University of Otago emeritus professor Tom Brooking spoke at the "Burns and Family" themed event at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, a celebration of Robert Burns held each year on his birthday.
About 90 people gathered for the event, which included staples such as poetry readings, bagpipes and haggis.
Prof Brooking described how Burns was born in 1759 to a mother with a deep knowledge of local song, dubbed "the apostle of thrift".
His father taught the future poet that all men were equal, and was described by Burns’ school teacher as a fine example of the "best of Scottish peasantry".
Prof Brooking also spoke of the other influences that shaped Burns into a poet who saved a whole declining Scottish dialect and wrote political poems with an edge.
He also touched on the poet’s nine children, as well as his nephew Thomas Burns, who played a major role in the Scottish settlement of Otago.
It was Thomas Burns who pushed for the name "Dunedin", to replace "New Edinburgh".
Dunedin MP Rachel Brooking — Mr Brooking’s daughter — was also among those who took part in the event, giving the "Toast to the Lassies".
Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich delivered "The Selkirk Grace" at the dinner.