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Meet the Team

Joan McAlpine is Business Development Manager of the Robert Burns Ellisland Trust. She 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.

Ellis Corrigan is Ellisland’s Digital Assistant and resident artist. Her graphics and animations have supported many of our recent campaigns and online events and she is responsible for our social media, member communications and website support as well as developing tourism experiences and marketing. Ellis studied animation at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, graduating in 2021 with a BA (Hons) Design. In 2014, Ellis was chosen to represent Scotland at the Commonwealth Youth Summit.   Ellis’s position is supported by UK Kickstart and Museums Galleries Scotland.

Meet the Board

Mrs Sara-Valentin-Byers (chair)  Appt 2 March 2020

Sara is a longstanding supporter of Ellisland and her daughter Rose has been the farm’s Junior Music Ambassador for the past three years. Sara grew up in France before moving to a farm near Lockerbie in 2000. She was a journalist for more than 20 years, with positions at The Herald in Glasgow and as Production Editor at CN Magazines, with titles such as Dumfries & Galloway Life among her portfolio. She is now Media Manager for forestry and logistics firm A.W. Jenkinson. 

Professor Ian Brown Appt 15 June 2020

Ian is Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow and Emeritus Drama Professor at Kingston University, London. He 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.

Ian Houston Appt 12 April 2021

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. He 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. He writes for the Herald Scotland and Voice Newspapers in Cornwall. He also published a book of poetry and is a GlobalScot. 

Dr David Hopes (vice-chair), Appt 2 March 2020

David is the Head of Leeds Museums & Galleries. He was previously Head of Collections & Interiors for the National Trust for Scotland and, 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.

Emily Smith Appt 3 Aug 2020

Emily Smith is an award winning Scottish musician with eight studio albums and many appearances on national and international TV. A former BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, her voice has delighted audiences at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival, Tonder Festival, Edmonton Folk Festival, the National Folk Festival in Australia to name a few.  Emily works with Fèis Rois on a Youth Music Initiave funded project to deliver workshop tuition and online teaching resources to schools across Dumfries and Galloway. 

Libby Hammond Appt 3 November 2021

Libby Hammond is the CEO, course founder and creator of Get Confidence and comes from a background in staff development, training, management and public speaking. For over 20 years she has delivered masterclasses and workshops on public speaking, presentation and interpersonal skills for a wide range of organisations and also tailored individual mentoring. She has worked nationally and internationally, and for both the public and private sectors. Clients include W L Gore, TSB, HSBS, UK Finance, UCCF, Edinburgh University amongst many others.

Professor Gerard Carruthers (Secretary) Appt 2 March 2020

Gerry is one of the world’s leading Burns scholars. He 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. 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.

Asif Khan appointed 8 Feb 2021

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.

Gordon Gibb FRIBA FRIAS MCIArb Appt 12 January 2022

Gordon has been a director/principal of architectural practices for 30 years and has designed buildings in the UK and the Far East. He has acted as an Expert Witness in the Court of Session, Lands Tribunal, Sheriff Courts and in adjudication proceedings for construction claims and professional liability matters. Gordon is a Practice Services Consultant for the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and member of the Panels of accredited RIAS Expert Witnesses and accredited RIAS Adjudicators. Gordon is the Chair and Director of the Actual Reality Trust. Gordon is also an examiner at a number of universities across the

Burns Poetry

Painting of Ellisland Farm


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.


Burns Attractions

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.

Burns Attractions


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.


Burns Poetry

Painting of Ellisland Farm
"Ellisland is a popular visitor attraction providing wonderful insight into the life of Robert Burns."
Mrs L Warwick - Langholm Primary School