Auld Acquaintances: Celebrating the Robert Burns Fellowship. Online exhibition


Special Collections, University of Otago, Dunedin


29 August 2018


‘…for it is only through imaginative thinking that society grows, materially and intellectually…’
Charles Brasch, ‘Notes’. Landfall, March, 1959

This year, 2018, is the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Robert Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago. It is the oldest and most prestigious literary art award in New Zealand. There has always been some mystery surrounding the people who helped set it up, but Dunedin’s own Charles Brasch certainly had a hand in it.

The purpose of the Fellowship was to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns (1759), and to acknowledge the Burns family’s involvement in the early settlement of Otago by the Scottish diaspora.

The Fellowship serves as a way of fostering nascent or already established New Zealand writing talent. It is hosted by the University of Otago’s Department of English and Linguistics, where an office is provided and a stipend is paid. There is no expectation of output.

The city of Dunedin, with its statue of Robert Burns in the Octagon, is part of the personality of the Fellowship. The University, Dunedin’s tradition of education and literature, the ‘smallness’ of the city, the ‘Scottishness’, the weather, landscape, and people have all uniquely contributed to the experience of each Fellow. For some, Dunedin has become their turangawaewae.

This exhibition, Auld Acquaintances: Celebrating the Robert Burns Fellowship, features every Robert Burns Fellow, and where possible the publication that resulted from their tenure is on display; read their own words on how the Fellowship impacted their lives. The Robert Burns Fellowship. Long may it continue!


Special Collections, University of Otago; Curator: Romilly Smith

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