Local MSP Ruth Maguire used Holyrood’s Burns Day debate on 25th January to highlight the Bard’s strong Irvine connections and to praise the cultural richness of the local Burns community.

Ruth told of how it was when Burns came to Irvine in 1781, as a young twenty-two year old, that he befriended local sea captain, Richard Brown – the man who encouraged him to become a poet.

Speaking in the debate, Ruth said:

‘Many towns lay claim to the bard, but there can be no doubt that it is the town of Irvine in my own constituency that has the strongest claim of all. Indeed, without Irvine, there might not have been a world famous poet called Robert Burns to talk about today.

In Burns own words, it was at the encouragement of Richard Brown that he decided to ‘endeavour at the character of a poet. So, Alloway might have made the man, but it was Irvine that made the poet.’

Herself a speaker of Gaelic, Cunninghame South’s MSP also used the opportunity to make the case for Scotland’s other minority language, Scots. Pointing out the paradox that the language of Burns  remains all too often misunderstood, and even disparaged, the rest of the year, Ruth called for continued efforts to raise people’s awareness of its history and worth, and to encourage people to use it.

Ms Maguire, who recently attended the celebrations at Wellwood Burns centre marking the 50th anniversary of the Burns Museum, is also looking forward to attending the 191st Annual Celebration of the Irvine Burns Club later this week.