First and foremost, let me introduce you to Mr. Robert Burns. For all the Scots out there, I am sure no introduction is necessary, but since I was just recently acquainted with him and he has been deceased since 1796 I thought I’d give a proper introduction before we move on to the festivities.
Aside from the year 1796 you’ll need to remember the date 25 January 1759 which happens to be Robert’s date of birth and the day around which many celebrations take place for the famous Scottish poet. He was born into a farming village called Alloway where his parents ensured he received an educational upbringing, at which point he became an avid reader (I like him already!)
Fueled from the inspiration of famous works by famous poets, resulted in a well known poetry career for the man himself. He became very familiar with drinking and women which fueled his passion and his poetry and through the years he fathered many illegitimate children (not as cool as I thought after all), even considering to run away with his “Highland Mary”.
With the fame came copious amounts of money in which he squandered within 18 months forcing himself to move to Dumfries and become an Excise Officer (an irony not lost to him). Jean his estranged wife, and the only woman he seemed to keep constant with through these years became his wife again and his increasingly radical political views influenced many of the phenomenal number of poems, songs, and letters he continued to pen.
He died on 21 July 1796 at the age of 37 and was buried with full civil and military honors on the very day his son Maxwell was born. Although dead, he is one of the most celebrated poets by the Scottish and his legacy continues to live on through written works, songs played and sung regularly, and the yearly events held to commemorate him.
I happened to score a ticket to the British’s very own commemoration supper in Naples, Italy through a British Officer and friend I met since moving to Naples, Italy. On the Thursday before the event he invited me to come with him to the NATO base to the British Community center for a dance lesson before we got all dolled up for the real thing. I immediately said “yes please”, and was off!
Now this Brittish Community Center happens to be an abandoned British Admirals (I say abandoned lightly as the Admiral moved locations hence the reason why there was no replacement) house which they have transformed for the betterment of the British military.
Upstairs they have made multiple rooms for people to stay in for when they arrive to Naples for duty, or if they’ve just moved out of their apartment but still have a few days before transfer. They’ve set up a bar in the kitchen where you can buy drinks and the living room is where we had our dance lesson. Here is some of what ensued.
We learned a total of 5 dances this night and for the more experienced crowd viewing this, I’m sure you can laugh at our antics as it was basically the blind leading the blind.
And then there was this dance which we particularly liked because you got to dance through to the end of line, which ended up being quite fun.
You can hear me in the background laughing, it was very fun filming.
At the end of the night we were sweating, we were tipsy from the wine and a lack of food, and we were as ready as we could be for Saturday.
Getting ready and heading over to T (the British Officer’s) house, we found out that he had a coach bus coming to take us all to the event which would be held on the NATO base. Man! Those British officers really know how to hold a party. I’m always impressed with their antics, and felt privileged to have a ride to and from the supper which allowed me to drink scotch freely starting at the beginning of the night.
Once arriving there was a program planned for the evening to include Welcome Address, The Selkirk Grace, Address to the Haggis, Toast to the Lassies, Toast to the Gents, Vote of thanks, & Auld Lang Syne.
All of us in our get up.
The Selkirk Grace:
Some have meat and canna eat,
And some would eat that want it;
But we have meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit. -Robert Burns
We started off the evening with quite a delicious Cock-a-leekie Soup
The main dish of the evening was none other than Haggis and it was quite a show as they repeatedly stabbed the meat with a sword at which point it was taken away and then brought back out to be served.
Haggis is an ancient creature that inhabits the mostly mountainous areas of Scotland.
They are a seasonal breeder mating at the end of November and being born at the end of January. During this time, while the pregnant females are safely in their burrows, the village drives the rest of the haggis towards the edge of the glen where they are forced to turn quickly in a confined space and because of uneven legs made for grazing on the sides of steep mountains they lose their footing and tumble down into strategically placed nets. The size of the nets are regulated to ensure that only mature haggis are ensnared.
So… Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care, and dish them out their bill o’ fare, Auld Scotland wants nae slinking ware That jaups in loggias; But, if ye wish her grateful’ prayer Gie her a haggis! Excerpt from The Address to a Haggis, Robert Burns
After dinner and the toasts were finished, the dancing began, which we’d all been waiting for! Once the band kicked off we began twirling around the dance floor in our best effort to look like Scottish dancing experts.
“But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, it’s bloom is shed;
Or, like the snow-fall in the river,
A moment white, then melts forever.”
-Excerpt Tam O’Shanter, Robert Burns
“While Europe’s eye is fix’d on mighty things,
The fate of empires and the fall of kings;
While quacks of State must each produce his plan,
And even children lisp the Rights of Man;
Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention,
The Rights of Woman merit some attention.”
-Excerpt the complete works of Robert Burns
Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty’s in every blow!
Let us do or die!” -Robert Burns
He married a Scottish woman and therefore had the full ensemble to wear this evening. Quite a dapper fella, so says his wife!
To finish the night, there was one last song to be sung, you may know it 😉
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.” –Robert Burns
As the song says, let times long past be forgot and let us move towards the future!
P.S. As the clock struck 12 and we raced back to the bus I turned 28. What better way to celebrate another year of life then with the British while they celebrate a long dead Scottish poet?!
This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.