Saturday, 24 January 2015

Great Scot! Celebrating the original Mr B

In which G.M. Norton raises a glass of whisky to Mr Robert Burns.


Long before the celebrated Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer impressed us with his lyrical expression, there was another Mr B who was much lauded for his skilful way with words and song – Mr Robert Burns.

Tomorrow evening marks Burns Night - an annual celebration of the music and words of Scotland’s favourite son. Of course, it’s also the perfect excuse for the heavy consumption of whisky, providing a ray of light on an otherwise dark and gloomy first month of the year. 

Robert Burns was born in Ayrshire on 25th January 1759 and during his short life (only reaching 37 years of age), he won the hearts of the world with some of Scotland’s most enduring verse and ballads. His body of work touched on love, freedom and humanity, making him as relevant today as he was during his lifetime.

The tradition of Burns Night began on the fifth anniversary of his death when a few of his chums had the topping idea of meeting up to celebrate the life and works of their dear friend. It was such a jolly affair that they agreed to meet up again on Burns’ birthday, little knowing that they had started a Burns Supper tradition that would continue more than two hundred years later.

As a lover of all things Scottish - namely tweed, whisky and Sean Connery, it’s rather remiss of me to have never partaken in a Burns Supper before. Consisting of traditional Scottish fare, it is full of pomp and ceremony with lots of speeches, toasts and recitals thrown into the mix.
Haggis is quite rightly the star of the Burns Supper feast, which also includes Cock-a-Leekie soup, tatties (mashed potatoes) and Typsy Laird (whisky trifle). Of course, Scotch whisky is consumed throughout. The haggis is brought in to the sound of bagpipes before one of Burns’ poems, Address to a Haggis is performed. At the end of the poem, a Scotch whisky toast will be proposed to the Haggis. When the meal reaches the coffee stage various speeches and toasts are given such as a ‘Toast to the lassies’ and a ‘Reply to the laddies’ followed by performances of Burns’ work. Afterwards, everyone is asked to stand, join hands, and sing Burns’ Auld Lang Syne to bring the curtain down on a whisky-soaked evening.

I’ll be raising a glass of the strong stuff to remember the Bard. I may even give my tartan waistcoat a deserved outing. It would be rude not to. Perhaps next year I’ll plan a Burns’ Supper of my own.

G.M. Norton
Protagonist of ‘Norton of Morton’

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