January 27, 2005

Burns being beaten in battle of bards . . .


January 25 was the birthday of the great Scottish bard Robert Burns. But, as Kristy Scott reports in a Guardian story, Alloway, “the small thatched cottage where Burns was born in 1759,” and the “adjoining museum that houses many of his works, are in crisis.” Says Laurie Black, the manager of the facility, “You could not even begin to value what’s in here and yet it is totally neglected.” The neglect, he says, is due to “years of underfunding. It is not anybody’s fault. It is just what’s happened.” The National Trust for Scotland is trying to put together an emergency rescue package. But meanwhile, the site “has survived largely on goodwill but visitor numbers have dwindled. In 1905, the museum and birthplace attracted 100,000 visitors, while Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon pulled in 25,000. Last year, Shakespeare’s birthplace had 2 million visitors; the Burns cottage and museum had 39,000.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.