presents The Power Of Pee. Urine is almost a magical substance. It has symbolic and mystical meaning, medical and health uses, and a vast array of applications in technical and scientific areas. Find out more about the power of pee!

1st October: The International Poet
JKL DUO perform and discuss their CD, The International Poet, instrumental interpretations and compositions based on songs by Robert Burns. JKL DUO are flautist, Kerry Lynch and guitarist, Jacopo Lazzaretti. The International Poet CD will be available, on the day, for sale at £10 each.

4th October: Bill Boyd - On Robert Fergusson
Bill Boyd, retired teacher & education consultant in "On Robert Fergusson" talks about the poet & the man who Robert Burns acknowledged as his inspiration. Fergusson was much admired amongst his contemporary 18th century writers but has often been called Scotland's forgotten poet.

18th October: Carolyn O'Hara, Sir John Steell, Ground-breaking Sculptor
Carolyn O'Hara's Sir John Steell, a Ground-breaking Sculptor, explains why, despite his ground-breaking work & global success, Steell is little known today, and lies in an unmarked grave in Edinburgh. Steell produced the white marble bust of Robert Burns found in Poet's Corner within Westminster Abbey.

1st November: Ken O'Hara in Aspects of Burns In Words & Music
Ken O'Hara, actor, artist & musician performs & interprets a selection of poems & songs by the Bard in - Aspects of Burns in Words & Music.

15th November: 15 November: David Dewar in Robert Burns, his Dumfriesshire Years
Playwright David Dewar in Robert Burns - his Dumfriesshire Years & his Landlord at Ellisland, Inventor Patrick Miller sets out the story of both men & how they relate to each other.

29th November: Alan Riach, Robert Burns: Radical Romantic
Alan Riach, Poet, Writer, Professor of Scots Literature at Glasgow University addresses Robert Burns: Radical Romantic.
At the heart of the storm created by the Enlightenment & Romanticism that tore through Scotland, Europe & indeed the whole western world, from around 1698 (the birth of Alasdair mac Maighstir Alasdair) to around 1850 (the death of Wordsworth), Burns was at the centre of a constellation of poets, in Gaelic, Scots & English, whose work spanned the era.

20th December: Prof David Purdie, What Killed Robert Burns & What Didn't
Professor David Purdie, co-editor of The Burns Encyclopaedia in - What Killed Robert Burns - And What Did Not? discusses the medical history of the Bard, what treatment he received, what took him from us at the age of 37, & attacks on his character launched by Press Obituaries & by his early biographers. The talk will be fully illustrated by images from the National Archives in Edinburgh.

10 January: Dr Morag Grant discusses Burns and 'Auld Lang Syne'
In her talk musicologist, Dr Morag Grant, discusses Burns and 'Auld Lang Syne'. 'Auld Lang Syne' is the most famous of all the songs associated with Burns - but to what extent is it Burns's song at all? This talk will look at how the song we now know today relates to a number of eighteenth-century predecessors, & how Burns transformed it. It will also consider what happened to the song after the poet's death, & the part played by a number of other people in helping it become one of the most well-known songs in the world.

24 January: Tom Barclay, The Great Burns Festival of 1844
Tom Barclay, retired Local History Librarian, takes us back to The Great Burns Festival of 1844 to explore how & why it was organised, what was involved, the spectacle it delivered & where it took place in Alloway & Ayr.

7th February: Hugh McMillan in The Leaves of the Years
Poet & writer, Hugh McMillan in The Leaves of the Years will explain & illustrate why Ayrshire born & educated Willie Neill was probably the finest poet writing in Dumfries & Galloway in the 20th century.

21st February: Catherine Czerkawska, Writing About Family History
Author & Playwrite Catherine Czerkawska talks through Writing About Family History: Pleasures, Problems & Pitfalls with reference to her book The Last Lancer: A Story of Loss & Survival in Poland & Ukraine.

6th March: L Bruce Keith presents Bridgescapes
Author L Bruce Keith presents Bridgescapes (based on his book of the same title), a journey through Scotland celebrating the country's bridge building heritage. References to & quotations from Robert Burns.

20 March: Joan McAlpine, Management of Burns's Legacy at Ellisland
Joan McAlpine, Project Director for the Robert Burns Ellisland Trust, in The Management of Robert Burns's Legacy at Ellisland discusses the exciting work, already undertaken & scheduled, to preserve & present the life & work of Scotland's National Bard at the farm, Museum & Heritage Centre there.

3rd April: G Wilson, MacGeorge Collection: Scottish Steamers in 1930s
Gordon Wilson, Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, illustrates & discusses The MacGeorge Collection: Scottish Steamers in the 1930s covering the variety of vessels, piers & operators to be seen in this, the heyday of Scottish steamers.

17th April: Jennifer Smith in The Scots Syntax Atlas
Jennifer Smith, Professor of Sociolinguistics at Glasgow University in the Scots Syntax Atlas considers how users of Scots, dialect of Scots & English with Scots variants structure sentences, phrases & words.

15th May: R Griffith, Glencairn Aisle & Ayrshire's Glorious Tombs
Roger Griffith discusses The Glencairn Aisle & Ayrshire's Glorious Tombs. A memorial plaque at the Glencairn Aisle, Kilmaurs commemorates James Cunningham, the 14th Earl of Glencairn, friend & patron of Robert Burns who is himself likely to have visited the Aisle on one of his journeys to visit Frances Dunlop. The other 'Glorious Tombs' existing at Ballantrae, Largs, Dunlop & Ayr will be mentioned in passing.

29th May: Gerry Carruthers in Robert Burns: The Ellisland Effect
Gerry Carruthers, Professor of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University, in Robert Burns: The Ellisland Effect examines the poet's time at Ellisland Farm & it's impact on his work.

12th June: Robert Crawford in Writing Robert Burns Biography
Robert Crawford, poet, scholar, critic, retired Professor of Literature at St Andrews University, in - Writing Robert Burns Biography- talks about what is involved in the enterprise of bringing Burns's life & work to the page. Robert Crawford's, The Bard, is an acclaimed example of the genre. It is recognised as doing Robert Burns a great service.

26th June: Dr Steven Reid, The Memorialisation of Mary Queen Of Scots
Dr Steven Reid, Glasgow University, in The Memorialisation of Mary Queen Of Scots discusses what preserves her memory & why. Robert Burns contributed to this phenomenon with his poem, Lament of Mary, Queen of Scots, On The Approach Of Spring.


Seats for these event can be booked in advance and for free on Eventbrite or by contacting the Museum. Any unreserved seats will be allocated on the day on a first come first served basis.

Additional Dates: 20 March 2024, 03 April 2024, 17 April 2024, 15 May 2024, 29 May 2024, 12 June 2024, 26 June 2024

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