Burns Night and the Ode to the Haggis

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Burns Night and the Ode to the Haggis

2009 sees the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland’s favourite poet and author of the immortal poem, ‘Address to a Haggis’
This poem will be recited all over the world on January 25th as part of the traditional Burns Night Supper. The annual ritual of the Burns Supper was started by close friends of Robert Burns a few years after his death and the format remains largely unchanged today.
It begins with the chairman of the Supper inviting the assembled company to welcome in the haggis, often accompanied by a piper. The poem ‘Address to a Haggis’ is then recited and the haggis is toasted with a glass of whisky. The evening ends with a rousing rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’.
So who was Robert Burns – and what is a haggis? Is it a rare wild beastie that has to be hunted (as some souvenir shop owners would like us to believe!) or is it a concoction of rather unappetising ingredients, including a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs which are then traditionally boiled in the animal’s stomach? The finished pudding is traditionally served with ‘neeps and tatties’ (mashed potato and turnip) and washed down with a wee dram of whiskey.
Robert Burns is remembered for his verse and love-songs. His most famous long poem is ‘Tam O’Shanter’, the story of a man who disturbs a coven of witches and has to flee for his life. The fastest witch nearly catches him by the river, but the running water makes her powerless and Tam manages to escape.
Although he died relatively young at 37, his memory will live on at Burns Suppers all over the globe this January 25th: the haggis will be welcomed in again and again with the immortal words,
“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o’ the pudding race!”

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