As proof that not only am I a lover of the arts, but a true-born son of the Highlands, I present for your edification some matters related to the late, great Robert Burns! I will be celebrating tonight with some Lagavulin and my 100 year old copy of Burn’s collected works.
A Burns supper is a celebration of the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns, author of many Scots poems. The suppers are normally held on or near the poet’s birthday, 25 January, sometimes also known as Robert Burns Day or Burns Night (Burns Nicht), although they may in principle be held at any time of the year.
Burns suppers are most common in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but occur wherever there are Burns Clubs, Scottish Societies, expatriate Scots, or aficionados of Burns’ poetry. There is a particularly strong tradition of them in southern New Zealand’s main city Dunedin, of which Burns’ nephew Thomas Burns was a founding father.
The first suppers were held in Ayrshire at the end of the 18th century by Robert Burns’ friends on the anniversary of his death, 21 July, In Memoriam and they have been a regular occurrence ever since. The first Burns club, known as The Mother Club, was founded in Greenock in 1801 by merchants born in Ayrshire, some of whom had known Burns. They held the first Burns supper on what they thought was his birthday on 29 January 1802, but in 1803 discovered from the Ayr parish records that the correct date was 25 January 1759, and since then suppers have been held on 25st January, Burns’ birthday.
Burns suppers may be formal or informal. Both typically include haggis (a traditional Scottish dish celebrated by Burns in Address to a Haggis), Scotch whisky and the recitation of Burns’ poetry. Formal dinners are hosted by organisations such as Burns clubs, the Freemasons or St Andrews Societies and occasionally end with dancing when ladies are present. Formal suppers follow a standard format as follows:
Legend of the Haggis
There are always those that like to pull the innocents leg, these are the inventors of the snipe hunt, the mongoose trap, rattlesnake eggs, and the legend of the haggis. They would have us believe that Haggis are small furry but fierce animals that live in the Scottish highlands. The legend goes that these small creatures have two legs shorter on one side than the other which enables them to climb the high ranges in circular fashion with no danger of falling off the steep inclines. However if the Haggis becomes confused and attempts to switch direction it will find itself head over heels rolling down the mountain into the sack of a skilled Highland Haggis gatherer. Of course the people in my family know that Haggis is really my pet hedgehog.
A Red, Red Rose
O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve 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;
And 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’ ’twere ten thousand mile!
A Scotsman with a wee tendency to sip the breath of the heather sat down to rest beside a tree on the way home from his pub in the evening. Two young lasses walked by later in the evening and seeing the Scotsman sound asleep got to discussing what it is that Scotsmen wear under their kilts. They decided that there would never be a better time to find out. The one lass took a ribbon from her hair and tied it at a strategic location. The next morning the Scotsman awakened and walked behind a tree to take care of nature. When he looked down he was astounded to see the ribbon. He burst out “Laddie, I dinna know where you were last night, but I’m proud to see that you won the blue ribbon.”