Hi kids, a wee word this time round about somebody you will hear a lot about in the next 20 years or so.
His name is Robert Burns, long time dead but arguably the most famous Scots person, according to some, but at least in the top half dozen. However given this is Scotland there could be a huge argument around that topic. Somebody will throw in Kenny Dalgliesh for whatever reason.
25th January marked the 263rd anniversary of Burns birth. He was born 1759 died 1796.
The weeks in and around the 25th January opens up on a season of celebratory events, most described as ‘Burns Suppers’, occasions of music, poetry, speeches and a good, if predictable, meal. Adults enjoy a wee drink too.
These ‘suppers’ occur all over Scotland, often hosted by the local Burns Club – most towns have at least one – but in addition many other organisations create their own celebration – some with the addition of dancing and creative form – other stuff, in other words, singers, accordions, fiddles, piano’s and of course bagpipes.
These affairs not only happen in Scotland but this is rare territory where the descriptor ‘world wide’ is actually accurate. These dinners, suppers, happen all around our world.
Robert Burns travels for sure. Perhaps one day you will look into why his work crashes through cultures of all blends.
I’ve enjoyed quite a few Suppers and occasions over the years – my first one I was 15 years old, secondary school organised where we mixed with teachers and the football team sang 3 classic Burns songs, ‘for the company’. Red Red Rose, Green Grow the Rashes Oh! and A Mans A Man for a’ That – actually make it four given we all piled in with Auld Lang Syne at the end of the evening.
Some ha’e meat, and canna eat,
Some wad eat that want it.
But we ha’e meat, and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thankit!
I think until recent years I attended at least one supper every year – the most I think in one year was six. This involvement developed when I was asked to offer one of the speeches traditionally part of the supper programme – over the years I had the pleasure of sharing my version of Selkirk Grace, Toast to The Haggis, Toast to the Lasses, Land O’ Cakes, Toast to the Land and of course the main speech, ‘Toast to The Bard, Robert Burns.’ I offered the odd song on occasion too.
Fair fa’ yer honest sonsie face,
Great chieftain ‘O the puddin’ race,
Aboon them a’ ye take yer place,
Painch , tripe, or thairm,
Weel are ye worthy ‘o a grace,
As langs ma arm.
All good fun in usually great company – the odd set of characters who could be described as the ‘Burns Police’ offering stage whispered comments throughout all the speeches – amplified as the night wore on and drams wore out.
Holy Wullie’s Prayer
O thou, wha in the heavens dost dwell
Wha as it pleases best thyself,
Sends ane to heaven and ten to hell,
A for thy glory
Some of the characters and entertainers I heard were awesome, I mean truly wonderful orators, talented musicians.
The formal programme is punctuated by poetry, Burns greatest hits, and done well, leaves the company wide mouthed – including Holy Wullies Prayer, Tam O’ Shanter as well as fiddle and accordion classics.
Tam O’ Shanter
When chapman billies leave the street,
And drouthy neibours neibours meet,
Lots of tales too, I sat with a world famous singer at the top table one evening when in conversation I described Burns as a ’rascal’! Well, she chewed my head off, how dare I – given her status I humbled my view somewhat, but still felt I had a point given Burns reputation for chasing the lasses. Oh!
I presented a live radio supper one evening, too many generous drams at the ‘drink is free’ top table and well, let’s say, I lapsed into lowland Scots, Lallans, without warning or translation. Didn’t get offered the gig again.
Ach, good affairs, too many tales to tell. As for the overseas ones…..!
There is still an almost legitimised mysoginistic thread to Burns and his celebration but as all Scotsmen can do when this charge is made, the Scots men can fight it and justify it. Frankly I think as is often the case, we are not good at being humble in confessing our cultural weaknesses, or even having a good, if tense, conversation. Naw, naw, naw were no’!
So random grandchildren, friendly reader, find a well established Burns night or even better a community based one, go and enjoy the piping O’ the haggis, The toasts, the music and song and take an all too rare an opportunity to consider that A man’s a man or Woman’s a woman is just that, for A’ That!!
Ae Fond Kiss friends,
For Auld Lang Syne.