BURN’S NIGHT FOR THE NOVICE
By Robert Jarman
With a little help from my Scottish friends
I have celebrated BURNS NIGHT in 40 degrees of heat in Freemantle, Western Australia in 1988 and at well below zero degree in Verbier in 2008, but regardless of the setting it is a universal celebration of what it means to be a Scot.
On both these occasions we were in the safe hands of our Scottish friends who knew the form, but for those of you who have wondered how you really go about doing Burn’s Night, here is the definitive compact guide to ensure your merriment while paying homage to Scotland’s famous bard, Robert, or ‘Rabbie’ Burns, this January 25th!
Glenlivet is described as, ‘the single malt that started it all’.
It was founded in 1824 and has operated almost continuously since.
Or for the perfect introduction to the world of whisky why not try your hand at creating a memorable Burn’s Night cocktail, using Chivas’ videos of bartenders from London’s most prestigious venues.
So, here is the form:
PIPING IN THE GUESTS
Welcome your guests, with the sound of Scottish pipes, to an evening of celebration. Banging of the chair signifies the beginning of the meal.
THE SELKIRK GRACE
Get in the mood by reciting, in Scots(!), Burn’s Grace:
Some have meat and cannot eat,
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we have meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
ADDRESS TO THE HAGGIS
Stand to welcome the evening’s star attraction – the haggis – piped in by traditional Scottish music and, of course, the whisky bearer to ensure glasses are well lubricated for the toast. Elect one of your dinner guests to deliver a rendition of To the Haggis. Standing with knife poised, the reader should skewer the haggis on cue – ‘An’ cut you up wi’ready sleight, Trenching your gushing entrails bright’.
Ending with the final toast, ‘THE HAGGIS’!
Traditionally the haggis is doused with whisky, The Glenlivet 18 would be a fine choice.
Cock-a-leekie Soup – Haggis, Neeps & Tatties
Clootie Dumplings or Typsy Laird – Cheesboard & Bannocks
(a creative license can be applied)
At the conclusion of the meal, guests partake in performing some of Robert Burns’ greatest songs and poems, gaining merit for enthusiasm and true Scot’s gusto. Between these, ditties speeches are performed: Robert Burns – the host speaks of the bards life, literary genius, politics and of course his nationality, finishing with a toast, ‘To the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns!’
Toast to the Lassies – the humorous highlight to the evening, praising women’s roles in today’s world, making particular reference to those in the room, drawing on selective quotes from Burns’ works. The women may then follow with a retort.
The evening culminates in a vote of thanks from the host
and a rousing performance of Auld Lang Syne
To the Haggis
Fair fa’your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ye tak your place,
Painch, trip, 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 wad 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 brent 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
Looks down wi’sneering, scornfu’view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro’bloody 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’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’thrissle.
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 Glenlivet 18 is available from www.thewhiskyexchange.com for £42.95
The River Livet near the Glenlivet Distillery at Ballindalloch in Moray, Scotland