OUT of the mouth of babes. Tess, Lego expert, artist extraordinaire, reader and writer, also moonlights – with her sister, Grace, and cousin, Arran – as the light of my life.

Her appointment diary is as packed as most five-year-olds but she grants me an audience on certain schooldays. These are deeply educational for me.

She is a force of nature, best summarised with recourse to the terms of the shipping forecast with the most apt description being hurricane force 12 with occasional lulls.

During these periods of relative calm, she makes observations about my life and comments about her torrid and interesting existence.

Thus, unprompted, she can point out: “You and Geek are the oldest people I know.” Geek is her great-grandmother. Or: “You are the only person in the family who is bald.”

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These nuggets are, of course, invaluable and normally precede a series of questions where no passes are allowed. These can range from the immediate availability of lollipops, to my favourite films, to the existence of death and its implications.

I rarely ask her about school. Everybody else does it and I sense a slight irritation when the subject is broached. It is enough to know by her demeanour at 3pm that she obviously enjoys it.

But last week she offered some exciting information. “I am learning a poem,” she said. “Whit?” I answered appropriately.

She recounted that in recognition of Robert Burns, genius of this parish, she was studying a poem in Scots and would recite it to the class.

My post-match routine after an afternoon with Tess is to retreat to my garret where I lie trembling in the manner of the J Arthur Rank gong after it has been struck by a strongman. There is then time to reflect. I used it last week to contemplate the implications of Tess’s announcements.

There were pressing areas of inquiry. The first was the acceptance of my ignorance, a regular occurrence after encounters with a child. The poem, The Wee Rid Motor, was unfamiliar to me.

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It was written by Sandy Thomas Ross, the pen name of a collaboration of three Ayrshire men: Sandy MacMillan, an English teacher at Ayr Academy and Irvine Royal Academy; Thomas Limond, a town chamberlain of Ayr; and AL. (Ross) Taylor, rector of Cumnock Academy It was published in 1955, the year of my birth.

I realise the above paragraph in its proclamation of ignorance is akin to the High Court judge asking who the Beatles are in the middle of a court case in the 1960s. But, in mitigation, it makes a further point.

I cannot recall ever learning Scots poetry in primary school. Further, the examination of Burns subsequently in secondary school was minimal, certainly in comparison to the mandatory Wordsworth and Wilfred Owen, two poets I still read.

A full and deep appreciation and love of Burns came late in my life. I have sometimes wondered why I neglected him so long.

The blame is entirely personal, of course, but it owes something to the cultural and educational values of my early life. This, crudely, consisted of a disdain for Scots as a language and extended into a neglect of the country’s history.

This attitude towards Scots exists until this day. No celebration or even explanation of Scots goes unmet by claims that a) it is not a language and b) no one speaks like that.

Spoiler a) it is a language and b) people do speak like that

Further, in my childhood it was a punishable offence to speak Scots. You would be chided by teachers and advised “to speak properly” by adults. This extended into later life. Once, after a working sojourn in Stirling 40 years ago, I repaired to my local in Busby and said the word ‘ken”. The reaction of ridicule was immediate. I expect it to diminish soon.

There is a visceral contempt of Scots that exists in some layers of society. It appears in newspaper columns. It exists in replies on Twitter feeds to those who seek to promote the language. It accompanies any attempt to put Scots in the public eye or ear.

It is disproportionate in its force to the gentle aims of those it seeks to disparage. The origin of this fear and loathing may be found in the “Scottish cringe”. There are those, still, who are deeply uncomfortable with people who speak Scots.

There is certainly an academic debate to be had about Scots. It would educate me further. But bile and contempt are the regular condiments to a feast of Scots.

Thus the language of a truly international poet is derided in his homeland. The reputation of Burns, of course, has not been diminished and the Scots language is still being promoted by those who speak it and those who wish to celebrate it.

It lives on. It is why Tess reciting The Wee Rid Motor while eating a lollipop, negotiating a Flying Fox in the park, and pondering what she will have for tea (she is a multi-tasker) brought me joy.

This has lingered from that first mention of that Wee Rid Motor in the school playground and the realisation that Scots was being taught and honoured.

It has nothing to do with the fact that she won the poetry competition. No, not at all.

*Spoiler: It has something to do with her winning the competition