City woman cherishes Burns connection

Verona Wilkinson says she’s related to Robbie Burns, and she’s got the book to prove it.

She first found out she’s related to Scotland’s most famous poet when she was a young lassie, at the tender age of 18.

It was her father, James Burnes Adamson who gave her the book containing the Burness family history, stretching back to the 11th century.

(Robbie Burns originally spelled his name Burness, but later dropped ‘es’ from it.)

Adamson passed on this literary treasure to his daughter while on his deathbed. Adamson carried the book, published in the early 1800s, all the way from Grangemouth, Scotland, his hometown, to Fort Saskatchewan, where he worked as the jailer, until his death in 1934.

The book, printed in tiny eight-point type, speaks in an old English dialect. It’s not easy to read or understand today, but to Verona, the book is all the proof she needs that she is a related to Robbie Burns himself.

“It tells you just exactly how we’re related,” she says.

The Wilkinson family never made a big deal of this knowledge.

“We never celebrated Robbie Burns day back then,” says Verona, a surprisingly spry 91-year-old.

“We always knew we were related to Robbie Burns, but there was never any celebration of his birthday at the time.”

But her connection to Scotland’s most famous poet and lyricist spawned an interest that has grown throughout her life.

“I have a lot of books on Robbie Burns,” she says.

“I’ve got this book of poems by Robbie Burns in the Scottish dialect. It’s quite interesting.”

Verona enjoys his songs too, though she finds the music challenging.

“I play the piano, but I find the Scottish songs very hard to play.”

Burns spent much of his life in his home county of South Ayrshire, on the southwest coast of Scotland.

During his short life his reputation grew, not only for his writing but also his drinking and womanizing.

“He only lived 37 tears and wrote I don’t know how many songs and poems,” she says. “A lot of people make fun of him because he was a drunk, but by the same token, he couldn’t have been drinking that much, because he wouldn’t have written so much.”

Verona says she too has the occasional tipple.

“It’s good for you.”

The Bard of Ayrshire wasn’t only prolific in his writing, but he fathered a lot of children.

“He did – out of wedlock, though. He was very romantic – he loved the ladies,” she says, laughing.

Verona, who moved to Nanaimo four years ago to be closer to her daughter, looks forward to Jan. 25.

Then she’ll toast her relative properly, with a wee dram and a plate of that strange, sausage-like concoction of porridge and sheep’s stomach that unites Scots the world over.

“I’m hoping to be able to get to Mclean’s (Specialty Foods). I’m hoping he’ll still have the haggis.”

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