The Legend Of Tam O’Shanter
The Legend Of Tam O’Shanter
By:, Categories: Words & Images, 2 comments


When I lived in America, at this time of the year Washington Irving’s 1820 story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was always a big Halloween favourite. But if you read it, you’ll discover that its eerily similar to Scottish bard Robert Burns’ wonderful, epic poem Tam O’Shanter, written about a couple of decades or so earlier. 


In it, Burns paints a vivid picture of the drinking classes in the old Scots town of Ayr in the late 18th century – and indeed, as this recent photo when I was in Ayr shows, there’s an old established pub in the town dating from 1749 that was named after the Tam O’Shanter legend from hometown hero Burns.


Burns’ poem detailed the Halloween adventures of the lovable, drunk rogue. On his way home, Tam hallucinates and – taking a shortcut home across a graveyard (always a bad sign) – sees creatures of the night, including dancing skeletons, even Satan himself. Tam’s ride home was a lonely one, in the forbidding Ayrshire countryside in Scotland, on his trusty mare, Meg. The poem even involves a chase in which Tam barely escapes from a legion of pursuing witches.


It all seems somewhat familiar with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, doesn’t it? The truth is that The Legend of Sleepy Hollow follows a tradition from the era of folk tales and poems involving a supernatural wild chase, and many writers would weave successful plot lines from other works into their own – and Burns’ Tam O’Shanter proved to be extremely popular, so Irving would have been heavily influenced by it.


Leica M3 & 2/40mm Summicron-c,
Ilford Delta 100
Sekonic L-308S
HC-110 (Dil. B – 6 min)
Plustek 7600i & Vuescan



  • Nice shot. Enjoy your stuff. --Paul in Seattle (we met in the Central Library)

    • Thanks, Paul. I hope you made good use of that 100ft roll of Ilford XP I sold to you!