Posts tagged ‘Robert Burns’

Auld Lang Syne

For Auld Lang Syne (English translation: For The Olden Times)

kickin-out-150x150Artist: Janet McCrorie

On New Year’s Eve, as the clock strikes midnight and we turn from one year to the next, everyone across the Globe gathers to sing “Auld Lang Syne.”

But what does it all mean? Who wrote it? And what is it we are supposed to be doing with our hands?

So, here goes…

“Auld Lang Syne” is much older than any other popular song we sing during the festive season. It actually dates back to 1788, when it was published by Scottish poet, Robert Burns, who lived in Scotland from 1759 to 1796. Over 220 years later, we’re still using the familiar poem to say goodbye to the past year.

Here’s a look at the meaning of “Auld Lang Syne.”

The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” appears in other poems that predate Burns’ more famous work. Allan Ramsey, for example, (1686-1758) wrote a similar poem and James Watson published similar poems in 1711. In fact, the first verse in the poem Watson published begins almost the same way as Burns.

“Auld Lang Syne” itself can be translated to “old long since” so it’s similar to the “Once upon a time” phrase used to open fairy tales. Since Burns wrote “for auld lang syne” the way the phrase is used in the poem is translated to “for (the sake of) old times.”

Here’s the first verse of the Watson 1711 poem:

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne.

Here’s Burns’ first verse:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

tartan-embrace-150x150Artist: Janet McCrorie

Burns sent “Auld Lang Syne” to two publishers. The first, James Johnson, published it in 1796 with a Scottish melody Burns was not a fan of. Three years after Burns died, George Thompson published it and set it to the turn of “Sir Alexander Don’s Strathspey” (a type of dance.) This is the same melody used to this day.

The song became so popular in Scotland that Scottish immigrants sang it wherever they went, spreading the song around the world. For example, during the famous 1914 Christmas truce during World War I, both British and German soldiers sang “Auld Lang Syne.” In 1925, Charlie Chaplin had characters sing “Auld Lang Syne” in The Gold Rush, even though it was a silent film.


The song also became popular in Southeast Asia and Japanese department stores use it to let customers know they are closing for the day. In Japan, the tune of “Auld Lang Syne” is set to the folk song “Hotaru no Hikari.”


The Japanese lyrics are about students using a firefly’s light to keep studying in the dark. However, it is soon time to leave studying behind. The song is also often performed at graduations.

Long before Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest helped millions of Americans ring in the New Year, there was bandleader, Guy Lombardo. In 1928, Lombardo and his band, the Royal Canadians, played their first New Year’s Eve broadcast. The following year, they performed the first ever nationwide broadcast from the Roosevelt Hotel and performed live from the hotel every year until 1954. They switched to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and continued performing ever year until 1976. Lombardo, who died in November 1977, became known as “Mr. New Year’s Eve.” After his death, his band rang in the New Year with broadcasts for two more years.


In 1929, Lombardo and his orchestra played “Auld Lang Syne” just as the clock was striking midnight. Lombardo was inspired to play the song after hearing it from Scottish immigrants in Ontario. (Lombardo was born in London, Ontario.) He performed the song as a segue between one broadcast and the next.

Sadly, Lombardo’s role in helping millions of Americans celebrate a new year with “Auld Lang Syne” is mostly forgotten today.

In Scotland, the Song is Sung as Part of Hogmanay Celebrations.

584727-7Artist Gail Wendorf; Painting, Old New Year Ceilidh

In Scotland, where Burns is the National Poet, singing “Auld Lang Syne” is party of Hogmanay celebrations. Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year. The celebration in Edinburgh has become world famous and features a Concert in the Garden that is sold out this year.


It’s tradition in Scotland to sing “Auld Lang Syne” while in a circle, holding hands. When the crowd reaches the last verse, which begins with “And there’s a hand my trusty friend,” everyone crosses their arms so the right hand reaches out to their neighbor’s left hand. At the end of the song, you rush into the center and turn, so that when everyone leaves the center they are now facing outwards – looking towards the new year.

Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally…, which was written by Nora Ephron, reaches a climax on New Year’s Eve. As “Auld Lang Syne” plays at the party, Billy Crystal’s Harry wonders what the song is all about.

“What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means,” Harry asks Sally. “I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot’? Does that mean we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happen to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot them?”

“Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it’s about old friends,” Sally (Meg Ryan) tells Harry. She was right.

Burns didn’t really mean that we should forget old acquaintances. The song is really meant to be about “preserving old friendships and looking back over the events of the year.” So, if you do forget about old acquaintances, you can look back on the year and remember them.

Here are the complete “Auld Lang Syne” lyrics by Robert Burns:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowan fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-waught,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

The third part of my Robert Burns documentary trilogy, The Secret Rock ‘n’ Roll Life of Robert Burns, will be broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland on Burns Day 2017.

Meantime, Happy New Year to you all – for Auld Lang Syne.




Burns An’ A’ That! 2015


BBC Radio Scotland
The Secret Sex Life of Robert Burns
January 25th at 10.30am

My brand new radio documentary about Robert Burns and his notorious reputation as a womanizer will air in on Burns’ Day 25th January 2015 on BBC Radio Scotland
at 10.30am. Presented by me and produced by Louise Yeoman with a range of other contributors including Professor Robert Crawford, author of The Bard; Chris Waddell from Burns Birthplace Museum; Historian, Dr Katie Barclay; and curator of The Georgian House, Dr Sheonagh Martin – along with readings and songs from some of Scotland’s best known actors.

Listen here: The Secret Sex Life of Robert Burns


I will also be appearing at The Alloway Burns Festival
on Burns Day itself – with my one-woman Burns-inspired show:

Keara Murphy: Mice & Women

Directed by John Paul McGroarty.

Tickets here: Keara Murphy: Mice & Women

Why not make a night of it and book tickets for the legend that is Dougie MacLean who appears on the same stage directly following my show? Double Bill: Book for Keara’s comedy show followed by music from Dougie MacLean

2for1 offers available – so if you purchase a ticket for Dougie MacLean you get a ticket for my show for FREE! It’s a true story.

It sure is set to be a Burns Night to remember!

Burns Gie It Laldy

“Intelligent Burns banter”
Eric Roberts

Keara brings a warmth and enthusiasm with her,not to mention a deep knowledge and passion for Robert Burns
Graham Blaikie
Scottish Licence Trade Association

Burns Festival Alloway Keara and Dougie MacLean

Directed by John Paul McGroarty.


So This Is Christmas…

And so this is Christmas…

Mrs Clause

Another year over, and what have I done?

Well, In January I hibernated with my new boyfriend and flirted with romance – which was nice. I also wrote a bunch of stuff which stood me in good stead for the rest of the year.

In February I wrote and performed a short play with actor and comedian, Garry Dobson, about Internet dating, Plenty More Fish, at The Scottish Storytelling Centre for the wonderful Jo Caulfield’s Speakeasy. Jo hosted the show beautifully and the play went down very, very well.  I was delighted. I also wrote and performed a brand new Robert Burns-inspired one-woman show, Mice & Women, directed by John Paul McGroarty, which I previewed over two nights at a small theatre in Leith. The first show was ropey so I sat up all night long and rewrote it. The next night, I nailed it. Then got crazy drunk in The Port O’ Leith Pub with the audience. Then went to the Casino. Yes, it was one of those kinda nights.

With John Paul McGroarty in The Port O’ Leith
Keara and JP in Port O Leith

Two days after Valentine’s Day I ditched my new boyfriend for not sending me a Valentine card. And also for being an arse! He agreed with me that he was an arse so we decided to stay friends. We are not friends!

At the end of the month I hosted shows for The Gilded Balloon at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness and The Gardyne Theatre, Dundee – and fell in love with the work of two young and very talented comics, Bec Hill and Ray Bradshaw. They made the 100 miles across the Drumochter Summit at 2am almost bearable by creating a string of Your Mum jokes on a loop for nearly two hours! That’s talent! That there is talent!!

With Vladamir McTavish, Bec Hill and Ray Bradshaw
With Bec and Ray

In March, I debuted Mice & Men at The Glasgow Comedy Festival, and was also invited onto Janice Forsyth’s Culture Studio along with festival director, Tommy Sheppard, to talk about The Glasgow Comedy Festival, Glasgow banter, Glasgow audiences, The programme of events and, of course, my show.

I also hosted a large dance show at The Armadillo, my first time performing on that amazing stage – courtesy of the wonderful Sharon Quinn for Dance OK. It was an amazing night with so many wonderful dancers. Then back to Sharon’s for a brilliant all-night party for, Aiden, her son’s 18th birthday celebrations. Just magical.

Sharon Quinn and Sisters

Back at The Glasgow Comedy Festival I did my first ever pop-up comedy show in the foyer of The Citizen M Hotel which was chaotic and great fun. Then I spent a few days with my Glasgow family and friends. I revisited The Grand Ole Opry after a 25 year absence. I was once a waitress there and used to get up and do the charity song, occasionally.  Everyone I knew was dead or nearly dead. But I did reacquaint with some lovely old friends. “If it ain’t country; it aint music” they say down there. Well… talking of music that isn’t country…

In April I was cast as the brash Barbara Sinatra in a new musical-drama, Sinatra: The Final Curtain. Barbara was a challenging role as she didn’t appear to be a very nice person – she was a social climber and gold-digger. Pretty much the antithesis of me so I went deep into research for her to try and find a human side, assisted by her 600 page tell-all autobiographical tomb boldly entitled, Mrs Blue Eyes. Fascinating stuff! Sinatra was an angry, controlling, hygiene-obsessed drunk man! Allegedly. And his last wife was a gold-digger.

Me as Barbara Sinatra
Barbara In Fur

The play went on to enjoy a full run at The Leith Festival in June, which was just lovely and I made some wonderful new friends.

Barbara Sinatra with Frank (AKA Moray Innes)
Barbara with Sinatra

In May I became a regular cast member on Lach’s Antihoot Radio Show, where I performed a wide range of characters including a radical feminist; a woman giving birth using only a Birthing Clown (played by Lach, who’s wife informs us that he did actually once be a Birthing Clown! He hasn’t denied it) for pain relief; an old woman with Victorian Torette’s who blurts out ‘ankles’ and ‘pantyhose’ instead of our modern swear words; a very drunk Jo Frost from off of Supernanny; a little girl guising on Halloween; and many regular guest spots as the favoured Mistress MacKenzie (see @MistressMacKenz) – my old radio show character. And many, many spots as myself in stand up mode as well as storytelling guise.

Me as Snudge
Keara as Snudge

A little later on in May I was commissioned by BBC Radio Scotland for my first ever radio series, The Shark’s Mouth, which  made me leap with joy and cry with fear in the toilet of a posh hotel. I got over 100 ‘likes’ on Facebook for the BIG BOAST announcement. Why that matters I have no idea.

I then wrote and recorded the four character monologues, produced by the very talented Gus Beattie for The Comedy Unit, which were then broadcast on The Janice Forsyth’s Culture Studio in November & December. I needn’t have feared. They were very well received. Listen again here and judge for yourself: The Shark’s Mouth

My summer was taken up with family parties including a four-year-old’s birthday party involving tree climbing, falling over and chocolate cake and a 40 year olds birthday party involving dancing to Grand Master Flash, falling over and chocolate cake.

The Fringe freaked me out and I took a panic attack in one of those artist’s VIP bars where everybody is talking about themselves loudly and waving flyers and cards in your face whilst spitting saliva on you and periodically looking over your shoulder.  And no one is actually listening to anyone. I locked myself in my flat and refused to come out  until the End of Festival parties. I went to all the parties.

Come September, I was drained, as always after the Fringe. And I have to add, I wasn’t even doing a show but still it destroyed my soul.  However, we were back at Lach’s Antihoot Radio Show sharpish on the 4th September – like the true pro’s we are. The subject: Flyerers Anonymous and Fringe Fatigue. It was very cathartic.

More shenanigans down at Henry’s Cellar Bar, along with a range of other gigs and things throughout the months of October, November and December kept me on the edge of excitement.

In October I wrote and performed a brand new story about the vandalization of my face, which I presented first at Lach’s Antihoot and it went down a storm.  I then did it again at The Speakeasy at  Scottish Storytelling Centre to some laughter, a few raised eyebrows and a couple of walk-outs (although, I still maintain that was caused by the sweary performance poet who came on after me rather than my beautifully crafted but edgy story).

In November, I wrote and performed a live stand up benefit gig at The Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh’s for Children In Need, alongside some of Scotland’s finest comedians. This was hosted by Sanjeev Kohli and was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland.

Stand Up For Pudsey at The Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh
Keara Stand Up for Pudsey

My routine about me giving short shrift to some Leith children coming guising to my door at Hallowe’en was dropped from the broadcast because the euphemisms still weren’t ‘family friendly’ enough. Still, it’s a story best experienced live. And away from small children.

Once my mini-series aired on BBC Radio Scotland In mid-November I went into annoying promoter mode, making sure everyone who should hear the show did hear the show. And even those who didn’t. Or refused. Or couldn’t. Or ignored me because they have a normal job. I. Made. Them. Listen! I have ways of making them… No I don’t. Sadly. No I don’t. All I can do is ask, politely, that you click on the link and enjoy: The Shark’s Mouth

In November, I launched my own cabaret club, Keara’s Comedy, Cocktail & Cabaret Club which was far, far more successful than I could ever have hoped for or imagined. But my hard graft and years of experience paid off and thus another long-held ambition was achieved. Get in!

We are shooting for a regular monthly gig from March. Check in: Keara’s Comedy, Cocktail and Cabaret Club

In December, I performed live at The Storytelling Centre once again, this time for Feeling Kind of Funny, produced by Richard Melvin’s Dabster Productions and beautifully hosted by the lovely Julia Sutherland, which was UTTERLY AMAZING! Followed by a radio interview to discuss the dark side of comedy. Which was UTTERLY HARROWING!

This show will be broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland in January 2014. I shall listen to it myself quietly before sharing. I’m feeling kinda funny about it, to be honest.

I’m joking! I’m very excited about it. My bit will be going out on the 16th January. Don’t worry, I will remind you!

When I look back over any year it’s not my work achievements that immediately spring to mind – which is possibly why I feel the need to catalogue them here. It’s not the gym sessions I did, the days I did the housework, the days I stayed sober and turned down party invitations. It’s always, always, always the people who shared part of my journey through this life with me. Those who were kind to me. Those who made me laugh. Those who laughed at my stuff. And those I partied with.

Manus Fortieth

I made loads of new friends in 2013! Like LOADS!!! I also reconnected with some really special old friends. Which is always nice.

I also fell in and out of love – which is never a good idea. I also fell in and out of lust – which is never a good idea. And, as is my pattern, I also dated a bunch of freaks – which is never a good idea. And in fine moments of strength, I blocked a few people from my life – which is always a good idea. And it’s all good for material.

I spent loads of lovely time with my family; became a Godmother for the second time but first time to a beautiful baby boy; tried positive affirmations to combat my recurring Black Dog, which worked. Sometimes.

And after almost beating a rubbish food intolerance thing I felt more well physically than I had done in ages.  With my newly returned health I did an epic amount of socialising involving cocktails in the park, orchestral pyrotechnics in The Gardens, festival nudity in the street (not me), cross-dressing in a Dive bar (yes, me), and drinking in some classic quiet bars with some very classic people.

With Lach and Bernard O’Leary at Henry’s
Dive with lach and Bernard

Okay, 2014, bring it on. I am ready for my close up!

Robert Burns Was A Feminist

Robert Burns was a philanderer, fornicator and father of bastart weans, yes.

But he was also a feminist.

Robert Burns loved women.  In fact, without us, he would not have written a single word.  He said, “I never had the least thought nor inclination of turning poet until I got heartily in love then rhyme and song became the spontaneous language of my heart.”

highland mary
Burns also thought of women as the superior of species.  He said, “Mither nature…her prentice hand she tried on man and then she made the lasses, O’” –

That is how important we lasses were to Robert Burns.

He loved the company of the fairer sex and, in fact, preferred it to that of men.  He said, “The finest hours that e’er I spent were spent amang the lasses, O’.”

Quite apart from his lovers, two key women who informed his view on women, fuelled the young Robert’s imagination and fired up his passion for words and stories were his Mother, Agnes Broun Burnes (the ‘e’ was later dropped) and one of her old friends – or ‘Maids’ – Betty Davidson.

Agnes Burnes was a small, vibrant woman with wild red hair who could not write but could read beautifully.  She read traditional Scottish stories to Burns and sang old folk songs which she had picked up from the strong oral tradition that prevailed around that time – laying the foundations for her son’s passion for rhyme and song.

Betty Davidson delighted in telling the boy ghost stories involving the devil, warlocks and fairies.

Robert Burns wrote Tam O’Shanter in one short evening, but it is clear that that poem had been bubbling away inside him since he was that small, terrified young boy listening to Betty’s tall tales of superstition, apparition and dragons by the dim light of the crackling fire.

Robert Burns also advocated for women’s rights at a time when Emeline Pankhurst was still a twinkle in Mither Nature’s e’e.

The poem, The Rights of Women, may seem patronising to us today but in 1792 it was groundbreaking, shocking and even laughable – particularly amongst the men Burns fraternized with in his supper clubs and Masonic halls.

Burns wrote this poem for Ms Louisa Fontenelle, a London actress who performed it at a benefit night:

“While Europe’s eye is fix’d on mighty things,
The fate of Empires and the fall of Kings;
While quacks of State must each produce his plan,
And even children lisp the Rights of Man;
Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention,
The Rights of Woman merit some attention.

First, in the Sexes’ intermix’d connection,
One sacred Right of Woman is, protection.
– The tender flower that lifts its head, elate,
Helpless, must fall before the blasts of Fate,
Sunk on the earth, defac’d its lovely form,
Unless your shelter ward th’ impending storm.

Our second Right-but needless here is caution,
To keep that right inviolate’s the fashion;
Each man of sense has it so full before him,
He’d die before he’d wrong it-’tis decorum.

– There was, indeed, in far less polish’d days,
A time, when rough rude man had naughty ways,
Would swagger, swear, get drunk, kick up a riot,
Nay even thus invade a Lady’s quiet.

Now, thank our stars! those Gothic times are fled;
Now, well-bred men-and you are all well-bred-
Most justly think (and we are much the gainers)
Such conduct neither spirit, wit, nor manners.

For Right the third, our last, our best, our dearest,
That right to fluttering female hearts the nearest;
Which even the Rights of Kings, in low prostration,
Most humbly own-’tis dear, dear admiration!

In that blest sphere alone we live and move;
There taste that life of life-immortal love.
Smiles, glances, sighs, tears, fits, flirtations, airs;
‘Gainst such an host what flinty savage dares,
When awful Beauty joins with all her charms-
Who is so rash as rise in rebel arms?

But truce with kings, and truce with constitutions,
With bloody armaments and revolutions;
Let Majesty your first attention summon,
Ah! ca ira! The Majesty Of Woman!

In this poem, Robert Burns is calling to the social order, particularly the ruling classes, to pay attention to the attributes of women in society – and womankind in general – and to value their intrinsic worth – particularly as pacifiers in a time of war (it was the time of The French Revolution – a cause, it is widely thought, Burns supported.)

Robert Burns was a ‘ladies’ man’ in every sense of the word.  Women made him, women inspired him and women educated him.

Yes, Burns was a reckless romantic who fell in love – and into bed – too easily with women.  But this does not mean that he disrespected them or treated them badly or thought them inferior to himself.

He loved women:  He loved his mother, his aunts, his sisters, his wife, his daughters and, yes, his lovers.

He loved women!

But women also loved Robert Burns.  The lasses – along with Robert Burns – worked long hard hours in the fields and barley.  They were very close to nature.  Particularly Mother Nature.

Burns valued and appreciated women for their beauty and intellect, along with their political views, their humour and their passions for words and language.

And he stuck up for them and advocated for them at a time when women had no rights at all.

Robert Burns held women socially and intellectually his equals and did not understand why the men around him did not.

In this poem he is asking – nee, pleading – with the ruling classes to appreciate and respect women and to give them the rights of decorum, protection and admiration.

These ‘rights’ may seem condescending to us today but they were enlightened for – if limited by – the time.

Robert Burns Painting
So, if you are speaking at a Burns Supper this week, try to not be so cliché’d in your anecdotes about Burns’ many lovers.  And he did not have as many as you may think.

He had many affairs, yes, that is true.  But he also fantasized about many more.  And it is all these affairs, real and imagined, which informed his work. He was a poet.  A warrior poet at times.  So, please remember also the wide range of other attributes which can be attached to Burns name other than ‘philanderer’ and ‘fornicator’. He was also a feminist.

Burns with Scottish Flag
Keara is a Burns Speaker, Comedian and actress. She also recites, by heart, The Address to the Haggis, To A Mouse, To A Mountain Daisy and does a mean Response on Behalf of The Lasses.

She has also delivered The Immortal Memory on many occasions – and may sing Ae Fond Kiss if you get her very drunk.

Keara has presented four documentaries for BBC Radio Scotland, two of which were featured on BBC Radio 4 ‘Pick of the Week’.

Keara adapted her radio show, The Secret Sex Life of Robert Burns, for stage which debuted at The Scottish Storytelling Centre in January 2016 to a sell-our crowd.

Keara also presented her one-woman show, Mice and Women, at The Brig O’Doon Hotel, Alloway, at The Alloway Festival on 25th January 2015, Burns Day.

In 2018 Keara presented her new storytelling show, The Bard and I, covering some of the content and the making of her documentary series with the BBC which was awarded four stars in The Student Review.

Glasgow Comedy Festival 2013

My new show, Keara Murphy: Mice & Men, will debut at Glasgow Comedy Festival 2013 on 14th March… Tickets Here:!/shows/425

Keara Murphy: Mice & Men
Whilst preparing her annual Burns Supper speech, a wee mousie popped its head out from under Keara’s couch to ask, politely, if he could share her rice.  After a courteous conversation involving a hammer, Keara pondered the line in Robert Burns’, To A Mouse: “A daimen icker in a thrave’s a sma’ request”.  Should Keara grant the mousie’s request or lay down fifty shades of warfarin for the wee blighter?  If we continue to treat mice ‘humanely’ will they eventually take over the telly?  – It’s already happened in Leith!

And, what of men?  Are they not just gigantic mice?  After extensive on-the-job research, Keara thinks this may be so.  Therefore, like Rabbie Burns before her, Keara muses the parallels between the species and laments. 

“She’s Eddie Izzard with less make-up and more Glasgow” List”
“Exudes Glaswegian charm.” Scotsman
“Intelligent Burns banter” Friday Fix
“Passionate, enthusiastic and deeply knowledgeable about Robert Burns” SLTA

It’s gonna be good, it’s gonna be truthful, it’s gonna be funny, it’s gonna be beautiful, it’s gonna lose me friends and alienate people, it’s gonna be fun!


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