MICHAEL Fry’s article on Monday Robert Burns began by, rightly, praising The National for attempting to make Scots aware of their own almost proscribed history. It still has to be wrested from the British Nationalist establishment who almost successfully denied our own folk memories as a nation without a past or present and no future and that is where they have us at the moment.

Many, many moons ago, The Scotsman used to publish an excellent history series on Thursdays. That was before Sir Walter Scott regained Scotland’s very name from being a province of North Britain.

As a boy, he attended a formal gathering of great and good to hear ploughman poet Rabbie Burns, in a formal drawing-room. Burns was merely doing what the bards of old did, which was to seek patronage from the nobility or even tribal clan chiefs in the great halls.

The Persian Sultans used to stuff their poets’ mouths with pearls. All Burns got was a job in HM Excise in an attempt to tie him down. After Burns’s death, it was Scott as a Magistrate and Sir Robert Dundas – spy paymaster for radical insurrectionist traitors – who grassed Burns up for sending two impounded cannons from Galloway to the French Revolutionaries.

They all wanted Burns to entertain their guest at their drawing-room parties, but never shelled out for him. During his Highland tour, one Invergarry innkeeper found him such convivial company that he stole his horse to keep him for another four days. In revenge, Burns wrote a bawdy poem about the innkeeper, “John Anderson my Jo”. I doubt if the Heilan’ Shonny effer heard the politer cleaned-up version.

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Michael then correctly says Burns booked a seat to get to Kingston, Jamaica, but not for the reasons he thinks. True, he wanted to avoid poverty, but he also wanted to flee from Pitt’s wrath and assassination. He chose that part of Jamaica to be nearer to a French island, from where he intended to escape to France, as Thomas Muir of Huntershill did from Mexico, where he received the Freedom of Paris and was appointed president of the Scottish Republic. Burns was forced to write an apology for refusing to toast the king. He was also in an Edinburgh Jacobite Freemason’s Lodge that refused to toast the king.

He was sold a bum stony ferm by a lawyer “friend” and the work nearly killed him. Certainly, it broke his health. The lawyer was threatened by Pitt as was his doctor, friend and biographer, Dr William Maxwell. Maxwell liked to visit Paris and dip his hanky in the blood of decapitated aristocrats. Maxwell also made him bathe in the Solway mid-winter as a quack cure. When Maxwell came back from France he was summoned to Pitt’s office and threatened if he did not kill him. Burns also refused to fight a professional dualist officer for standing for the French anthem in a Dumfries theatre.

Burns’s father was out in the ’15 Rebellion, as a ground man for the Keith family in Dunottar Castle. It was a short walk from being an anti-Union Jacobite to being a Jacobin.

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Donald Anderson Glasgow IT is heartening to see that at last, the independence movement is realising the necessity of enticing the Unionist party members to seriously consider, not only the wellbeing and future of their country, but also of their chosen political party. We should emphasise that once the goal of freedom is achieved, they are likely to become much more relevant to Scotland’s political presence.

I predict that the SNP in their current form will disappear within 10 years, ie after two elections. Job done, mission accomplished, new broom.

Sandy Coghill

Sligachan, Isle of Skye