Friday, January 25, 2019

Burns Supper 2019

Irvine, Scotland. Friday 25-January-2019.

Being married to a Scot I have of course had haggis, neeps and tatties many times. I’ve even been to a number of Burns suppers in London where they have a piper and a reading of the “address to a haggis”. But I’ve never been to a full-blown Scottish Burns celebration.

We were going up to Scotland to visit Mary‘s mum over the weekend of the 25th of January. So Mary tracked down a Burns supper which turned out to be the Irving Burns Club 193rd Burns celebration. That’s an impressive piece of continuity and history.

According to Visit Scotland (and they should know) each Burns supper is individual, but the running order normally goes something like this:
  1. To start – everyone gathers, the host says a few words, everyone sits and the Selkirk Grace is said.
  2. The meal – the starter is served, the haggis is piped in, the host performs Address to a Haggis, everyone toasts the haggis and the main meal is served, followed by dessert.
  3. After the meal – the first Burns recital is performed, the Immortal Memory (the main tribute speech to Burns) is given, the second Burns recital is performed, then there’s a Toast to the Lassies, followed by a Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, before the final Burns recital is performed.
  4. To end the night – the host gives a vote of thanks, everyone stands and sings Auld Lang Syne, crossing their arms and joining hands at the line ‘And there's a hand, my trusty fere!’.
A more extensive and somewhat droll description is available on the BBC website.

When we arrived all the great and the good of Irvine were there, the movers and shakers, the Provost (Mayor) and local dignitaries.

Before supper we had readings of Rabbie‘s poems by various local school children. It might as well have been in Klingon or Serbo-Croat for all that I could make sense of it. It was definitely a foreign language as far as I’m concerned.

Mary's Mum (with stick), Mary (in tartan scarf)

The meal was much as expected: soup, haggis neeps and tatties, roast beef and pudding. Afterwards we started with “the immortal memory” and various toasts, "please be upstanding..." for this and that. Poor old Mary‘s mum was up and down like a yo-yo. We tried to persuade her to sit them out but as we were right in front of the top table so it would’ve been a bit obvious. Apparently the next day her knees were aching.

Much to my disappointment we didn’t get the usual address to the lasses and the lasses response. Apparently they are traditionally humorous much along the lines of a best man speech. Instead we got various orations and then some Scottish folk music. And I learnt a new (old) meaning of the word Croupier: 2. HISTORICAL the assistant chairman at a public dinner, seated at the lower end of the table.

We mostly drank red wine but I had to have one nip of whisky which is, I understand, traditional. The Provost came round with a large bottle of whisky and insisted on pouring me a hefty top up. It would’ve been churlish to refuse.

So that was nice!

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