When did Robert Burns die and what was his cause of death?

A composition of images of Robert Burns.
The work of Robert Burns is known and beloved across the world (Pictures: Getty)

January 25 marks Burns Night, a time when many people in Scotland and across the world celebrate the life of Robert Burns.

Burns was a Scottish lyricist and poet who lived in the 18th century and is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland.

He is best known for having written the traditional New Year’s Eve anthem Auld Lang Syne, and while his life was a short one, his work is still being celebrated to this day.

Burns Night now gives everyone a day to celebrate all things Scottish, including whisky, haggis, bagpiping and Highland dancing.

But when and how did the poet die?

When did Robert Burns die and what was his cause of death?

Portrait Of Robert Burns
Burns may not have lived long, but his work has stood the test of time (Picture: Stock Montage/Getty Images)

Robert Burns died at the young age of 37 on July 21 1796 in Dumfries, Scotland.

He was born into poverty on January 25 1759 – which is what Burns Night commemorates – and went on to become a prolific writer of poems and songs, observing the struggles of the time using a Scottish vernacular that was under threat from being taken over by English.

There has been much speculation over how Robert Burns died, and due to lack of scientific evidence from the time, no one can be certain.

An engraved scene of the Robert Burns poem The Cottar's Saturday Night  Robert Burns Poems
There are many engraved scenes and paintings of the Burns’ works; including this one of The Cottar’s Saturday Night (Picture: Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Many have pointed towards alcohol abuse as a contributing factor to his failing health and untimely death, although this too has been widely disputed

This has been a long-held belief first put forward by Dr James Currie, who was tasked with putting together an anthology of Burns’ work following his death.

However, Currie’s account of Burns’ death has been debated for years, with many believing he exaggerated Burns’ drinking habits due to his own dislike for the habit, as Currie himself was a recovering alcoholic.

Burns Mausoleum
The Burns Mausoleum in Dumfries (Picture: RDImages/Epics/Getty Images)

It is also believed that Burns’ may have had an unknown rheumatic heart condition, that a heavy-drinking lifestyle could well have aggravated.

What is known is that he died in Dumfries in a two-storey red sandstone house on Mill Hole Brae, which is now known as Burns Street

His home is now a museum in his memory, and he was first laid to rest in Dumfries’ St. Michael’s Churchyard in Dumfries.

His body was eventually moved to its final location in the same cemetery to the Burns Mausoleum in September 1817. The body of his widow Jean Armour was buried with him in 1834. 


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