Family background

William Burnes — the poet's father — was born in Dunnottar, near Stonehaven, in 1721 and became, like his own father, a gardener. He had to leave his native county in search of work and, after a period spent in Edinburgh, arrived in Ayrshire in 1750.

He began to build a cottage in Alloway in 1757, the year in which he married Agnes Brown.

It was there that their eldest child, Robert, was born on 25 January 1759.



Early years >>

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Photo of a row of low cottages
Burns's cottage in Alloway, Ayrshire.
Larger cottage image

'My father was advanced in life when he married; I was the eldest of seven children; and he, worn out by early hardship, was unfit for labour … We lived very poorly.'

Autobiographical letter to Dr John Moore, London, 2 August 1787: part of the Cowie Collection.