Rabbie Burns in Storn o’way

13 08 2009

Rabbie Burns

As many of you will be aware, Rabbie Burns worked as a Customs and Excise Man for several years before finding fame and fortune as a National Bard.

As part of his training for the Customs job, he was dispatched to various parts of Scotland, to gain experience of the varied and many types of smuggler he may come across.

The young Burns found himself posted to Stornoway in 1779 for a six month period, armed with only his quill and inkpot. He worked from the old Custom House on the pier (where the present day Custom House now stands) as part of a counter-smuggling squad. The squad would spend the day sailing up and down the Minch catching guga smugglers and ensuring that the excise Duty on Uig chessmen sets was being paid.

During his time off, Burns explored the island of Lewis and must have gained inspiration from the Hebrides (and from its womenfolk) for many of his most famous poems and songs. It is understood that Burns composed many of his early drafts whilst living in his digs on Kenneth Street, where his mews drew on the many characters and events that the town of Stornoway had to offer. These first drafts formed the basis for Burns more famous poems and songs which gradually saw the light of day as his fame grew.

His early drafts included:,

Address to a Marag

Tam O’Shader

A Coves a cove for a’that

The Rigs o’ Charlie Barley

The Twa Sheep Dogs

Tam O’Shader (Barvas)

When all the Siarochs leave the street
And go to Charlie Barleys for some meat
As all the shops are closing down
And maws begin to leave the town
While we sit boozing in the Star
And getting drunk after many’s a jar
We think not on the long Barvas Road
The moor and bog with heavy load
That lies between us and our home
Where sits our grumpy, frumpy, blone
Gathering her wool from her flocks
Busy knitting bobban socks

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One response

13 08 2009
sarah

Not forgetting “The Bonnie Lass of Ballantrushal”, “The Berks of Sandwick Road” and the very moving “Malcolmina, Mistress of my Soul”

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