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Who We Are

The Robert Burns Ellisland Trust

Meet the Team

Robert Burns Ellisland Trust, established in 2020 (taking over from another trust set up in 1923), cares for Ellisland. Ellisland is a farm built and farmed by Robert Burns between 1788 and 1791. A place which inspired Burns to write some of his most famous poems, we champion the incredible history of Ellisland and the heritage of Robert Burns through our public programmes, collections, site, house and landscape. Meet the team of hardworking staff and board members that keep this charity running below.

We are an independent charity and are entrusted with the care of Ellisland for the benefit of the nation. 

Meet the Staff

Joan McAlpine

Joan McAlpine

Business Development Manager

Joan was previously convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee and MSP for South Scotland from 2011-2016. She has been editor of The Sunday Times Scotland, Deputy Editor of The Herald and a columnist for these and other newspapers. Her awards include Scottish Journalist of the Year. Joan has an MA Hons in Scottish and Economic History from the University of Glasgow. Joan lives in Galloway and began volunteering as an Ellisland trustee in February 2020, after leading parliamentary debates on Robert Burns and the Economy. Joan’s post is supported by the SCVO Adapt and Thrive Fund.

Sarah White

Sarah White

Operations and Administration Officer

Sarah is our part-time Operations and Administration Officer. She is studying for a Computer, IT and Design degree through the Open University. As well as ensuring the museum and trust operate smoothly, she also helps manage the Auld Acquaintance Cottage.

Meet the Robert Burns Ellisland Trust Board

Dr David Hopes - Robert Burns Ellisland Trust Interim Chair

Dr David Hopes

Interim Chair

Head of Leeds Museums & Galleries, David was previously Head of Collections & Interiors for the National Trust for Scotland. Before that, he was formerly Director of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway as well as a research fellow at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. David has a PhD from the University of Birmingham focused on Museums and Digital, and a Masters degree in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester.

Prof Gerard Carruthers - Robert Burns Ellisland Trust Secretary

Prof Gerard Carruthers


One of the world’s leading Burns scholars, Gerry holds the Francis Hutcheson Chair of Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow and is Co-Director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies there. Additionally, he was formerly Convener of the Burns Scotland Partnership (the National Burns Collection), and is General Editor of the Oxford University Press Edition of the Works of Robert Burns. He has published 17 books and over 150 academic articles and essays.

Ian Houston - Robert Burns Ellisland Trust Board Member

Ian Houston

Ian is President of the Scottish Business Network U.S . He specialises in promoting Scottish business, trade, industry, culture and universities in the U.S. Ian is also the Director of Clydebuilt International which supports charitable organisations, businesses, and universities to grow their business in North America. He has collaborated with former US Secretaries of State, senators, ambassadors, CEOs and academics focused on leadership, education and the value of cooperation. Ian writes for the Herald Scotland and Voice Newspapers in Cornwall. He also published a book of poetry and is a GlobalScot. 

Professor Ian Brown - Robert Burns Ellisland Trust Board Member

Professor Ian Brown

Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow and Emeritus Drama Professor at Kingston University, London, Ian is General Editor of The Edinburgh History of Scottish Literature and Series Co-editor of The International Companions to Scottish Literature. A former convener of the Saltire Society, he is a highly regarded playwright and poet. He is Past President of The Association for Scottish Literary Studies and Founder-Chair of the Scottish Society of Playwrights.

Asif Khan - Robert Burns Ellisland Trust Board Member

Asif Khan

Asif is the director of the Scottish Poetry Library, and has worked across arts and heritage, including at the Museums Libraries & Archives Council for the UK’s Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Cultural programme in 2007. He was an associate of the Arts Council England’s Cultural Leadership Programme, for which he wrote the visual art strategy for Barbados. Asif has also worked with the Jamaican Government in support of their poet laureate initiative. He sits on the Advisory Committee for British Council (Scotland) and is a Board member of Perth & Kinross Culture Trust. He also sits on the national Policy Committee for CILIP, the UK’s library and information association, and Edinburgh’s Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group.

Linda Dorward

Our Funding Partners

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Find out how you can get involved at Ellisland.


There is so much to see at Ellisland Museum & Farm, so please allow at least an hour for a short visit and two to three hours for a full visit. We’re a short, 5 mile drive from the centre of nearby Dumfries, just off the A76.

Become a Member

Burns experienced his most creative and fruitful years here at Ellisland. He found great poetic inspiration in the beauty of the surrounding countryside, the various people he met and the events he witnessed whilst living here.

Robert Burns

Ellisland Museum & Farm is conveniently situated on the road between Robert Burns’ birthplace in Alloway and his final resting place at St Michael’s Cemetery in Dumfries.

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