Burns’ night 25 January 2019
Burns Suppers have been part of Scottish culture for about 200 years as a means of commemorating our best loved bard. And when Burns immortalised haggis in verse he created a central link that is maintained to this day.
The ritual was started by close friends of Burns a few years after his death in 1796 as a tribute to his memory. The basic format for the evening has remained unchanged since that time and begins when the chairman invites the company to receive the haggis.
The format for a Burns supper
Chairperson’s opening address.
A few welcoming words start the evening and the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace.
The company are asked to stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table, while the guests accompany them with a slow hand clap. The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns’ famous poem ‘To A Haggis’, with great enthusiasm. When he reaches the line ‘an cut you up wi’ ready slight’, he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife.
It is customary for the company to applaud the speaker then stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky.
The company will then dine. A typical ‘Bill o’ Fare’ would be:
Haggis warm reeking, rich wi’ Champit Tatties, Bashed Neeps
Tyspy Laird (sherry trifle)
A Tassie o’ Coffee
The immortal memory
One of the central features of the evening. An invited guest is asked to give a short speech on Burns. There are many different types of Immortal memory speeches, from lighthearted to literary, but the aim is the same – to outline the greatness and relevance of the poet today.
Toast To The Lasses
The main speech is followed by a more lighthearted address to the women in the audience. Originally this was a thank you to the ladies for preparing the food and a time to toast the ‘lasses’ in Burns’ life. The tone should be witty, but never offensive, and should always end on a conciliatory note.
The turn of the lasses to detail men’s foibles, again, should be humorous but not insulting.
Poem and Songs
Once the speeches are complete the evening continues with songs and poems. These should be a good variety to fully show the different moods of Burns muse. Favourites for recitations are Tam O’ Shanter, Address to the Unco Guid, To A Mouse and Holy Willie’s Prayer.
The evening will culminate with the company standing, linking hands and singing Auld Lang Syne to conclude the programme.