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$45,000 Burns manuscript joins Homecoming

posted 24 Feb 2009, 16:58 by David Rintoul   [ updated 22 Nov 2011, 08:08 by TollcrossOnline Admin ]

The National Library of Scotland (NLS) has acquired at auction a unique manuscript poem by Robert Burns. 'The Battle of Sherra-moor' or, to give its full title, 'On the Battle of Sheriff-Muir, Between the Duke of Argyle and the Earl of Mar', is an account of a 1715 battle between Hanoverian troops (Argyle) and the Jacobites (Mar). The manuscript will be on display from tomorrow at a major Burns symposium in Washington's Library of Congress, where First Minister Alex Salmond is giving a keynote address, before completing its homecoming.

The Battle of Sheriff-muir was so closely fought that it was difficult to establish who, if anyone, had actually won, and so Robert Burns writes from the point of view of two shepherds who, despite having watched the same series of events, each form a wildly different interpretation of what they have seen. One of Burns's speakers believes that 'The red-coat lads wi' black cockauds' routed the rebels, painting a fearful picture of how they 'hough'd the Clans like nine-pin kyles'. The other is just as convinced that the Jacobites 'did pursue / The horse-men back to Forth, man' with the eventual result that '... mony a huntit, poor Red-coat / For fear amaist did swarf, man'. A contemporary parallel might be the varying accounts of two opposing football fans on a game they have both just watched.

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