As many lodges will be celebrating Burns Night soon, I thought I would write a brief biopic of one of my favourite poets. Robert Burns, poet, Scotsman, and Freemason, was born on 25th January, 1759, in Alloway near Ayr in the south-west of Scotland. The eldest of seven children, Robert Burns (born Burness) became a bard that captured Scottish history and legend alike, using Scottish dialect and humour in his poetry, Burns combining elements of his Jacobite sympathies with Jacobin politics of his time. It was Alloway that he set one of his most famous poems Tam o’ Shanter, the poem displaying themes of the occult, having a drunken Tan watching a group of witches and warlocks dancing with the Devil.
Burns became a Freemason after joining St David’s Lodge No. 174 in Tarbolton in 1781, the poet taking his Freemasonry very seriously, joining a total of six lodges during his short life. By 1784 Burns was ‘Depute Master’ of St. James’ Lodge No. 178 (now No. 135), which also met in Tarbolton. He entered into the Royal Arch in 1787, became a member of St. Andrew’s Lodge No. 179 in Dumfries, and also became poet laureate of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2.
It was only natural that the philosophy of Freemasonry filtered into his poetry, and this can be seen in several of his poems, such as Libel Summons, which tells the story of two brothers in court, one for hypocrisy and lying, the other for neglecting his duties, the poem having deep moral overtones that hint at Masonic values. Burns’ The Masonic Song was presented to Lodge Canongate Kilwinning and many brethren were subscribers to his poetry collections, his most famous work Auld Lang Syne conveying the love and cemented bond of brotherhood around the world. Burns died on the 21st July, 1796, caused by a rheumatic heart condition.