Robert Burns

A white marble bust of Scotland's national poet Robert Burns is on the wall of Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey near the memorials to William Shakespeare and Scottish poet James Thomson. The sculptor was Sir John Steell and the bust was unveiled by the Earl of Rosebery on 7th March 1885. It was paid for by means of a 'shilling subscription', co-ordinated by a committee in Glasgow, established in 1878. Contributions were received from all over the world. The inscription reads simply:

1759 BURNS 1796

Robert was born on 25th January 1759 in a small cottage at Alloway in Ayrshire in the west of Scotland. His parents were William (d.1784) and Agnes. Although he was composing songs by 1774 his profession was as a farmer and ploughman. His Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect appeared in 1786 and was an instant success. He collected and wrote about 200 songs, and some of his best-known lyrics are 'Auld Lang Syne', 'Ye banks and braes' and 'O my luve's like a red, red rose'. In 1788 he finally married Jean Armour and became an Excise officer. He died on 21st July 1796, probably of rheumatic heart disease, and is buried in St Michael's churchyard, Dumfries. Celebrations are now held throughout the world on 'Burn's Night', 25th January.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum


25th January 1759


21st July 1796


7th March 1885


Poet; composer


South Transept; Poets' Corner

Memorial Type


Material Type


Robert Burns
Robert Burns by William Hole R.S.A.

(The Poetry of Burns, Centenary Edition) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Robert Burns
Robert Burns bust

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster