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Scotland’s National Bard Inspired Houston

The City of Houston was named in honour of a man who  was inspired by the works of Scotland’s national bard Robert Burns.

The influence of Burns on General Sam Houston, founding father of the Republic of Texas, has been confirmed by exhibits now on display at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum in Huntsville, Texas.

In a letter to his teenage son Sam jnr, Gen. Houston, the first President of the Republic of Texas and later Governor of the State of Texas, told how he drew inspiration from one particular Burns poem, “Epistle To A Young Friend.” He memorised it as a child and referred to it throughout his life for guidance.

He called the poem “one of he most salutary and safest guides I have met with in life” and “a beautiful emanation of heart and intellect.”

The museum has put on display a Burns’ poetry book which belonged to Houston’s mother and which he read avidly.  Houston’s great grandfather emigrated from the family home in Renfrewshire, Scotland to the New World via Ireland.

Texas author James L. Haley, who wrote a book on the life of Sam Houston (1793-1863), said, “There is one line in the poem about being lost in the tempest of life and he never lost sight of that image during his lifetime.”

Burns wrote “Epistle To A Young Friend” in 1786 and sent it to Andrew Hunter Aiken, the son of a family friend. The young man went on to become a wealthy merchant and was British Consul in Riga, Latvia.

Sam Houston secured Texas independence by defeating the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto, near Houston, and served as President of the Republic of Texas from 1836-38 and 1841-44. He helped to gain statehood in 1845 and was appointed Governor in 1859.