On the 25th of January many people across the world will celebrate Burns Night. It is essentially a second national day of Scotland and is celebrated on Robert Burns Birthday.
Robert Burns was born in 1759 the son of tenant farmers in rural Scotland, his parents made sure he received a relatively good education. As an adolescent the hard physical labour on the family farm focused Burns on poetry. As a young man his first published collection of verse made him famous across the country. In fact in 2009 he was voted the Greatest Scot in History.
As well as original poems, Burns collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) “Auld Lang Syne” is often sung at Hogmanay (the last day of the year), and his poem “Scots Wha Hae” was viewed by many as an unofficial Scottish national anthem.
During the 1780’s he continued to publish poems and songs. He died in 1796 at the age of 37 without a Will. Robert Burns had a total of twelve children by four women, including nine by his wife Jean Armour. Seven of his children were illegitimate, including the first four by Jean before they were married in 1788.
His widow, Jean, applied to the Court for administration of his affairs. There were debts owing to Burns’ estate and so Jean had to apply to the court to be recognized as the estates legal personal representative to collect them. Additionally a plan was devised to support his Mother, Widow, and 12 children by publishing a four-volume edition of his complete works and a biography
The daughter he fathered with his mothers maid appears to have only received a year of “room, board, and washing” from his estate.
Perhaps it was due to his early age or the fact he had children from four different women that he did not create a Will. Whatever the reason he left his family in a more difficult position than they should have been in when he died.
If you are celebrating Burns Night next week give some thought to creating or updating your will as the haggis is piped in.