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A chronology of Robert Burns (Burness), his life and works
ROBERT BURNS | POET LAUREATE | SELECTED POETRY
1759 Born 25th January, at Alloway, near Ayr, Scotland, to William and Agness Burness.   William, a market gardner, from Kincardineshire.   Agness (nee Brown), a farmer’s daughter, from Carrick, Ayrshire.   Robert was the first of seven children, (three boys and four girls).
1765
age 6
Robert and his brother Gilbert attend school at Alloway Mill.   There he obtained a good grounding in English language and literature, under the tutelage of John Murdoch.   At home the Burness spoke lowland Scots.
1766 William Burness rents the farm of Mount Oliphant, two miles south-east of Alloway.
1769
age 10
After John Murdoch left, an older lady, Betty Davidson, staying with the Burness, helped inspire Robert by introducing him her many tales, songs, ghost stories and historical and legendary lore.
1770
age 11
Robert is taught arithmetic, geography, natural history, Christian doctrine and English literature, by his father.
1773
age 14
Robert moves to Ary, to board with Mr. Murdoch where he revises his English grammar and learns some French and Latin.
  Poem: Once I Loved a bonnie lass     (one of his first poems)
1774 Song: Handsome Nell
1775 Song: O Tibbie, I hae seen the day
1776
age 17
Robert is introducted to the writings of Shakespeare, and other English authors.
1777
age 18
Robert and his brother Gilbert help their father manage a farm in Lochlea, in the parish of Tarbolton, (7 miles from Ary), after moving from the farm in Mount Oliphant.
1778 Poem: The Tarbolton Lasses
1780
age 21
Robert and several of his friends establish the Bachelors' Club, a village debating society.
1781
age 22
Robert is initiated a freemason on 4 July and passed and raised on 1 October, in Saint David's Lodge No. 174 (re-opened as Lodge St David (Tarbolton) Mauchline No. 133).
1782
age 23
Founding member on 17 June 1782 of Lodge Saint David’s, Tarbolton.   (now known as Lodge Tarbolton [Kilwinning] St. James No. 135).
Robert travels to Irvine to learn flax-dressing, but the venture fails.   He returns to Lochlea, to deal with his father’s financial problems of rent arrears.   Robert continues with his writing.
1783 Poem: A Prayer in the Prospect of Death
1784
age 25
27 July, Burns elected Depute Master of Lodge St. James, Tarbolton.
Robert’s father died.   The family moves to Mossgiel Farm near Mauchline, Ayrshire.   It is there that Robert meets his future wife, "Bonnie Jean", Jean Armour.
  Poems: Epitaph on my ever honoured Father       Man was made to mourn (a Dirge)
1785 Poem:
Song:
Poems:
Holy Willie’s Prayer,     The Jolly Beggars,     Scotch Drink,     The Twa Dogs
Rantin', Rovin' Robin
Hallowe'en,     To a Mouse,     Adress to the Deil
1786
age 27
Robert and his brother Gilbert agree in contract to shorten their name from Burness to Burns, (which was the more common form around Ayrshire).   In August, Robert published his first volume of poems, the Kilmarnock Edition, all 612 printed copies sold within a month.   Mr. Armour repudiates the marriage and Robert and Jean Armour separate.   Jean, who is pregnant, is sent to Paisley.   Robert thinks about going to Jamaica.   He meets Margaret Campbell, "Highland Mary", and pledges his troth to her.   She dies in October, in Greenock.   This was a great blow to Robert, and in November he returns to Edinburgh.   There with the assistance of Ayrshire Freemasons, like Sir John Whiteford and James Dalrymple, Robert is introduced to leading members of Edinburdh’s society, (including William Creek, a book-seller and publisher).   These friendships lead to establishing a drinking club in Dawney Douglas’s tavern in Anchor Close.
  Poems:
Poems:
Poems:
Poems:
Address to the Unco Guid,     To a louse,     The Holy Fire
To a Mountain Daisy,     My Highland Lassie, O,     The Brigs of Ayr
Lines written on a Bank Note,     Stanzas on Naething
Address to Edinburgh,     Address to a Haggis
1787
age 28
Robert publishes his second volume of poems, the Edinburgh Edition, 21st April.   This edition has 22 new poems in addition to the Kilmarnock volume - including the Address to a Haggis; 3,000 copies were printed, with copyright signed over to Creech, for 100 guineas.   Robert spends a great deal of his time travelling.   He leaves Scotland of the first time, upon crossing into England, he kneels and with uplifted arms, he makes a prayer for Scotland, (the last two lines in The Cotter’s Saturday Night).   On his return, he travelled into the Scotish’s Highlands.   Upon returning to Edinburgh, Roberts meets Mrs. Agnes McLehose, the "Clarinda" of his love letters.   Robert also writes his Autobiography.
  Poems:
Poems:
Poems:
Elegy on the death of Sir James Hunter Blair,     Lines of the Fall of Foyers
Birthday Ode
(for Prince Charles Edward Stuart)
Clarinda (Mrs. A. M'Lehose),     The Cotter’s Saturday Night
1788
age 29
Robert leased the farm of Ellisland, (six miles north of Dumfries), on the banks of the River Nith.   In April marries Jean Armour.
  Poems:
Song:
The Chevalier’s Lament,     O were I on Parnassus Hill
Auld Lang Syne
1789
age 30
Robert secured an appointed an exciseman for the area.  
  Poems:
Songs:
Poems:
The wounded hare,     John Anderson, my Jo
Ca'the Yowes to the Knowes,     Farewell to the Highlands
To Mary in Heaven,     Adress to the Toothache
1790 Poems: The Gowden Locks of Anna,     Tom O’shanter (considered his best poem)
1791
age 32
Robert moves to Dumfries.   Over the course of his final years, he helped publish many lovely Scottish songs and tunes, without remuneration.
  Poems:
Songs:
Poems:
Song:
On the Birth of a posthumous Child,     Lament on Mary, Queen of Scots
The Banks O'Doon - Ye Banks and Braes O'bonnie Doon,     Sweet Afton
A Grace before Dinner,     A Grace after Dinner
Parting Song to Clarinda
1792
age 33
Robert is transfered to the Dumfries Port Division of Excise.   In the course of duties, he bravely boarded and seized a smuggling ship in the Solway Firth, near Dumfries.
  Songs:
Poems:
Song:
The Deil’s Awa Wi' Th' Exciseman,     My Wife’s a winsome wee Thing, Highland Mary
The Rights of Woman
Duncan Gray cam' here to woo
1793 Song: Bruce’s March to Bannockburn - Scots wha' hae
1794
age 35
Robert is promoted to Acting Supervisor of Excise.
  Songs:
Songs:
Poem:
Song:
A red, red Rose,     My Love is like a red, red Rose,     The Lovely Lass O'Inverness
Charlie, he’s my Darling,     It was a' for our rightfu' King
An Ode to Liberty
Contented wi' little and cantie wi' mair
1795
age 36
Robert joined the Dumfries Volunteer Corp formed in view of a possible war with France.
  Songs: A man’s a man for a'that,     Does haughty Gaul invasion threat?
1796
age 37
Robert
  Song: Fairest Maid on Devon Banks (written 9 days before his death)
1796
21st July
Robert Burns dies after a short illness.   He is buried with military honours on the 25th July in St. Michael’s Churchyard, Dumfries, Scotland.
In addition to the above works Robert Burns wrote over 540 letters.
The above information was compiled from literature supplied by the Trustees of Burns Cottage and Monument, Alloway, Scotland.

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