Every year on the 25th of January Scots, descendants of Scots and those who like a dram join together to celebrate the poet Robert Burns. Regarded as Scotland’s national poet, Burns drew on Scottish tradition and his broad knowledge of classical, biblical and English literature to produce a large body of well loved poems and lyrics on themes as diverse as Scottish culture and tradition, republicanism, gender and class inequalities, poverty, sexuality and of course, whisky. Even if you care not for poetry or Scottish icons, you’ll no doubt be familiar with ‘Auld Lang Syne’, his best known lyrical work. John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ borrows its title from Burns’ poem ‘To A Mouse’:
“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley”.
Burns Night Suppers are held all over the world, and take many forms. Burns is also associated with Freemasonry and some Masonic temples hold very formal and unsuprisingly ritualised dinners to celebrate the Scottish Poet. Our impromtu Burns’ Night celebration was a decidedly more free form affair.
Some of our older Whisky Society members gather each year at 5pm at the Burns Statue in Cathedral Place where the traditional Burns’ Day piece ‘Address To A Haggis’ is recited and various flasks and other receptacles of whisky are raised in a toast to Burns. Local park dwellers join in and after 30 minutes or so the crowd disperses, each heading off in their own directions home.
Address To A Haggis
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my airm
or in the modern parlance:
Nice seeing your honest, chubby face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Belly, tripe, or links:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.
We decided the Saturday before the Tuesday night to have our Burns Supper at The Euro. Probably an odd choice on the face of it but their Laneway Bar has a great selection of pre-whisky beers, stunning whisky cocktails courtesy of talented bar manager Aiden and importantly a very fine selection of whiskies. No, Kym Machin hasn’t extended his repetoire to Haggis, but hearty flavours of rabbit, aged eye fillet and pork belly were sufficient fuel for our celebrations.
Over dinner and after several glasses of wine at dinner the Saturday night before, I started practicing to recite ‘Address to a Haggis’. (Apologies to Shawn Gomes and the Il Centro floor staff). Come Burns Night, and after several beers and whisky cocktails our little democracy decided that we’d each recite a verse. Hmmmm. I’m not sure we really did Burns’ justice.
Perhaps next year we’ll find somewhere with kilts, haggis and someone more qualified to conduct the Burns’ Night formalities.