G. Ross Roy on Burns
and the Roy Collection

The G. Ross Roy Collection of Burnsiana & Scottish Literature


G. Ross Roy
G. Ross Roy

Dr. G. Ross Roy began teaching at the University of South Carolina in 1965. One of the world's foremost authorities on the works and life of Robert Burns, Roy founded the scholarly journal, Studies in Scottish Literature, and built one of the world's most comprehensive and impressive collections on Burns and Scottish literature. He donated the collection to USC in 1989 and has continued to work with USC to secure significant additions to further strengthen the collection. In the 1990s, he organized two international conferences, one on Scottish literature and the other for the Robert Burns bicentennial. In June 2002, the University of Edinburgh awarded him an honorary doctor of literature degree in recognition of his scholarly contributions to the study of Burns and Scottish literature.

In an interview in August 2004, shortly before his 80th birthday celebration, Roy shared his thoughts on his passion for Burns, Burns's relevance today and USC's Burns collection. 

Q: What first attracted you to Burns?
"My grandfather...I stayed with him while he was going to the university. He was a Burns enthusiast. When my grandfather died, he left me all of his books, and the books included a collection of Burns' books."

Q: Where do you find your most interesting collection items?
"I find most items through auctions and dealers, but I recently bought a copy of a Boston paper published in 1790 on E-bay. In 1896, 100 years after Burns' death, there was an exhibition in Glasgow, and on display was Burns' porridge bowl. My grandfather purchased that in the 1930s, and that bowl will be on display in the USC exhibition. For many, many years there was only one known copy of The Merry Muses of Caledonia, which was published in 1799. Through a series of fortunate events, a second copy came up, and I was able to get a hold of that."

Q: What is Burns legacy and what is the relevancy of his work today?
"Burns wrote, what I would say is, the best known non-political song in the world: ‘Auld Lang Syne.' There was something about Burns that he could empathize with little people -- he never forgot that he was a farmer. He wrote one of the great ghost story poems of the world, and he gave us the poem ‘My Love is Like A Red, Red Rose.' He just captured peoples' imaginations."

Q: What do you want South Carolinians to know about Burns?
"That the best Burns collection outside of London or Scotland is at USC. I want people to come and see the best printed collection of Burns and Burnsiana in North America. Three first-edition copies of the Kilmarnock, Burns' best known book, will be on display Saturday morning. This is the first time, anywhere, they will be on display together." 

The G. Ross Roy Collection of Burnsiana & Scottish Literature

Columbia Departments Campus Libraries
Columbia Libraries and Collections