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Isobel & Rabbie Burns

On January 25th each year, Scottish people around the world celebrate Burns Night. It’s an event that began five years after his death in 1796 when a group of his friends met on his birthday to read his poetry and celebrate his life. Their homage gained popularity and inspired fellow Scots to adopt the Burns Supper as an annual event. It’s a mark of his now global fame, that over 220 years later, the poetry and prose of Robert Burns continue to be enjoyed and used to instil national pride.

Horse & Carriage outside Carlowrie Castle, Kirkliston - Isobel's home

A lessor known fact is that Robert Burns published ‘Poems in the Scottish Dialect’ to raise the money he needed to emigrate to Jamaica, where he planned to work on a plantation as a bookkeeper for 3 years, at £30 per annum. Thankfully for us, the book was a huge success, offering an alternative path to riches, which caused Burns to travel to Edinburgh rather than overseas.

Like Burns, Isobel loved Scotland and often wrote of how she missed its shores during her expeditions, but her voyages where driven by discovery rather than the need for a better life, after all, she was lucky enough to call Carlowrie Castle home.


'I dreamt of home last night,

Not of a home afar

Where the loved and lost walk in the light

Of a new and unknown star;

But I dreamt of the home I know,

Of the garden I have seen,

With the sycamore trees in their ancient row

And the shadows gold and green.'

by Isobel Wylie Hutchison

Isobel’s accounts of everyday life and loves, (often written in Scots), mirror Burns in their observational qualities. Undoubtedly both were realists and dreamers in equal measure. They rejoiced in being Scottish but went in search of new horizons. In the 1700’s the 129kms Ayr to Edinburgh route would have taken several days by horse, at a time when most people didn’t venture beyond their birthplace.

As Burns had done over a century earlier, Isobel sold her poetry and prose to fund the life she wanted rather than accept the life she’d been given. She too was an immediate success, but even financial independence couldn’t quell her need for adventure and so began a lifetime of documenting her travels to ensure she could continue them.

As the world learns more about Isobel, perhaps a Hutchison supper could be added to the Scottish celebratory calendar in years ahead. We know she liked haggis …

From: 'Lyrics from West Lothian' by Isobel Wylie Hutchison, 1916


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The North Star Explorer

Learn more about Isobel’s passion for the natural world, her experience of travelling to remote places and her encounters expressed through art and creative writing.

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