A Bard, The Three Craws and a wistful dram

Last year's Burns Night whisky selection!

Last Monday was Burns Night, a time to celebrate the life and works of Rabbie (Robert) Burns: a poet perhaps now as popularly celebrated for his outspokenness and irreverence to authority as his works - but his works ARE great - and witty and observant and heartfelt, and Burn’s Night is a great opportunity to revisit them.

In his lifetime (which ended early due to hard drinking) he not only wrote his own poetry and songs but also understood the importance of recording for posterity the songs around him. He was a huge contributor to James Johnson’s publications of the Scots Musical Museum, for which he travelled (unpaid) around Scotland transcribing the local verse that made up such an important part of Scottish culture.

In ordinary times, as a nation we celebrate this day with a big dinner, including ‘haggis, neeps and tatties’, reciting his poetry and raising many a dram (a whisky) to the bard; using his words to celebrate good food and drink, friendships and love and romance (it's hard not to dwell on thinking back to last year, which was such a blast!)

Last year's Blue Noun Burns Supper: invited Edinburgh artist Imogen shares as short poem in the style of Rabbie Burns.

Burns Night is also undoubtedly a day about being proud of our Scottish heritage - keeping things that would otherwise die out going: cultures and customs that at points during history have been oppressed - to the point of being made illegal and more subtly (including very recently) been labelled incorrect, wrong and inferior.

Young Blue is learning about the Scots language this week at School, and also about birds for the forthcoming RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

We’re combining both home learning themes with a look at some traditional Scottish Verse about birds. It’s likely some of which only exists thanks to the foresight of the people collecting it whilst it was still current language: perhaps even Burns himself played a part in the ones we were looking at.

Scots language is at last being taught more in school curriculum and its poetry celebrated - in part to improve pupil’s engagement and improve literacy, as well as to increase understanding of Scottish culture.

Here's our interpretation of the traditional Scottish song, ‘The Three Craws’. It is Young Blue’s homework - a recital of The Three Craws, but she’s didn’t want to perform it on camera so we came up with something else.

For those who don’t know, Scots is the collective name for the Scottish dialects - also known as ‘Doric’, ‘Lallans’ or by local names linked to place - ‘Dundonian’, ‘Glesca’ and ‘Shetland’. It has been spoken in Scotland for many centuries and is still spoken in many parts of the country, including the East and South, Highlands and Islands. It’s one of our three national ‘home’ languages (English and Gaelic being the other two).

Around Burns Night, most Scottish schools take at least a cursory dip into Scottish poetry and song. The Three Craws is widely known song for nursery-aged children. While the song has not changed in my lifetime, appreciation and respect for the ancient languages certainly have. Scottish schools still teach generic English language skills to their students, but now less at the expense of erasing away accents and dialects - and it less assumed that regional patterns of alternative grammar are ‘wrong’. It’s more helpful to point out the differences between English and Scots as formal and informal language. Undoubtedly everyone still needs the language skills to speak English correctly in certain contexts, but now it is more acceptable to create and express yourself in your own tongue.

So a belated happy Burns Nicht aabody!

Be proud of the beautiful language you inherit from your ancestors - whichever language and culture that may be.

Find out more about the Scots language here.

Find out more about Robert Burns and Burns Night here.

Join the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch here.

Live language learning!

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