Scotland's favourite son, also known as the Ploughman Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire or in Scotland simply as The Bard.
Robert Burns was the son of a poor Scottish farmer, he became known as one of the world’s greatest poets. He was passionate about life as a farmer and with both women and his beliefs; he had quite a few children by rather a large number of women, one of whom was his wife. Robert Burns was a poetic genius that loved his homeland, Scotland. He was a man with empathy in both nature and his fellow man. He held strong even radical political views.
Robert Burns was skilled in writing poems in understandable English yet chose to write most of his work in Scots dialect that makes his work impenetrable without careful study. He was a good man albeit somewhat flawed. Yet his passion cannot be denied; his passion for his home, his passion for nature and of courses his passion for the women that he knew.
The Running Order
We are here tonight celebrating the birth of Robert Burns on January 25, 1759
Robert Burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire in 1759 and his links with Ayrshire and Arran are well known.
Robert was the eldest of seven children and worked alongside his brothers on his father's farm.
Despite coming from a poor family, he was lucky enough to have a tutor who introduced them to the joys of literature. Aged 15 Robert began to start writing, in order to find some sort of release from the daily grind of farm life. At this early age he produced his first poems, which were dedicated in the main to subjects that dominated his life – Scottish whisky and women, obviously he was a man of taste!
He is certain to have been able to see the Isle of Arran on a clear day as he laboured in the fields of Ayrshire on his father's farm.
At that time there were several illicit stills on Arran, which produced whisky that was claimed by many to be "among the finest whiskies available". This would have been shipped to Dunure in Ayrshire - then the centre of the illegal whisky trade, before being shipped to the gentry in Scotland's major cities where they "took the Arran waters".
Since 2000 The Isle of Arran Distillers have been granted life membership of the World Burns Federation - an organisation based in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire that is dedicated to the life and works of our national poet Robert Burns.
Selkirk Grace (prayer before meal)
On a visit to St. Mary's Isle, Burns was requested by the noble owner to say grace to dinner, he obeyed in these lines;
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thanket.
Starter and Toast to God and The Queen
Piping in The Haggis… Chairman asks the guests to be upstanding to receive the Haggis.
The Address to A Haggis
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
the trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' hands will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.
Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!
The assembled audience applaud.
Toast to the Haggis
Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand and raise your glass to "The Haggis!"
The Piper once again begins to play and leads the procession, bearing the "cut" Haggis, out of the room in readiness for the meal. Again the audience clap in time to the music until the procession has left.
The meal is now served
More bagpipes, drams & poems…
Toast to the Lassies – the reply
The Immortal Memory
Robert Burns was not averse to drinking, and there were times in his life when he hit the bottle pretty hard.
From his poetic works and his letters, Burns once remarked, "The Whisky of this county is a most rascally liquor; and by consequence, only drunk by the most rascally part of the inhabitants".
Most references to whisky in Burns' poems and songs are to 'usquabae', the Scots Gaelic 'aqua-vitae' in general. Ultimately the word Whiskey is short for the translation of Medieval Latin aqua vitae literally, water of life.
It is difficult to explain everything Burns means to a Scot. HV Morton, writing in 1929 said Burns is "a warm living force; he is part of the daily life. I think of him whenever I see a kettle steaming gently against a Scottish fireside; he has sung his way into all the lovely common things of life… Burns is not a tradition; he is a living force. Scotland spoke in every word he uttered."
Now please join me and and raise your glass to drink a toast "To the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns"
Auld Lang Syne
Would everyone please stand, and join in a robust rendition of the famous song "Auld Lang Syne"
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne.
We'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
Vote of Thanks - Thank you and good night!
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