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Robert Burns: poems, songs and legacy

The statue of Robert Burns in Embankment Gardens, London.
Click to enlarge

13 Feb 2017

In the interests of continuing professional development I joined a Futurelearn course to improve my understanding of the Scottish bard. 

I signed up for this MOOC (massive open online course) because we mark Burns Night in January (my husband and I both have Scottish family names, and we've heard that celebrating stuff is good for family cohesion and mental health, plus we had a bottle of whisky).

Editors with good general knowledge are the editors who catch factual errors, so I like to ensure my education is well-rounded. I was vaguely aware that my luve is like a red red rose, and that haggis is the great chieftain of the pudding race, but I was sure there was more to Robert Burns than that.

This free course, run by the University of Glasgow, is a three-weeker and involves about four hours of work a week. I studied mostly while I was waiting for the children to go to sleep – a lot of MOOCs are designed to be taken in little bites, and it’s the perfect activity for this time of day. This one consisted of articles and short videos (just four or five minutes) and a few activities. Each ‘bite’ had a comments section, which made for interesting reading, as some of the other participants were quite erudite, or at least heavily involved with the Burns movement.

The material covered Burns’ poetry, his songs – complete with a playlist on Spotify – and his life, and the life his work continues to lead since his death. I achieved my aims of filling a difficult hour each evening with a pleasant, interesting task, and of improving my general knowledge. I felt a bit awkward commenting because I felt really ignorant compared to some of the other participants – but I always think it’s best to jump in and contribute where you can.

The course introduced me to some great Burns resources, and to some astonishing music and our Burns Night suppers will be a lot more meaningful from now on.

Robert Burns: poems songs and legacy will be running again soon and you can sign up to be notified about it.

And I'll leave you with Eddi Reader singing John Anderson my jo.

Image Credit: Robert Burns statues in Embankment Gardens, London.