Burns Night at the Museum with Special Collections and Archives

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We had a brilliant Friday night on 22nd January at the Hunterian’s Burns Night at the Musuem. This event celebrated the birth of The Bard and included a Burns poetry trail based on the Museum collections, fantastic musical acts, poetry readings, and even some free whisky and caramel wafers!

Hundreds of guests enjoyed the collections at night, against a backdrop of atmospheric lighting, and we brought along some very special Burns items from the Library collections to display for the occasion.

The Kilmarnock Edition (SP Coll 21)

The Kilmarnock Edition (SP Coll 21)

Guests were treated to a viewing of the ‘Kilmarnock edition‘, the first published edition of Burns’ work, printed and issued by John Wilson of Kilmarnock on 31st July 1786. This work, Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect, succeeded instantly, selling out its run of six hundred copies within a month, and this volume was presented to the Library by George Macfarlane, 1921. This is one of two ‘Kilmarnock editions‘, that Special Collections in the University of Glasgow holds.

The excise officer’s pocket companion (SP Coll BE4-y.25)

The excise officer’s pocket companion (SP Coll BE4-y.25)

Another very special volume we had on show was ‘The excise officer’s pocket companion‘ that belonged to Robert Burns himself. This volume was a companion of his daily business as an excise man. The volume was presented to Mr Watt, a surgeon in Demerara, by Robert Burns, eldest son of the Bard, and was donated to the University Library in 1933 by G. H. Eddington. This can be found in Special Collections with the reference, Sp Coll BE4-y.25.

The third case we had on display was  filled with items from Drybrough & Co Ltd, a brewing firm who used the image of Burns to promote their products. Drybrough & Co Ltd was a firm that had been brewing in Lothian for some time already by 1750 and the firm expanded over time. The brewers manufactured a type of ale called ‘Burns Ale’ and used the image of The Bard to promote their brand. They produced beer mats with extracts from Burns’ works and they even published a special Drybrough Burns Songbook. Burns ale was clearly a popular choice in pubs and it won second prize in the 1950 Brewers’ Exhibition. You can find out more about the Drybrough brewery on the on-line catalogue.

The evening was a great success and a great tribute to the Scottish Poet. You can find out more about the University of Glasgow’s Links to Robert Burns on our source guide here.

Find out how else the University is celebrating Burns on this webpage, for example, you can see a University-wide rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in this video , while the Centre for Robert Burns Studies is launching their Robert Burns MOOC today!

Drybrough Burns items (D11/10/8 & D12/3/5)

Drybrough Burns items (D11/10/8 & D12/3/5)

If you would like to consult either of the volumes we had on display you can do so by visiting Special Collections and you can e-mail: special@lib.gla.ac.uk, for any enquiries.

If you’d like to see the records of Drybrough Brewery, you can make an appointment at the Archives by emailing: archives@glasgow.ac.uk.

Happy Burns Night all!



Categories: Archive Services, Special Collections

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