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  • Writer's pictureRosemary Gemmell

In Celebration of Burns Night

Scots the world over will soon be celebrating the birthday anniversary of our National Bard Robert Burns, born on January 25th 1759, many with a Burns Supper and possibly a ceilidh.

I’ve long been fascinated by the story of one of his lady loves, known as Highland Mary, as she was buried in my hometown. Eventually, I had to put my own fictionalised story of their tragic love affair into a novel. The Highland Lass was the result, but I made it a dual timeline story so that only the alternate historical chapters are about Burns and Mary, and I was able to take the reader on a journey around some of the most beautiful parts of the west of Scotland.

The main chapters of the novel are about contemporary family secrets with echoes to the past.

Eilidh Campbell returns to her Scottish roots from America with one main aim: to discover the identity of her real father. But her mother’s past in Inverclyde is a mystery with family secrets, a book of Robert Burns’ poems with a hidden letter and a photograph link to the Holy Loch at Dunoon when the American Navy were in residence.

Staying with her childhood friend, Kirsty, while searching for answers, Eilidh begins to fall in love with handsome Scot Lewis Grant, but just how free is he? Together they trace the story of Highland Mary and Robert Burns, with its echoes to her mother’s story. In short alternate chapters, Highland Mary tells her own story from 1785-6. From Dunoon, to Ayrshire and culminating in Greenock, Eilidh finds the past is closer than she realises.

The Highland Lass is available in e-book and print from Amazon, or the paperback can be ordered from bookshops and libraries.

Talking of beautiful Scottish locations, please do check out Joan Fleming’s three lovely books set on the Island of Mull, in her Magic of Mull series: What the Future Holds, Spirit of the Island and Daughter of Mull. You can find these and Joan’s other books on her Amazon Author Page.

It's remarkable to think that the humble farmer poet from Ayrshire is not only remembered in Scotland but is celebrated so well in other countries. I suspect that those who claim Scots ancestry probably make more of Burns Night than many of us do at home!

We might not all like haggis, although it's quite tasty with mashed potatoes and turnip, but I'm sure many a person will be willing to raise a wee dram to the poet's memory on January 25th. And if you do happen to attend a Burns Supper, you'll no doubt hear the Address to the Haggis, after it's brought to the table on a silver platter accompanied by the sound of the bagpipes. It begins:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,

Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!

Aboon them a' ye tak your place,

Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye worthy o' a grace

As lang's my arm.

Slàinte Mhath! Good health!


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