Donald A. Low, who died in 2001, was one of the ‘quiet men’ of 20th century Scottish literary scholarship and one particularly noted now for his work on Robert Burns. A modest individual, gentle and respectful of others, Low was a man who also celebrated the rebel and the rebellious. He had a keen sense of humour, a passion for music and sport and a real love of the land. Having spent most of his early summer holidays on family farms in Angus, it is perhaps unsurprising that Low, as a literature undergraduate, would develop a natural interest in the ploughman poet of Ayrshire. But the magnetism of Burns was all the more powerful to him because his teachers at St Andrews University pushed Burns to one side, failing to see him as a key figure in the literary history of the long 18th century. The young Low recognised how unacceptable this was. He believed that Burns’s contribution was as visionary as that of William Blake, whose writing received a great deal more attention. And when he came back to St Andrews to take up his first teaching post in the 1970s, after completing a doctorate at Pembroke College, Cambridge, Burns became part of the undergraduate course.
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