Robert Burns (1759-1796) was one of the most learned low-born Scots of his day, and naturally a champion of the benefits of learning. One of his better known quotes,
Gi’e me a spark o’ Nature’s fire,
That’s a’ the learning I desire
bears testament more to his love of nature than any downgrading of learning.
I could further claim Burns as a champion of evaluation. He was, after all, an exciseman, and working for customs and excise would have sharpened his sense of measurement and learning as, again, better known quotes bear testament:
What’s done we partly may compute,
But know not what’s resisted
The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley.
All of which demonstrates that Scotland’s best-loved son may be cited in almost any cause – and frequently is.
This is the 253rd anniversary of his birth, and tonight I attend the Anniversary Dinner of the Hamilton Burns Club, one of the oldest Burns clubs in the world, dating back to the 19th century and tracing annual dinners back continuously to 1877 (apart from during the two world wars). My good friend David Ogg, as this year’s club president, delivers the Immortal Memory tonight, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, and I wish him well.
More on Burns at http://www.robertburns.org/ and the audio archive at http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/robertburns/.
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