The Burns Supper – January 25

The Burns Supper
Robert Burns

The Burns Supper is celebrated on Robert Burns’ birthday: January 25.

Long before I played golf, I was a fan of Scotland. As a kid, my parents had Scottish friends, the Watts, who were in the US on a teacher exchange. Charles taught shop and attended church in his kilt. Christina was often our babysitter. She always encouraged me to go to Scotland, saying that the Scottish lasses would find my black hair and eyes attractive.

I also was a huge fan of monsters—such as the one that resides on Loch Ness; and of castles, of which Scotland has plenty. I played plenty of D&D as a teen.

My Grandfather, although of Welsh extraction, was a West Virginia University Professor of forensics (speech), who could quote innumerable poets from memory—among those, Scotland’s Poet Laureate, Robert Burns. And each year, he would attend a Robert Burns Supper (as well as a Friday the 13th Dinner, but that is a tale for another time).

Burns Suppers are celebrated on the poet’s birthday on January 25. During these, poems are read, haggis is served and Scotch (another of the land’s contributions to civilization) is consumed.

A Burns Supper follows a standard format:

The begin with the Piping Of The Guests: In which the guests arrive and mix.

This is followed by the Welcome and Grace:In which the participants are seated, and the Selkirk Grace is said. Although attributed to Burns, the Selkirk Grace probably predates it:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.

Dinner is of traditional Scottish fare, highlighted by a haggis. The arrival of the main course is accompanied by great ceremony. All of the participants stand while the cook brings the dish on a large platter. Bagpipres are played and the host recites “Address To A Haggis”

Fair fa’ (fat) your honest,
sonsie (jolly) face,

Great chieftain o’ the
puddin-race!

Aboon (above) them a’ ye
tak your place

Painch (stomach), tripe or
thairm (intestine)

Weel are ye wordy
o’ a grace

As laing’s my arm.

The groaning
trencher (bowl) there ye fill

Your hurdles (buttocks) like a
distant hill,

Your pin wad help to
mend a mill

In time o’ need.

While thro’ your
pores the dews distil

His knife see rustic
Labour dicht (sharpened)

An’ cut you up wi’
ready slicht (skill)

Trenching your
gushing entrails
bricht.

Like ony ditch;

And then, O what a
glorious sicht (sight)

Warm-reekin, rich.

Then, horn for horn,
they stretch an’ strike

Deil (devil) tak the
hindmaist! On they
drive

Til a’ their
weel-swall’d (swollen) kytes
belyve

Are bend like drums;

Then auld Guidman (goodman; husband)
maist like to rive (tear)

Bethankit hums.

Is there that o’re his
French ragout

Or olio (stew) that wad
staw a sow

Or fricassee wad
make her spew

Wi’ perfect scunner (disgust)

Looks down wi’
sneering, scornfu’
view

On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him
ower his trash

As feckless as a withere’d rash
His spindle shank, a guid
whip-lash

His nieve (fist) a nit;
Thro’ bloody flood or field to
dash
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, Haggis
fed
The trembling earth resounds
his tread

Clap in his wallie (mighty) nieve a
blade
He’ll mak it whistle;

An’ legs a’ arms, an’ heads
will sned (cut off)
Like taps o’ thistle

Ye Pow’rs wha mak manikind
your care
And dish them out their bill o’
fare

Auld Scotland wants nae
skinkin ware (watery soup)
That jaups (slops) in luggies (bowls);
But, if ye wish her gratefu’
prayer,
Gie her a haggis!

Following the cutting of the Haggis, the Burns supper is eaten. This typically consists of solid Scottish fare, including potatoes, and turnips.

Speeches follow the supper, in which one or more guests issue a remembrance of Burns life and poetry. This is known as “The Immortal Memory.”

The Memory typically is followed by a “Toast to the Lassies,” in which a male guest thanks the women who cooked the meal and offers some commentary on the fairer sex. The rejoinder is the “Reply to the Laddies,”

Finally, there are recitations of Burns’ poetry and the singing of songs.

The evening ends with closing remarks and the guests singing Auld Lang Syne:

For auld lang syne (times long ago), my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp (pay for)
And surely I’ll be mine,
And we’ll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

We twa hae run about the braes, (hills)
And pou’d the gowans fine, (pulled daisies)
But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn (creek)
Frae morning sun till dine, (noon)
But seas between us braid hae roar’d (wide)
Sin auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty fiere, (friend)
And gie’s a hand o thine,
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught, (drink)
For auld lang syne.

I’d love to attend a Burns Supper some day.

Not sure I’d eat the haggis, however. It sounds revolting.

2 thoughts on “The Burns Supper – January 25”

  1. Had the opportunity to have a traditional Scottish dinner at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland, a couple years ago.  Bag piped in the Haggis, “Address To A Haggis” was recited, sliced the giant gray sausage-like stomach with a large sword, we all wore formal kilted suits (rented – like we do tuxes).  Once you get past the knowledge of the ingrediants, haggis tastes like a mildly spicy meatloaf.

    You should have the experience at least once – preferably after playing 18 at the Old Course.

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