Illustrious Exile: Journal of my Sojourn in the West Indies by Robert Burns, Esq. Commenced on the first day of July 1786

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Cellardyke author Andrew O. Lindsay is set to launch his first novel in time for the birthday of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns.

Illustrious Exile: Journal of my Sojourn in the West Indies which will be officially unveiled at The Haven, Cellardyke, on Friday, January 20, is written in the form of a personal diary.

Mr Lindsay, a former principal teacher of English at Madras College, explained that, as the title makes clear, the book is based on the question ‘what if?’

He said he has tried to imagine how Burns, the author of ‘A Mans’ and Man for a’ That’, would have reacted to the brutal realities of slavery if he had gone ahead with his plan to emigrate to Jamaica in 1786.

He explained that at the time Burns, who was penniless and needing to escape the consequences of his complicated love life, accepted the position of book-keeper on an estate in Jamaica.

However the subsequent success of his Poems chiefly in the Scottish dialect made his escape unnecessary.


But had he gone ahead as planned, Burns may have experienced an entirely different life as Mr Lindsay’s book envisages. 

“Burns indeed goes to Jamaica and then to the Dutch colony of Demerara where, into the world of sugar and slavery, he brought his propensity for falling in love, his humanity and urge to write poetry. In 1997 a small mahogany chest is found in a Wai Wai Amerindian village in Guyana which contains Burns’ journal from 1786 to 1796, when he died.”

Mr Lindsay, who spends much of his time in Guyana, said the book also contains some versions of Burns’ poems, as written in the Caribbean.

Illustrious Exile is published by Peepal Tree Press and can be ordered online at Copies , which cost £9.99, will also be available at the book signing which begins at 7:30pm.

The event will include Mr Lindsay giving a reading from the novel as well as a presentation by Jeremy Poynting of Peepal Tree Press.