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Dookin' in the River Nile I met a muckle crocodile - Student Rachel MacLeod; HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW BURNS' POEMS?


HE may be our national Bard but how well do Scots know the work of Robert Burns?

When it comes to Red Red Rose, many of us have red red faces.

As Scotland's Homecoming - marking Burns' 250th birthday - got under way, GAYLE RITCHIE asked people in his back yard of Ayrshire to recite their favourite poem or song.

Most were familiar with To A Mouse or Tam O'Shanter but some were just Auld Wrang Syne.

RETIRED COUNCILLOR AND LIFELONG BURNS FAN GEORGE TURNBULL, 70, KILMARNOCK: It's well and good to be celebrating the 250th anniversary of Burns because he was a fine, talented poet.

My favourite poem is To A Mouse and the first lines, 'Wee, sleekit, cowrin', tim'rous beastie, O what a panic's in thy breastie!', are fairly easy to remember.

I'm not up for all this Homecoming lark though. Why did people leave Scotland in the first place?

ROADSWEEPER ALEX BOLLAND, 55, KILMARNOCK: I was taught Burns at school. I wasn't a great fan as a boy but I've learned to love his work and appreciate what a genius he was. I used to get together with my family and sing his songs but now I can just about remember the start of To A Mouse.

RETIRED SOCIAL WORKER GEORGE SANDERSON, 62, KILMARNOCK: I love Rabbie Burns as his poetry is all about humanity and celebrating life and love. To A Mouse is very evocative. Burns finds a wee terrified mouse in a field and attempts to reassure it that he's not going to harm it.

HOUSEWIFE BRENDA SANDERSON, 48, KILMARNOCK: I'm ashamed. I feel I should know Burns and be able to recite some but it's hard to remember. I just about get "Wee, sleekit, cowrin', tim'rous beastie" but that's it. I'll probably celebrate with a haggis supper from the chip shop.

STUDENT RACHEL MACLEOD, 17, MAYBOLE: I've always loved the Burns' spoof To A Crocodile by J.K. Annand which I learned at primary school."When dookin' in the River Nile I met a muckle crocodile. He flicked his tail and blinked his ee, syne bared his ugsome teeth at me."

SCHOOLBOY ANDREW BROWN, 16, AYR: I don't like Burns' poetry much but I quite like singing his tunes. Scots Wha Hae is very uplifting: "Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled. Scots, wham Bruce has often led. Welcome to your gory bed, Or to Victorie!"

SCHOOL PUPIL DONNA NORRIS, 17, AYR: I know and love To A Louse: "Ha! Whare ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie? Your impudence protects you sairly, I canna say but ye strut rarely, Owre gauze and lace." I'm teaching it to my wee brother Quentin.

STUDENT SUSAN LOUGHLIN, 16, MOSSBLOWN: My gran taught me loads of Burns songs. My favourite is the soulful Banks and Braes: "Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon, How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair? How can ye chant, ye little birds, and I sae weary, fu' o' care."

NURSE MARTIN CASSIDY, 43, GLASGOW: I've come to Burns' Cottage for the anniversary. People loved Rabbie 250 years ago and I'm sure they will go on loving him. I enjoy his work. Tam O'Shanter is very evocative: "When chapman billies leave the street, And drouthy neebors, neebors meet."

RESTAURANT OWNER ROBERT BOYD, 56, STAIR: There are so many great poems. I'd recite Address To A Haggis: "Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, great chieftain o' the puddin-race! Aboon them a' ye tak your place, painch, tripe, or thairm. Weel are ye wordy of a grace as lang's my arm."

SCHOOLGIRL AMELIA SINGH, NINE, ALLOWAY: I love reading Burns. I don't always get the right pronunciation but I try my best. It's really just like acting but when the poem's a good one it's not too difficult to remember.

Amelia impressively reeled off several verses of Tam O'Shanter.


Mock croc: Student Rachel prefers spoof poem
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 25, 2009
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