robert burns, scottish poet and mason at rosslyn chapel
Robert Rabbie Robbie Burns Freemason
Scottish Poet and Mason
Robert Burns has always held a special place in the hearts of Scots and Masons, and he was proud of being both. This look into his life was shared in our lodge, and if you would like to pass it along to your lodge, feel free to do so. —Editor
Burns, as he was known to his countrymen, was born in 1759 near the town of
Ayr in western Scotland, the son of a tenant farmer. In those years, young
Burns lived close to the land and Scottish traditions, moving to a farm near
Tarbolton when he was 18. It was there that Rabbie became a Mason, being initiated into
Lodge St. David
Tarbolton on 4 July 1781. He was passed and raised in the Lodge on the 1st
of October that year.
had been writing poetry since the age of 15, but it was five years after he
joined the brothers at Tarbolton that his first works were published. It was
a hefty book called Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, and six
months after it came out, he was the talk of all Scotland. After much
urging, he came to Edinburgh to be celebrated in the social circles of that
After one such all-night session, Rabbie walked from Edinburgh to Rosslyn, a distance of some six miles. His purpose was to see the sun come up at Rosslyn Chapel. Accompanied by a fellow Mason -- Alexander Nasmyth, the renowned Scottish painter -- Rabbie made the walk that night. He arrived in front of Rosslyn Chapel and the nearby Roslin Inn just as they became bathed in the reddish glow of dawn. The desired deed done, he repaired to the Inn for breakfast. There he was said to have shown his appreciation for the meal by scratching a short poem on a pewter plate. Brother Nasmyth, who had accompanied him on the impulsive journey, was the one who later painted the famous portrait of Rabbie Burns. It has become the world’s most popular image of Scotland’s poet and favorite son.
One of Rabbie’s best-known poems, set to the tune of a traditional folk song, was called Auld Lang Syne. Sung at the stroke of midnight to begin the new year, the title means Old Long Since. It takes place in a bar as men of good will talk about old times. (Some of you may be able to relate to that). These are the first and last verses, slightly translated into clear English.
auld acquaintance be forgot,
there’s a hand my trusty friend !
Freemasons remember old friends. Brothers in the Lodge give you attention if you are seriously ill. They celebrate when you have been a Mason for 25 years, and again at fifty years. They gladly gather around when you have a personal accomplishment. Like Rabbie Burns said, "There’s a hand my trusty friend." In the Lodge you are always remembered.
By Sanford Holst, as presented to Home Lodge No. 721, published online at www.MasonicSourcebook.com, 30 April 2009.
If you pass this piece of Masonic history on to others, please credit the source.
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Rosslyn Chapel entrance
shown in 2008 photo
by S. Holst
Roslin Inn, now called
College Hill House, as seen
from Rosslyn Chapel
Robert (Rabbie) Burns
was also shown in this
by Alexander Nasmyth