“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.”
Which translates to …
“Fair and full is your honest, jolly face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.”
Yes, that is the beginning of Robert Burns’ famous ADDRESS TO A HAGGIS. If you’ve ever visited Scotland, hopefully, you’ve put aside your squeemishness and ‘tucked in’ to Scotland’s most famous dish, “Haggis”.*
January 25th all of Scotland will be celebrating their national poet laureate, Robert Burns. Unless you are of Scottish decent, or have visited Scotland, you’re probably unaware of what a national celebrity Robert Burns was. Rabbie, as he was called, was born in 1759 (on January 25th, of course) to a poor family. As any young lad is expected to do, he began his working with his father on the farm. But, Rabbie’s father recognized that the young Burns was quite talented and decided to invest in hiring a teacher for him. Young Burns loved listening to stories, especially those of the supernatural, and when he was older he began turning the stories he heard as a child into poems and songs.
Rabbie’s father died when Rabbie was 25. He was now responsible for the family and the farm. Unfortunately, young Burns was not very successful at either. Two years later, not only was the farm in receivership, he made two young women pregnant (the first of many). Burns’ hopes were to leave the country and go to Jamaica. In order to do so, he had to raise money which he did by selling his first collection of poems, ‘Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect’.
His poems were an immediate success and he was persuaded to not leave the country after all. A year later Burns married, Jean Armour (who was also pregnant at the time). Jean was a very forgiving woman because Robert was not a faithful husband. When his eldest child was born to Jean, Robert already had three illegitimate daughters. In celebration of this birth, Burns wrote a poem entitled “Welcome to a Bastard Wean.”
Robert Burns was not only an amazingly talented writer, he was a romantic, he held strong political views, and he loved his whiskey and his women. Although Burns life was cut short at the young age of 37, he had managed to write over 500 songs and poems. I’m certain everyone knows Robert Burns’ most famous song of all, sung all over the world on New Year’s Eve . . . Auld Lang Syne.
A few years after Burns’ death his friends began celebrating his life. That same celebration continues to this very day, each year on the day of his birth, January 25, now known as Burns Night. If you are in Scotland on January 25, please join in the celebration. You will find everything from very formal affairs to just laughter and toasting at the local pub. It’s great fun!!
To hold your own Burns Night, you will need the following:
Scottish bagpipe music – for the ceremonial processional of the Haggis.
Master of Ceremonies – for the Selkirk Grace, “Addressing” the Haggis,
and the “Toast to the Lassies”
“Haggis” – and plenty of it, presented on a silver platter
A Ceremonial Knife – to plunge into the Haggis
Neeps and Tatties – to accompany the Haggis (potatoes and turnips)
Genuine Scotch whiskey – a wee dram for toasting and enjoying
Traditional Scottish Music – for dancing, toasting and cheering
A Quiz – could be fun to find out who actually knows Robert Burns
And, of course, everyone must wear a bit of tartan!
* And what is “Haggis”?
Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish, much like a sausage, made from the organ meats of a sheep, chopped up and mixed with oatmeal, suet and spices. The mixture is then stuffed into the casing of a sheep’s stomach, tied with twine and cooked for several hours. Delicious!
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References: The Complete Works of Robert Burns, Historic U.K., Robert Burns Night,