18 January 2021
More than 2,500 worldwide contemporary Burns suppers feature in a new interactive world map as part of a research project led by academics from the University of Glasgow, it was announced today (18 January 2021).
The new interactive map – part of The Burns Supper in History and Today project – features 2,500 Burns suppers across five continents and gives an inventory of their menus, settings, entertainments, and orders of ceremony.
This is the broadest, most details record of Burns Night activities ever made to this day by the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, the largest concentration of Burns experts in the world. But researchers hope that their call to Scots to join in their #VirtualBurnsNight will help expand the map and their research project even further.
Burns Suppers in history
Since the first supper was held in July 1801 by the bard’s close friends as a memorial dinner it has morphed into a worldwide event celebrating Scotland’s distinctive heritage and culture.
Professor Gerard Carruthers, Co-Director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies (CBRS) based at the University’s College of Arts, and principal investigator on the The Burns Supper in History and Today project, said: “Robert Burns is global writer whose life and work have given rise to one of the great world cultural phenomena – the Burns Supper.
"At the heart of this celebration of Scotland’s national bard is his word – from poetry to song. And this Burns Night 2021, due to a global pandemic, many of us won’t physically be able to come together.
“In a testimony to the bard’s ensure appeal not only in Scotland but around the world, we are calling Scots, at home and abroad, and lovers of Burns to join with us in Glasgow to virtually celebrate and map this global impact and appeal.
“Burns speaks strongly to people through his words which still have resonance right up to today not just in Scotland.”
Burns Supper 220
The History of the Burns Supper project will build on the pioneering work of Dr Clark McGinn, an advisor on the project who did his PhD with the CRBS.
The project will be part of the celebrations to mark the 220th anniversary of the first Burns Supper – held in Burns Cottage, Alloway on 21 July 1801 commemorating the date of the bard’s passing rather than his birth.
Those friends met again, as did the founders of Greenock Burns Club, holding the first public Burns Supper on 29 January 1802, getting the poet’s date of birthday wrong by four days.
Today it is estimated that over nine and a half million people around the world take part in a Burns Supper every year.
The new University of Glasgow research project will help to collate and track the elements of the Burns Suppers from those first dinners, such as the Grace, the Immortal Memory and other kinds of poems, songs and speeches performed to understand the patterns of growth over the last 220 years.
Poems and songs about Burns used over the 200 years at these occasions will be gathered. Burns Suppers will also be detailed through the 19th century, across the British Empire, by missionaries, soldiers, reformers & others, across America, Asia, Australia and Europe and right up to the present day.
Through the generosity of Frank and Susan Shaw of Atlanta, the research project, which was launched in 2020 runs until 2022 is being carried out by the Centre for Robert Burns Studies (CRBS).