Why Edinburgh’s St James Square should have memorial to Robert Burns – Angus Robertson

Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard, spent much of his time in St James Square when he lived in Edinburgh, writes Angus Robertson.

Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 6:00 am

It’s been a while since I have done an Immortal Memory to Robert Burns. It was a joy, however, to give the address at the Edinburgh SNP Club on North St Andrews Street.

Rather than recycle standard material I thought I would focus on the particular connections between the national Bard and Edinburgh.

It’s very well known that he spent two years in the Capital from 1786 to 1788, where he first lived off the Royal Mile in Baxter Close overlooking Lady Stairs House, the current Scottish Writers Museum.

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Reminders of Robert Burns can also be found on Calton Road where the Burns Monument stands, overlooking the Canongate Kirk with its memorial to Clarinda, his close friend Agnes Maclehose who was the muse for Ae fond kiss.

While Burns was in the Capital, the Edinburgh Edition of his work was printed, including 17 extra poems and five new songs, such a: To a Haggis (better known as The Address to the Haggis), The Address to Edinburgh, John Barleycorn and Green Grow the Rashes.

While in Edinburgh, Robert Burns collaborated in a project to collate traditional folk music of Scotland. The Scots Musical Museum had six volumes with 100 songs in each. The collection became popular internationally, and songs and tunes were arranged by composers such as Joseph Hayden and Ludwig van Beethoven.

What I did not know is that Burns spent much of his time living in St James Square, which was sadly demolished in the 1960s owing to its rundown state.

It would be nice to think that after the site is redeveloped, that there will be a fitting memorial there to commemorate the Edinburgh days of Robert Burns.