IT has long been known that President Abraham Lincoln kept a copy of the collected works of Robert Burns by his bedside, but our National Bard influenced many other Americans.

Now Scotland’s “Man in Washington DC” is to host a hybrid “in conversation” event on Sunday to show how the poet influenced some of America’s progressive leaders, including Lincoln and anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass.

Ian Houston, who leads the US division of the Scottish Business Network, an international organisation created to boost opportunities for Scottish firms, will hold the event in person at Robert Burns Ellisland Farm, which was designed and built by the poet in 1788 and is largely unchanged. It will also be broadcast on Zoom.

The Lad Of Liberty talk will take place in Ellisland’s historic threshing barn – the first public event there since lockdown last year. As this is Black History Month, Houston’s focus will be on Frederick Douglass, a Burns admirer who toured Scotland campaigning against the slave trade.

Houston, who is based in the US capital, writes the regular Letter from America column for The Herald and is also a published poet. He sits on the board of The Robert Burns Ellisland Trust, the charity formed last year to save Ellisland Farm, where Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne and Tam o Shanter.

He will be introduced by Dr David Hopes, vice chair of the trust, head of City of Leeds Museums and former Director of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.

Speaking from his home near Washington DC, Houston said: “Ellisland was the stage for so much of what Burns created. To stand on that same stage and speak of him and the audience of hearts around the world he inspired is humbling. He would have wanted us to keep that energy vibrant at a spot he so loved.”

Joan McAlpine, business development manager at Ellisland said: “We are so excited to start holding events again at Ellisland after a successful summer of pre-booked tours in the museum. Ian is an inspirational business leader who has researched Burns’s influence on American thinkers. ”

To buy tickets for the in situ Lad Of Liberty event go to:

To attend the Zoom event only, go to Eventbrite here: