Friday Jan. 29, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Robbie Burns Night

On this Day:

In 1802, what was thought to be the first celebration of Burns night, in honor of poet Robert Burns’s birthday, was held by The Mother Club in Greenock.  They later realized his actual birthday was 25th January.  Ooops.  However, it wasn’t even the first Burns supper. The actual first supper was held in memoriam at Burns Cottage by Burns’s friends, on 21 July 1801, the fifth anniversary of his death.  Double ooops.  Dunna matter.  Burns Suppers have been held regularly ever since.

The first still extant Burns Club was founded in Greenock in 1801 by merchants who were born in Ayrshire, some of whom had known Burns. They held the first Burns supper on what they thought was his birthday, 29 January 1802.  In 1803, they discovered the Ayr parish records had noted his date of birth was actually 25 January 1759.

The Scottish Parliament considers the celebration of Burns Night each year to be a key cultural heritage event.

The Parliament welcomes the annual celebration of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, which is held on 25 January each year to mark the Bard’s birthday; considers that Burns was one of the greatest poets and that his work has influenced thinkers across the world; notes that Burns’ first published collection, Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, also known as the “Kilmarnock Edition”, published in 1786, did much to popularise and champion the Scots language, and considers that this is one of his most important legacies; believes that the celebration of Burns Night is an opportunity to raise awareness of the cultural significance of Scots and its status as one of the indigenous languages of Scotland, and further believes in the importance of the writing down of the Scots language to ensure its continuation through written documentation, as well as oral tradition.

Burns suppers may be formal or informal. Both typically include haggis (a traditional Scottish dish celebrated by Burns in Address to a Haggis), Scotch whisky and the recitation of Burns’s poetry. Formal dinners are hosted by organisations such as universities, sporting clubs, Burns clubs, the Freemasons or St Andrews Societies; they occasionally end with dancing or a ceilidh. During the global pandemic in 2021 Burns Night celebrations moved online and were popular amongst families eating at home. Formal suppers follow a standard order.

A bagpiper generally greets the guests, who gather and mix as at any informal party. At less formal gatherings, traditional Scottish music is played.

The host says a few words welcoming everyone to the supper and perhaps stating the reason for it.

All the guests are seated and grace is said, usually using the Selkirk Grace, a well-known thanksgiving said before meals that uses the Scots language. Although attributed to Burns, the Selkirk Grace was already known in the 17th century as the “Galloway Grace” or the “Covenanters’ Grace”. It came to be called the Selkirk Grace because Burns was said to have delivered it at a dinner given by the Earl of Selkirk.

Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat an canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it;

But we hae meat, and we can eat,

And sae the Lord be thankit.

Everyone stands as the haggis is brought in to the sounds of a bagpiper. Haggis is a meat dish but in recent decades, a vegetarian alternative is often available. It is usually brought in by the cook on a large dish, while a bagpiper leads the way to the host’s table, where the haggis is laid down. “A Man’s A Man for A’ That”, “Robbie Burns Medley” or “The Star O’ Robbie Burns” might be played. The host, or perhaps a guest, then recites the Address to a Haggis.

At the line “His knife see rustic Labour dicht” in the address to the haggis, the speaker normally draws and sharpens a knife. At the line “An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht”, he plunges the knife into the haggis and cuts it open from end to end. When done properly, the “ceremony” is a highlight of the evening (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

Jayne is a truly patriotic Scot… the wee lass burns supper every night.

Second, a Song:

Alva Academy is a six-year comprehensive school serving the towns and villages of Alva, Menstrie, Tillicoultry, Coalsnaughton, Devonside, Dollar and Muckhart, all in Clackmannanshire, Scotland. The roll is over 900. The school is in the top five best performing schools in Scotland. It has six associated primaries – Alva, Menstrie, Tillicoultry, Coalsnaughton, Strathdevon and Muckhart.

The original Alva Academy was established in the 1860s by public subscriptions from residents of the town to overcome the shortcomings of educational provision. Educational change and a constantly rising school roll forced regular change to meet growing demands. The advent of comprehensive education in 1967/68 saw the linking of Tillicoultry and Alva Schools into a six-year comprehensive.

Following a Clackmannanshire Council decision in 1997 to integrate pupils with Moderate Learning Difficulties into a mainstream secondary school, Alva Academy was chosen as the location for this development. MLD pupils in S3 to S6 experience a full and varied curriculum which is integrated with mainstream subjects at appropriate levels.

The school enjoys excellent relationships with Forth Valley College.

The school was accredited with the Investors in People standard in 2001 and re-accredited in 2004 (per Wikipedia).

The Official “The Haggis” Musical Video was released on 23rd March 2009 by Alva Academy & its associated primary schools. On 1st April March 2009, just over a week later, it had reached number one in the Scottish charts. The song was written by D. Clifford & S. Clyde (per YouTube).

Here are the students of Alva Academy performing “The Haggis”.  I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing.” – Robert Burns

Editor: Simon, do you still have your Sporran?


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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