Arts & Culture

‘Ae Fond Kiss’… Robert Burns’ original manuscript goes on show at Kelvin Hall

By Ian Marland at

The original manuscript of one of Robert Burns’ most famous love songs has gone on show in Glasgow.

But sadly you will have missed it already because the fragile letter could only be seen for no more than two hours.

The letter contains the famous love poem Ae Fond Kiss, which was written for Burns’ love Nancy McLehose in 1791.


Watch: Dr Ralph McLean explains the story of Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss.

It went on public display at the National Library of Scotland’s new base in Glasgow at the recently-refurbished Kelvin Hall.

The letter was written as Nancy prepared to depart for Jamaica in an attempt at a reconciliation with her estranged husband.

It is regarded as one of the greatest love songs of all time.

It expresses the poet’s despair at the end of their platonic affair, during which they mostly corresponded by letters using the pseudonyms Clarinda and Sylvander.

The song, which is one of the most recorded of all Burns’ songs, has the famous opening lines “Ae fond kiss, and then we sever; Ae fareweel, and then forever!”

Dr Ralph McLean, manuscripts curator at the National Library, said: “Burns’s love songs and poems are famous around the world and Ae Fond Kiss is one of his best known works.

“We are pleased to be able to offer people in Glasgow the opportunity to see the original version that Burns composed for Agnes.”

Burns and McLehose met for the last time in December 1791 and he sent her the song a few weeks later.

They never saw each other again although McLehose remembered the day of their parting forever.