Robert Burns manuscripts go on show in one-day exhibition of poems

Original manuscripts of two iconic poems by Scotland’s national bard have gone on display for just four hours as people around the world mark Burns Night.

Holy Willie’s Prayer (1785) from the National Library of Scotland (NLS) and The Ordination: A Scotch Poem (1786) from the Mitchell Library are on show side-by-side for the first time in many years in a display at Kelvin Hall in Glasgow.

The works are said to contain some of Burns’ most provocative social commentary, both exploring the use and misuse of religious power in 18th-century Scotland.

The free exhibition, organised in partnership with the Mitchell Library in Glasgow started at 11am on Friday, with a 3pm close.

Robert McLean, curator of 18th Century Manuscripts at NLS in Edinburgh, said: “We’ve chosen these ones because they’re iconic Burns works.

“Holy Willie’s Prayer in particular is one of Burns’s greatest satires, basically exposing the hypocrisy of key individuals within the Scottish church and people that misuse religion for their own ends and I think that has resonance for members of the public today who might want to come and have a look at those manuscripts.

“They’re on display between 11 and 3 o’clock.

“The reason for the shortness of the display is two reasons, first of all conservation, we only have them on a short display in order to preserve them for future generations to come and enjoy Burns’s poems but also because Holy Wullie’s Prayer at the National Library is a national treasure, it has special security arrangements which means that we can only have it on display for a short time and then we have to transport it back to Edinburgh.”

Robert Burns anniversary
Robert Burns anniversary

Robert Burns fans around the world are celebrating the 260th anniversary of his birth with a traditional supper on January 25.

As people prepare to toast the Bard with a dram of whisky, a bottle of single malt that was distilled shortly after the end of the Second World War has sold at auction for £18,000.

The Macallan 1946 Select Reserve 52 years old was expected to fetch around £8,000 at McTear’s Rare and Fine Whisky Auction in Glasgow but sold for a hammer price of £14,000 on Friday with buyer’s premium and VAT taking it up to £18,000.

Meanwhile, in Dumfries, the Big Burns Supper festival is celebrating the value of coming together, inspired by the Bard, with music, theatre, comedy and cabaret events between January 24 and February 3.

This year, the festival features a significant LGBTQ focus and champions artists and performances from the community.

Ben Macpherson MSP, Minister for Europe, International Development and Europe, said: “Burns Night is one of Scotland’s most well-known and best-loved national days, celebrated by millions around the world.

“This is a chance for us to come together every year, celebrate Burns’s poetry and affirm some of our country’s most important values – fairness, equality and internationalism.

“I am pleased to see the Big Burns Supper festival mark the Bard’s 260th birthday by championing LGBTQ artists and rights.

“This year’s theme focuses not solely on the Bard’s legacy but also on a collective spirit of inclusion, equality and community, all so important to a modern Burns supper.”