Today, January 25th …
Today is Burn’s Day, the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns in 1759. If you have the tiniest trace of Scots ancestry, you will, like your relatives all over the world, be intending to hold your own traditional Burns Supper on this night.
In case the trace is very distant and your ancestral memory of the evening’s ritual needs jogging, I remind you of the proper order of proceedings.
1. Welcome by the Chairman.
2. Burns’ “Selkirk Grace” is said by all:
“Some hae meat and cannae eat,
And some wad eat that want it.
But we hae meat and we can eat
And so the Lord be thankit”
3. The company then stands, and performs a slow handclap during the piping in of the haggis. The procession consists of the piper, the chef bearing the haggis on a silver platter, the honoured guest who will address the haggis, and – let he not be forgotten - the whisky bearer.
4. The honoured guest recites Burns’ ode “To a Haggis”, with great gusto and feeling, and at the lines “His knife see Rustic-labour dight, An cut you up wi ready slight” he plunges his own knife into the haggis, spilling out its “gushing entrails”.
5. At the final line "Gie her a Haggis!” (“her” being Scotland) the company applaud, raise their whisky glasses and make a toast “To the Haggis”.
6. The meal proper then commences. The haggis is compulsory, but other menu items may vary so long as they stay within the traditional Scots culinary repertoire. A common selection would be:
Haggis with Bashed Neeps and Champit Taties
Clootie Dumplin or Tipsy Laird
7. A short speech on Burns is given.
8.There is a Toast to the Lasses, and various other recitations and entertainments, accompanied by as much whisky drinking as seems necessary and appropriate.
9. The evening ends with the traditional rendering by the company of Auld Lang Syne.
If you have any Scottish blood at all, I assume that you have your own inviolable family recipe for haggis, but hope your ancestors are not offended by my suggestion that you try Mistress Meg Dods’ variation of Bashed Neeps (from her “Cooks and Housewife’s Manual”, 1856).
Our Club put a little powdered ginger to their mashed turnips, which were studiously chosen of the yellow, sweet, juicy sort for which Scotland is celebrated.
Tomorrow: The inevitable banquet.