header Notes Collection

5 Pounds Sterling 1996. Tam o' Shanter, Kingdom of Great Britain

in Banknotes Book Number: SC331
Years of issue: 21.07.1996
Signatures: Chief Executive: Mr. Fred Goodwin
Serie: Scotland
Specimen of: 21.07.1996
Material: Cotton fiber
Size (mm): 136 x 70
Printer: TDLR (Thomas de la Rue & Company), London

* All pictures marked magnify are increased partially by magnifying glass, the remaining open in full size by clicking on the image.

** The word "Specimen" is present only on some of electronic pictures, in accordance with banknote images publication rules of appropriate banks.

5 Pounds Sterling 1996. Tam o' Shanter




Repeated sailing ship. A ship in full sail taken from the Union Bank of Scotland's coat of arms. Originally the motif of the Ship Bank, which Glasgow-based institution subsequently merged with the Union Bank of Scotland. This latter was then absorbed by Bank of Scotland in 1955.


5 Pounds Sterling 1996. Tam o' Shanter

On July 21, 1996 the Clydesdale Bank PLC was released the anniversary Set of 4 banknotes, dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the Robert Burns' death. On each of 4 banknotes, on obverse, is an excerpt from a poem by Burns.

On this one is an excerpt from "Tam o' Shanter".

"Tam o' Shanter" is a narrative poem written by the Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1790, while living in Dumfries. First published in 1791, it is one of Burns' longer poems, and employs a mixture of Scots and English.

The poem describes the habits of Tam, a farmer who often gets drunk with his friends in a public house in the Scottish town of Ayr, and his thoughtless ways, specifically towards his wife, who is waiting at home for him, angry. At the conclusion of one such late-night revel after a market day, Tam rides home on his horse Meg while a storm is brewing. On the way he sees the local haunted church lit up, with witches and warlocks dancing and the devil playing the bagpipes. He is still drunk, still upon his horse, just on the edge of the light, watching, amazed to see the place bedecked with many gruesome things such as gibbet irons and knives that had been used to commit murders and other macabre artifacts. The witches are dancing as the music intensifies and, upon seeing one particularly wanton witch in a short dress he loses his reason and shouts,`Weel done, cutty-sark!' (cutty-sark: "short shirt"). Immediately, the lights go out, the music and dancing stops and many of the creatures lunge after Tam, with the witches leading. Tam spurs Meg to turn and flee and drives the horse on towards the River Doon as the creatures dare not cross a running stream. The creatures give chase and the witches come so close to catching Tam and Meg that they pull Meg's tail off just as she reaches the Brig o' Doon.

And it is this part:

"Now, wha this tale o' truth shall read,

Ilk man and mother's son, take heed:

Whene'er to Drink you are inclin'd,

Or Cutty-sarks rin in your mind,

Think ye may buy the joys o'er dear;

Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare".

The whole poem you can read here

Robert Burns Robert BurnsThe engraving on banknote is made after this first portrait of Robert Burns by Scottish painter Alexander Nasmyth, 1787.

Today this painting is in Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

This portrait of Burns has become the most well-known and widely reproduced image of the famous Scottish poet. Nasmyth's painting, commissioned by the publisher William Creech, was to be engraved for a new edition of Burn's poems. He is shown fashionably dressed against a landscape, evoking his rural background in Alloway, Ayrshire. Burns and Nasmyth had become good friends, having been introduced to one another in Edinburgh by a mutual patron, Patrick Miller of Dalswinton. Nasmyth, pleased to have recorded Burns' likeness convincingly, decided to leave the painting in a slightly unfinished state.

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 - 21 July 1796) is Scotland's favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, Robden of Solway Firth, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as The Bard)was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a light Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest.

On the background are the poppies and rye, as mentioned in his poetry.

Denominations in numeral and in words are centered.


5 Pounds Sterling 1996. Tam o' Shanter

The harvest mouse (Micromys minutus) sitting on the oats germ. On right side is ordinary garden rose.

The images on banknote are associated with two poems by Burns.

Poem number 1:

Micromys minutusThe harvest mouse, Micromys minutus, is a small rodent native to Europe and Asia. It is typically found in fields of cereal crops, such as wheat and oats, in reed beds and in other tall ground vegetation, such as long grass and hedgerows. It has reddish-brown fur with white underparts and a naked, highly prehensile tail, which it uses for climbing. It is the smallest European rodent; an adult may weigh as little as 4 grams (0.14 oz). It eats chiefly seeds and insects, but also nectar and fruit. Breeding nests are spherical constructions carefully woven from grass and attached to stems well above the ground.

"To a Mouse ("Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim'rous beastie")" is a Poem by Robert Burns (November 1785).

"To a Mouse, on turning up her nest with the plow, November 1785.

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie,

Oh, what a panic's in thy breastie!

Thou needna start awa' sae hasty,

Wi' bickering brattle!

I wad be laith to rin and chase thee,

Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry man's dominion

Has broken Nature's social union,

And justifies that ill opinion,

Which makes thee startle

At me, thy poor earth-born companion

And fellow-mortal!

I doubtna, whiles, but thou may thieve;

What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!

A daimen icker in a thrave

'S a sma' request:

I'll get a blessin' wi' the lave,

And never miss 't!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!

Its silly wa's the win's are strewin'!

And naething now to big a new ane

O' foggage green,

And bleak December's winds ensuin',

Baith snell and keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare and waste,

And weary winter comin' fast,

And cozie here, beneath the blast,

Thou thought to dwell,

Till, crash! the cruel coulter passed

Out through thy cell.

That wee bit heap o' leaves and stibble

Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!

Now thou's turned out for a' thy trouble,

But house or hald,

To thole the winter's sleety dribble,

And cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best-laid schemes o' mice and men

Gang aft a-gley,

And lea'e us naught but grief and pain,

For promised joy.

Still thou art blest, compared wi' me!

The present only toucheth thee:

But, och! I backward cast my e'e

On prospects drear!

And forward, though I canna see,

I guess and fear."

Written by Burns after he had turned over the nest of a tiny field mouse with his plough. Burns was a farmer and farmers are generally far too busy to be concerned with the health of mice. This poem is another illustration of Robert Burn's tolerance to all creatures and his innate humanity.

"Surely one of the finest poems written by Burns, containing some of the most famous and memorable lines ever written by a poet, yet, to this day not really understood by the mass of English-speaking poetry lovers, for no other reason than that the dialect causes it to be read as though in a foreign language. All readers of Burns know of the "Wee sleekit cow'rin tim'rous beastie" but not many understand the sadness and despair contained within the lines of this poem. What was the Bard saying when he was inspired by turning up a fieldmouse in her nest one day while out ploughing?" - George Wilkie.

Thanks to George Wilkie for letting us have this explanation of this poem from his book, "Understanding Robert Burns".

Poem number 2:

Nearby mouse are two wild roses.

"A Red, Red Rose. 1794

O my luve's like a red, red rose.

That's newly sprung in June;

O my luve's like a melodie

That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in luve am I;

And I will love thee still, my Dear,

Till a'the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my Dear,

And the rocks melt wi' the sun:

I will luve thee still, my Dear,

While the sands o'life shall run.

And fare thee weel my only Luve!

And fare thee weel a while!

And I will come again, my Luve,

Tho' it were ten thousand mile!"

"A Red, Red Rose" is a 1794 song in Scots by Robert Burns based on traditional sources. The song is also referred to by the title "Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose", "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose" or "Red, Red Rose" and is often published as a poem.

The song is highly evocative, including lines describing rocks melting with the sun, and the seas running dry. Burns may have been inspired by the concept of deep time put forward a few years earlier by geologist James Hutton in his Theory of the Earth in 1789. Hutton and Burns were contemporaries, and would have mixed in similar circles in Edinburgh.

Denomination in numeral is in top left corner.


On July 21, 1996 the Clydesdale Bank PLC was released the anniversary Set of 4 banknotes, dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the Robert Burns' death.

In general, outwardly, the banknotes repeated the design of 5 pounds, introduced by the bank since 1971, but with some exceptions:

1) From the hands of the poet's the feather pen is removed.

2) From the table removed the book.

3) In the center of the bill appeared micro print CB5 (Clydesdale Bank 5), which was not previously there.

4) In the lower right corner now is a round through (coincident) image of sailing ship with oars.

On each of 4 banknotes, on obverse, is an excerpt from a poem by Robert Burns!!!

The first digit of the serial number running sequentially.

Prefix of commemorative banknotes is R/B, which are the initials of the poet.