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Scottish Poet and Freemason: Robert Burns

Robert Burns

Freemasonry has no greater name in its ranks, other than that of Robert Burns (Rabbie Burns). Higher tribute there is none for any man to say, justly, that the world is gentler and more joyous for his having lived; and that may truly be said of Robert Burns, whose very name is an emblem of pity, joy and brotherly love.

Robert Burns was born on the 25th January 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland in a two roomed cottage, the home of a tenant farmer. His parents being William Burnes and Agnes Broun, who ran a small market garden.

In 1766, William Burnes faced a dilemma, he could no longer earn enough to support his growing family. The family set up home at Mount Oliphant Farm, a few miles down the road. It was at this time, William saw to it that his gifted son Robert received some form of education. By the spring of 1777 the family left Mount Oliphant before William faced financial ruin, and moved to Lochlea Farm.

The problems faced by William Burnes and other farmers at that time, was the short lease system, granted to farmers. If a farmer improved his land, he would find the rent would increase when it was time to renew his lease. So it was, they attempted to scrape a living from the poor soil, as best they could. William Burnes was one of these farmers.

On the 4th July 1781, aged just twenty-two Burns was initiated into the mysteries of Freemasonry at St.David’s Lodge, Tarbolton as an Apprentice. The Second and Third degrees were conferred upon him that very night following his initiation.

In February 1781, peasant farmer William Burnes died. Robert and his brother Gilbert rented the farm of Mossgiel, from lawyer Gavin Hamilton. Robert would spend little time on the farm, he let his brother Gilbert take over the running of it, as he spent more time on his writing and love of women.

On the 27th July 1784, Burns was elected Depute Master of St.James Lodge at Tarbolton, a position he held until St.John’s Day 1788.

In 1785 Robert Burns had an affair with household servant, one Elizabeth Paton, which bore a child out of wedlock.

In 1785/86 Robert Burns had an affair with Jean Armour, resulting in the birth of twins in 1786, much to her father’s displeasure. The couple announced they be married, but Jean was forced into requesting an annulment by her father.

In 1786 Robert Burns released his book of “Kilmarnock Poems” which received much praise from his critics and public alike. In the same year he moved to Edinburgh as his fame as a poet grew, where he mingled within literary circles.

On the 26th October 1786, Burns was made an honary member of St.John’s Lodge, Kilmarnock, with the designation of being a “Poet.” Major William Parker master of the lodge, became a great friend of Burns, to the point of subscribing to thirty-five copies of his collection of poems.

In 1787 Burns was made a Royal Arch Mason in Eyemouth

With fame as a poet, Jean Armour’s Mason father consented to an official marriage between Robert Burns and Jean Armour in 1788.

Success was short lived, but Burns the poet had a family to support, and so in 1791 relocated to Dumfries to take up the position of an excise officer.

Burns had another love, collecting and composing traditional Scottish songs. He will always be remembered for his composition “ Auld Lang Syne” sung across the world, in celebration of New Year.

Robert Burns, famed Scottish poet died in Dumfries in 1796 at the age of 37. He lived for the day, his love was writing, women and drink, leaving behind a trail of illegitimate children and broken relationships.

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One thought on “Scottish Poet and Freemason: Robert Burns

  1. Pingback: Scottish Poet: Robert Burns | Roger Bussey

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