Robert Burns was born on 25 January 1759 in the village of Alloway, two miles south of Ayr. His parents, Willian Burnes and Agnes Broun, were tenant farmers but they ensured their son received a relatively good education and he began to read avidly.
Extracts from the accompanying The Greatest Scot television programme are being added to these biographical notes as the programme is broadcast between November 9 and 13. If you live outside the UK, you will not be able to see these, but you may enjoy other videos about some of the subjects which are available via links in the text. Here is an episode of Eikon from STV's archive discussing Robert Burns and Morality and another video with Greatest Scot presenter Alex Norton performing Robert Burns' Green Grow the Rashes, O
The works of Alexander Pope, Henry Mackenzie and Laurence Sterne fired Burns's poetic impulse. But he always had an eye for the ladies. Handsome Nell, for Nellie Kilpatrick, was his first song.
Hard physical labour on the family farm took its toll on the young Robert who increasingly turned his attention towards the passions of poetry, nature, drink and women which would characterise the rest of his life.
He fathered twins with Jean Armour but a rift in their relationship nearly led to Burns emigrating to the West Indies with new lover Mary Campbell (his "Highland Mary").
Mary's sudden death and the sensational success of his first published collection of verse kept him in Scotland. At just 27, Burns had already become famous across the country.
Hailed as the Ploughman Poet, because his poems complemented the growing literary taste for romanticism and pastoral pleasures, Burns ventured forth to Edinburgh where he was embraced by a circle of wealthy and important patrons.
A collaboration with James Johnson led to a long-term involvement in The Scots Musical Museum, which included the likes of Auld Lang Syne.
In just 18 short months, Burns had spent most of the wealth from his published poetry, so in 1789 he began work as an Excise Officer in Dumfries and resumed his relationship with Jean.
His increasingly radical political views influenced many of the torrent of poems, songs and letters he continued to pen, including such famous works as A man's a man for a' that.
The hard work this new job combined with the toil of his earlier life and dissolute lifestyle began to take their toll on Burns's health. He died on 21 July 1796 aged just 37 and was buried with full civil and military honours on the very day his son Maxwell was born.