Eddi Reader's Rabbie Burns Trip

BBC2 (1 x 60 mins)

Scottish singer and Robert Burns enthusiast Eddi Reader travels across Ulster to discover how the poet influenced his peers on this side of the Irish Sea.

Eddi takes to the road in a camper van to share her love of Robert Burns and to learn about Ulster's 'Weaver Poets' and the language and themes they shared with him.

Interspersed throughout the programme are performances by Eddi of her own acclaimed interpretations of Burns songs such as 'Charlie Is My Darling', 'My Love Is Like A Red Red Ros'e and 'Auld Lang Syne', from a recent concert in Belfast's Ulster Hall.

Just as Rabbie Burns worked as a flax stresser, the Weaver Poets of Ulster worked in the linen industry and were largely contemporaries of Burns. Eddi starts her journey by visiting the Irish Linen Centre in Lisburn where she discovers how the rhythm of the machinery may have influenced the poets in their writing. Then, in the Linenhall Library, Belfast, she finds rare works of Burns donated by his great-granddaughter who lived in the city.

While in Belfast, she is introduced to the works of Weaver Poet James Orr - the Bard of Ballycarry - who wrote a eulogy to Burns when he died and she also learns about the lauded Ulster poet Samuel Thomson, who travelled to Scotland to see Burns.

Eddi then heads to Ballymena to meet a relative of Weaver Poet David Herbison - the Bard of Dunclug and visits the cemetery where an impressive memorial has been erected in Herbison's honour. In Rathfriland, Eddi learns about the poet and farmer Hugh Porter and hears one of his works in which he writes from the perspective of Burns' widowed wife, Jean.

And in Donegal, Eddi ends her jaunt by learning about of one of the few female Weaver Poets, Sarah Leech, and enjoys hearing some of her poems.

Eddi says: "I'd have loved to have met Robert Burns. I'd love to take him by the hand and take him to all these places that know him. I think he would have been amazed.

"What Burns did for me, which is I think what he did for the poets, was reveal to them that it was okay to sing in your own voice. Of course, I was aware of that before but certainly, with the Weaver Poets it sounds like, to me, that things that they may have been told to tone down they were allowed to erupt and make bloom and make flow, kind of in a beautiful way."

Produced in association with Northern Ireland Screen's Ulster Scots Broadcast Fund.