January 27, 2010barriehol
It may be a fairly tenuous semantic link to Fire and Safety but yesterday saw the passing of Burns Night. This is not a ritual setting fire to the Scottish nations indispensable kitchen accessory the chip pan, but a celebration of the birth of Robert (nay Rabbie) Burns, Scotland’s most celebrated son, poet and lyricist.
Not withstanding my role as a dispenser of the accumulated wisdom of fire protection and personal safety it cannot hurt to offer some insight into this 200 year old tradition.
Burns Night is to all intents a second national day in Scotland and is now celebrated on the 25th January with Burns suppers held, not just in Scotland, but all around the world. It is thought Burns Night is now more widely observed than Saint Andrew’s Day the Scots official national day which falls on 30th November.
It is regrettable that in England our multicultural obsessed, politically correct, minority appeasing establishment denies us the pleasure of celebrating St Georges Day as our National ENGLISH day. They have no sense of being and are all Scots anyway.
The Scots, in keeping with the Welsh and Irish have no such phobias at flying their National flag. The first Burns supper was held in 1802 at The Mother Club in Greenock on 29 January on what they thought was his birthday, barely 5 years after his untimely death in July 1796 as the age of 37. In 1803 they discovered from the Parish records that his actual birth date was 25 January 1759 and Burns suppers have been held on that day ever since.
The basic format of a Burns Supper has barely changed over the years so if you attend one this is what you can expect. It starts with a general welcome and announcements, followed with the Selkirk Grace. After the grace, comes the piping in (that’s bag piping) and cutting of the haggis, to the refrain of Burns’ famous poem “Address To a Haggis” that culminates in cutting the haggis open.
I warn you that all this is spoken in the 18th century Scottish dialect so unless you are of Celtic persuasion or a Burns aficionado you will understand little. The first verse goes:
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.
The event usually allows for people to start eating just after the haggis is presented. This is followed by the reading called the “immortal memory”, an overview of Burns’ life and work. In full blown versions other often less austere speeches are given including by the “lassies” but the event usually concludes with the singing of Auld Lang Syne also penned by the Scottish Bard.
Haggis by the way is quite tasty despite containing minced sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver and lungs), with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, all of which is traditionally simmered for hours in a sheep’s stomach. These days a synthetic edible casing is often used. More appealing perhaps is that Haggis is traditionally washed down with Whisky.
So there you go. Burns Night in 500 words. If Haggis is not your thing Sausage and Chips is the poor man’s version. That brings me back to setting fire to the chip pan and a chance to plug our ABF Wet Chem Fire Extinguisher!!! Well what did you expect?