Monday, 25 March 2019
Kilmarnock. Dick Institute. Robert Burns.
A day trip by bus with Anne saw us leave Buchanan Bus Station and under an hour later roll into Kilmarnock, a town 18km or 11 miles inland from the coastal town of Ayr, both around a similar size with populations just under 50,000 residents. The Dick Institute above.
The building itself came as something of a surprise, unexpectedly grand and ornate, as did this entire preserved district, carefully landscaped with fine period buildings in the surrounding vicinity.
Although a household name worldwide I think it's fair to say that Burns is mainly championed in the UK by certain actors, certain traditional folk singers or intellectual types to prove their deep Scottish roots in some strange fashion and not really by the general public at large. For a modern audience it can be hard to understand and appreciate fully. Many Russians apparently are fond of Burns but over here he's mainly trotted out at Burns suppers once a year... or hogmanay, usually in middle class households as a dinner party variation, or in more upmarket hotels, restaurants and public buildings, as a Scottish treat/icon for tourists where they have made the effort to pronounce the poems correctly, often through specialized help, like a guest Burns speaker, or talented non professional.
Similar to the equally renowned James Joyce, apart from a few well known examples ( Auld Lang Syne) you just can't dip in to these writers immediately with any level of ease- they require time, study, and practice to get it sounding spot on. There may be exceptions but in thousands of ordinary Scottish houses I've visited over decades in work I've never seen Robert Burns displayed or mentioned in any of them. A bit like the definition of a classic book- titles known by everyone but read by very few. Except in certain domestic bookcases where a copy of Burns poetry would seem like an omission to a well balanced thoughtful collection, a tasteful blend to complement the house overall, not necessarily to be well thumbed or remembered. But everyone knows the name.