A ‘burgeoning love, passion and dedication for all things Scottish and particularly the poet Robert Burns’ has led Rob Bruce-Barron (OC 1953) to initiate a reimagining of the Strowan Scottish Scholarship into the exciting new Robert Burns Scottish Scholarship, with a renewed emphasis on celebrating Scottish heritage at St Andrew’s College.
“As part of my international consultancy with History, Heritage and Cultural Renewal, it dawned on me to respectfully propose to St Andrew’s College an inclusive, holistic initiative, to assist in further strengthening our Scottish heritage in a meaningful and dynamic manner,” says Rob.
He first approached Rector Christine Leighton, Board Chair Bryan Pearson and former Director of Development Clare Wilkinson back in 2017, with his idea to extend the existing Strowan Scottish Scholarship to include a strong emphasis on the globally admired and respected 18th century Scottish poet, Robert Burns. “I was keen for the scholarship to not only provide a wonderful experience for the two Year 12 scholars selected to go to Scotland each year, but to create opportunities for all students of St Andrew’s College to enhance their learning and understanding of Burns’ work, Scottish heritage and culture.”
In addition to visiting various Scottish schools and Colleges, it is now planned that the Robert Burns Scottish Scholars will visit locations linked to Robert Burns, such as Dumfries, Robert Burns Cottage, the Robert Burns statue in Edinburgh, Tam O’Shanter, and the Robert Burns World Federation head offices in Kilmarnock.
The College already celebrates one of Burns’ significant works, the Address to the Haggis on several occasions each year, including the Founders’ Day Assembly, many reunion dinners, the Ceilidh, and the special Leavers’ Dinner. It is proposed that Robert Burns Day also becomes a time when the College recognises more of the poet’s works.
To bring his vision to life, Rob has generously made a significant financial gift to St Andrew’s College. He was on hand at this year’s Founders’ Day Assembly to present the inaugural scholarships to Year 12 students, Hana Pearce and Lewis Edmond, who recently returned from their incredible Scottish adventure.
Rob is incredibly proud of his long Scottish family history on both sides. He was a member of the Canterbury Caledonian Society from the age of four, the same age he took up Highland dancing. Robert Burns has been part of Rob’s life since he was a young lad and his father used to quote Burns’ poems.
He still loves to delve into the poems today, and says it is hard to pick a favourite. “However, after seeing Rector Christine Leighton’s affinity to A Red, Red Rose, and hearing Hana Pearce’s most beautifully composed and sung version of this poem, I would dare not have it at the top of my list.”
Rob attended St Andrew’s from 1950–1953. He has lived in Winnipeg, Canada for several years, where he is a long-time member of the Winnipeg Robert Burns Club, a past Board member of the Winnipeg St Andrew’s Society, and is an inaugural and executive member of the Winnipeg Scottish Gentlemen’s Club. He is also a member of the Robert Burns World Federation, Kilmarnock, Scotland.
He says the further strengthening of Scottish heritage at St Andrew’s will be fostered with the introduction of ongoing programmes specialising in Robert Burns, starting in the Preparatory School. “In future, the Robert Burns Scottish Scholars, as part of their selection process, will have to exhibit in-depth knowledge of Robert Burns, which will be enhanced further during their visit to Scotland.”