In Scotland and around the world, January 25th was Burns Night. Copious amounts of whiskey are required, but it’s not called “Burns Night” because of the way the whiskey burns your throat. No, it’s named for the man to whom the glasses are raised: the poet Robert Burns. Rabbie Burns was born on that day in 1759 and, in a short 37-year life, he became a Scottish icon. The ploughman’s poet.
We did Burns Night up big in the Carlisle household. We followed almost all of the traditions. We recited our favorite Burns poems, ate cock-a-leekie soup, and toasted the lassies (which would be me, as I’m the only lassie in our house.) One tradition, we neglected. Call me squeamish, but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat haggis. Sorry, Rabbie! I’m a bitter disappointment to my Scottish forebears.
I have always been intrigued by Robert Burns and the passion he inspires in the Scots. They are very protective of their Rabbie. He was a man of the people, an everyman who rose to esteem in the eyes of laborers and aristocrats because he could turn a phrase. He worked his father’s fields and then took the time to write an ode to a mouse whose nest he disturbed. Randy Rabbie wrote many a poem to the women he encountered. He even wrote a poem called ‘The Fornicator.’
You can see why I find him so fascinating.
I’m not alone. 250 years later, the Freemasons of the Robert Burns Society consider it their mission to uphold the poet’s good name.
Rich fodder for a fiction writer’s imagination. And I’m all about the fodder. My latest book, If Books Could Kill, is set in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is my favorite city in the world, in large part because of the colorful Scots. They do everything with great passion, so setting a murder mystery there felt like a natural fit. Plus, there’s the whole city-under-a-city mystique. I once visited a modern-day pub that was built right on top of an ancient pub, and the bartender gave us an underground tour. I still get chills when I think of that dark, spooky place.
At the center of my mystery is a rumor about Robert Burns, himself. An 18th Century sex scandal that 21st Century Scots are desperate to squelch, at any cost. This scandal is completely fictional, but is based on the character traits that I learned about Robert Burns during my extensive research. It was great fun to create a fictional history for a real-life character.
If I should go missing, please tell the police to question the members of the Robert Burns Society. I fully expect to be kidnapped as punishment for taking his name in vain.
In your opinion, who are the sexiest men of history? Why? Let's dish about those yummy historical figures! The photos here are Robert Craig Burns and George Craig Washington. Had to give you some eye candy!