‘Robert Burns was Scottish George Best’

George Best
George Best

Northern Irish historian Laura Spence has drawn comparisons between two men who were highly talented in their chosen fields – poet Robert Burns and footballer George Best

Events to celebrate the life of Robert Burns are taking place all over the world this week, including many in the Province.

Historian Laura Spence

Historian Laura Spence

Burns Day will be commemorated today with a wreath laying by the Ulster Scots Agency at the Robert Burns statue located in Linen Hall Library, however the celebrations are not confined to January 25.

Laura Spence, a historian from Comber with a particular interest in Ulster-Scots, has been delivering a series of talks on ‘The Life, Loves and Legacy of Robert Burns’. She gave two lectures yesterday in Belfast and Killyleagh and will give another in Dromore Library next Tuesday at 6.30pm.

Ms Spence said: “The association between Northern Ireland and Scotland has been since the 1600s when waves of Scottish settlers moved across and Robert Burns was speaking their language.

“It was said for a time that every household in Ulster had two books – the Bible and Burns. He’s much less well read now. Certainly the number of Burns clubs and dinners has diminished.”

Ms Spence said she grew to love Burns through her grandmother who was Scottish: “As a child she used to read to me. Over 40 years later I can still see the pictures in my mind’s eye because it was so vivid, those stories in her wonderful Scottish accent.”

She added: “You’ll see his face on shortbread tins the world over, but here in Ulster he’s kind of slipped below the radar a bit. This is why I love giving the talks – to bring this fascinating character back to public awareness.

“To me, he was Scotland’s George Best – someone very good looking, very talented who was catapulted out of their own working class background to the heights of society and weren’t able to cope with it and both died young.”

Find out more about upcoming talks Laura will be giving at www.facebook.com/stonecircleconsulting

On Saturday night, Naggy Burn Ulster Scots Society will hold a Burns Supper in Larne Rangers Supporters Club – an evening of dance, history, heritage and of course a traditional supper of haggis, neeps and tatties. Chairman Stephen Nesbitt said: “We’ve been holding this event for at least 20 years. It’s always been very well attended. Robert Burns is very significant to Northern Ireland through the Ulster-Scots language.”