Robert Aiken was a well-respected and most accomplished lawyer who was both a close friend and supporter of Burns. Such was his regard for the genius of Burns, he collected the names of a hundred and forty-five subscribers for publication of the Kilmarnock Edition, almost a quarter of the total required for publication.
He was also noted for successfully defending their mutual friend, Gavin Hamilton, who was brought to task by the “Auld Licht” church in Mauchline on spurious charges - an unexpected outcome which infuriated those who wanted to see Hamilton pilloried, as immortalised in the vitriol of ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’.
Perhaps the most significant evidence of the feelings Burns had for Aiken was in his dedicating one of his finest works - 'The Cotter's Saturday Night’ – to his dear friend and confidant…
"My lov'd, my honour'd, much respected friend!.....To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays, The lowly train in life's sequester'd scene,
The native feelings strong, the guileless ways, What Aiken in a cottage would have been; Ah! tho' his worth unknown, far happier there I ween!"