Burns Night – 250 years of Robert Burns
25 January 2009 marked 250 years to the day since Scotland’s national poet was born.
The BBC website celebrates Rabbie Burns’s life and achievements in poetry and song. 66 of Scotland’s biggest names recorded 716 of Robert Burns’s works for the BBC’s collection. See them all here.
Here’s what you need to know to throw your Burns Night supper!
The Selkirk Grace
A short but important prayer read to usher in the meal, The Selkirk Grace is also known as
Burns’s Grace at Kirkcudbright. Although the text is often printed in English, it is usually recited in Scots.
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.
Address to the haggis
The honoured reader now seizes their moment of glory by offering a fluent and entertaining rendition of To a Haggis. The reader should have his knife poised at the ready. On cue (
His knife see Rustic-labour dight), he cuts the casing along its length, making sure to spill out some of the tasty gore within (
trenching its gushing entrails).
Warning: it is wise to have a small cut made in the haggis skin before it is piped in. Instances are recorded of top table guests being scalded by flying pieces of haggis when enthusiastic reciters omitted this precaution! Alternatively, the distribution of bits of haggis about the assembled company is regarded in some quarters as a part of the fun…
The recital ends with the reader raising the haggis in triumph during the final line
Gie her a haggis!, which the guests greet with rapturous applause.
Toast to the haggis
Prompted by the speaker, the audience now joins in the toast to the haggis. Raise a glass and shout:
The haggis!Then it’s time to serve the main course with its traditional companions, neeps and tatties. In larger events, the piper leads a procession carrying the opened haggis out to the kitchen for serving; audience members should clap as the procession departs.
Served with some suitable background music, the sumptuous Bill o’ Fare includes:-
Traditional cock-a-leekie soup;
Haggis, neeps & tatties (
Haggis wi’ bashit neeps an’ champit tatties);
Clootie Dumpling (a pudding prepared in a linen cloth or cloot) or Typsy Laird (a Scottish sherry trifle);
Cheeseboard with bannocks (oatcakes) and tea/coffee.
Variations do exist: beef lovers can serve the haggis, neeps & tatties as a starter with roast beef or steak pie as the main dish. Vegetarians can of course choose vegetarian haggis, while pescatarians could opt for a seafood main course such as Cullen Skink.
Liberal lashings of wine or ale should be served with dinner and it’s often customary to douse the haggis with a splash of whisky sauce, which, with true Scots understatement, is neat whisky.
After the meal, it’s time for connoisseurs to compare notes on the wonderful selection of malts served by the generous chair.
Enjoy your Haggis, Neeps and Tatties while reading his poems everyone!