23/01/2017
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Rare Burns songbook donated to University of Glasgow Special Collections

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A rare collection of song sheets compiled in a book belonging to 'Agnes Burns' and dating to the time of Robert Burns, has been donated to the University of Glasgow by George Walker, a former university student, in memory of his wife Margaret.

The book comprises 18th century song sheets containing over 100 songs with music for both Scottish and Irish songs; the collection was originally found in a bookshop in Haddington, Edinburgh, ten years ago. The book has a handwritten title which reads: 'Agnes Burn’s her book 1801' on the inside cover, and was bought by a bookshop owner who saw it in a collection of books on a bookstall.

Robert Burns’ mother Agnes Burns, or Burnes as she was originally called, lived near Haddington for many years, where she died.

Academics at the University’s Centre for Robert Burns Studies will now research the book to determine its authenticity, with the aim of establishing whether it was originally owned by Agnes Burns in 1801; and which ‘Agnes’ it could be as Robert Burns’ mother, sister and niece were all called Agnes.

Professor Kirsteen McCue, from the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, said of the book's authenticity: “Certainly all the markers are pointing in the direction that this could be Agnes Burns, Robert Burns’ sister, not his mother.

“Certainly the 1801 date would be more fitting. But we need to do a lot of research and investigative work, which is what we love doing, to try and determine who owned this book and how old it is. It’s very exciting.”

For more on the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, visit the website.

(Modern-day image copyright University of Glasgow)

 

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