Saturday, 22 January 2011

Address to the Haggis

I am a member of a ceilidh band. We play traditional music from the British Isles, Europe and America. As you can imagine, that means we are very busy at certain times of the year when celebrations loom. January is the time for all exiled Scots, or people associated in some way with them, to celebrate the birth of Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns.He was a colourful character who left a long legacy of poetry and songs ; probably his most well-known one would be Auld Lang Syne, which people around the world sing at New Year.
Tonight is the first of many bookings for the band. Burns' Night is 25th  January and all the associations try to book their Burns Night celebrations as close as possible to the day. By the time we have finished we will have played for 6 different groups.
As a Scot, I love these occasions. I love the music, watching the dancers have fun as they whirl round the room doing The Gay Gordons or a Dashing White Sergeant, and even the food.

First comes my favourite part : the Haggis(oatmeal onion, spices and sheep's innards) is piped into the room by the Pipe Major of the local band. As our paths cross regularly in our musical circles, we know all the pipers and drummers, but on these occasions we only see one of them. I suppose the others are doing the same thing somewhere else.
Then we say  the Selkirk Grace:
Some hae meat, and canna eat
And some wad eat that want it
But we hae meat, and we can eat
Sae let the lord be thankit.

Before we eat it, there is the Address to the haggis. Written by Burns you can read it, and the English translation,  or watch it below.

Next is the Immortal Memory speech, where someone will extol the virtues of Burns life and poetry. If done well this is very interesting, but usually serious.
A chance to introduce humour comes with a Toast to the Lasses (the Ladies present), and the reply to the Laddies( the gentlemen).

After dinner, by which time a liberal amount of whisky has been imbibed, the tables are cleared away for the dancing. This is our turn. We start  with a brisk number, guaranteed to get people up onto the dance floor, and we're off.

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