The work of Robert Burns has reached far and wide into the world with surprising connections around the globe.
When asked what his greatest creative inspiration was, American music legend Bob Dylan, named Burns’ ‘A Red, Red Rose’, the lyrics of which had inspired him more than any other source in his life.
The oldest existing Statue of Burns is believed to be in Camperdown, Australia. Carved by John Greenshields in the 1830s, it was shipped to Australia in the 1850s and has remained there since.
The Canadian National Anthem: ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’, was written by Alexander Muir in 1867 and is believed to have drawn some inspiration from the tune of ‘A Red, Red Rose’.
Auld Lang Syne is considered a song of friendship in China. Known as Yi Di Jiu Tian Chang (Friendship Forever and Ever) with the same sentiment as the original but some differences in the lyrics. The song is played at graduations, formal gatherings and parties rather than at New Year. The link can be traced back to a 1940’s Hollywood movie called ‘Waterloo Bridge’ which was hugely popular in China after the Second World War. The love story features a beautiful scene of the two stars dancing to Auld Lang Syne.
Burns’ ‘My Heart’s in the Highlands’ was translated and adopted as the marching song of the Chinese resistance fighters in the Second World War.
Pedestrian crossings in Japan play a rendition of Burns’ ‘Coming Through The Rye’ to indicate it is safe to cross.
The city of Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, is home to a life-sized replica of the Alloway Cottage which Burns was born in. It was Built by the Burns Club of Atlanta in 1911 and still stands today. The interior of the cottage is also a close replica, divided in to the traditional three areas: butt, ben and byre.
The town of Mosgiel, near Dunedin in New Zealand, is named after Burns’ farm in Ayrshire
In Imperial Russia Burns was translated into Russian and became a source of inspiration for the ordinary, oppressed Russian people – he became known as ‘the people’s poet’ of Russia. The former Soviet Union was the first country in the world to honour Burns with a commemorative stamp in 1956, marking the 160th anniversary of the poet’s death. The first British stamp featuring the bard was not until 25th January 1966.
American President, Abraham Lincoln, had a lifelong admiration for the work of Robert Burns, with some claiming that the poet’s work had a key role in helping Lincoln win the American Civil War and abolish slavery. He could recite his poems by heart. America’s 18th President, Ulysses S Grant, was also a big fan – making a trip to Ayr to pay homage to Robert Burns and often quoting Burns’ poems during battle in the civil war.
The Bard’s songs were popular with those keen to abolish the institution of slavery. He was often quoted by American Abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Also Martin Luther King, who used Burns’ “Man’s inhumanity to man” line in one of his speeches in 1966.
Robert Burns was the eldest of seven children and fathered twelve, so it’s no wonder he has at least one notable descendant; American Fashion Designer Tommy Hilfiger. However, he said it was never discussed among his family as they were embarrassed by the connection due to tales of Burns’ drinking and womanising.
There are Burns Clubs scattered across the globe, but the very first one, known as The Mother Club, was founded in Greenock in 1801. There are now more than 250 around the world connected to the Robert Burns World Federation.
Please note: the gardens at this location are free to visit, and are open 10am-4.30pm daily.
Written by: Toria Cassidy
Illustrations by: Toria Cassidy
Audio by: Elisha Bennison
Audio recording and mixing by: Scott Andrew