Burns Centenary Celebrations: Honouring the Poet’s Death in the Scottish Diaspora

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 16.34.22Burns, and the commemorations in his name, entrenched what might suitably be described as a memory community, and one effective in maintaining links globally. The Burns centenary celebrations held in 1896, honouring the poet’s death on 21 July, serve as a useful case study. Managed by various committees in connection with the Dumfries Burns Club and the Burns Federation, the centenary event organisers were keen to involve members from overseas to do honour to Burns. In writing ‘to all the Burns Clubs and Scottish Societies, and also to the leading newspapers of America, Australia, and New Zealand’, the officials expressed the sincere hope that no Scot abroad would ‘allow distance to be any hindrance to them if they wished to be represented here on the 21st July and assist us …

Burns Night in New Zealand

burnsdinnerdunWhen members of the Dunedin Burns Club and its friends gathered in 1906 to celebrate the 147th birthday of Scotland’s national bard, they did so ‘with mirth and song and joyous acclamations’. The Club’s choir and the Dunedin Pipe Band enlivened the proceedings, offering musical entertainment between the many toasts and speeches that were delivered. The key address of the evening was made by Sir Robert Stout. Born in Lerwick, Shetland, in 1844, Stout left for New Zealand in 1863, soon rising to become one of the country’s most prominent public figures, serving as Premier and Chief Justice. An ardent champion of his Scottish heritage, Stout was engaged with a number of Scottish associations, thereby maintaining strong links with his native Shetland and the Scottish mainland. He was keen for …