So what is Burns Night anyway?

By popular is how we celebrated Burns Night on 25th January:

This is one of the most popular events in the Rum marks the end of the January blues and reminds us of what a lovely community this can be.  Nearly everyone was there including baby Maggie, making her first public appearance with Gav and Laura since they came back to the island on the 23rd.  It was so special to have a new baby there, as well as all the older babies, and all of us!

Burns Night celebrates the Scots poet Rabbie Burns, who loved Scotland and its people.  The evening has a tradition just as important as Christmas for Scots, involving:

1. The Procession of the Haggis (The haggis is ceremonially brought into the hall accompanied by piping; on this occasion courtesy of Reserve Mike (guitar), Ranger Mike (guitar), Sean (drums), and Ross (also guitar); no pipes, but plenty of clapping!)

2.  The Address to the Haggis.  This is the traditional recital of the Burns poem that begins:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

(The full poem and a translation for us Sassenachs can be found at

The gist of the poem is: Scotland's poor people and Scotland itself need proper fare, not just watery soup.  And although it stands for lots of other things besides food, being on a cold island in winter you certainly appreciate a real Rum haggis: made of our own venision by Marcel.

Dave recited the poem dressed in his full Scots gear - in fact several of the men sported their kilts, looking dashing and not in the least bit girly.

3.  Toasting the Haggis.  While the address was going on, Ady was going round filling up our glasses with whisky, so that we could toast the haggis in the proper manner. An enthusiastic moment!

4.  Eating the Haggis.  Lesley and Abby, Dave and Sylvia had prepared not only THE haggis (which was huge, made of venison by Marcel, and worthy of Burns himself) but also neeps and tatties plus a vegetarian option. I made pudding (Cranachan).  This part of the evening went on for quite a while.

5.  The Addresses. Traditionally more Burns (and other) poems are recited after the meal, and this time Nic and Ady did us proud with their own "Address to the Lassies" and "The Lassies' Response", describing how Rum would be nothing without either the lassies who "run it" (thank you Ady!) or the laddies who make it all happen (thank you Nic!). We all need each other...

This was followed by Mr Rhys' recital of "To a Mouse", then a poem by Lesley and some jokes and tales...until it was time to start the singing and dancing by the singing of "Auld Lang Syne".  We gathered together and linked arms for a rather patchy, but heartfelt tradition.  Steve had brought an old song-book belonging to his father that explained both words and music of many a Highland song, and I understood for the first time the meaning of the poem.

6.  Music.  The band, now well-lubricated with wine, whisky and song set up a medley of new and old music...although by around 11 pm the singing was getting decidedly dodgy.  However, by that point no-one cared.  Mel and I tripped a measure and Nic and Debs tripped several!  The ceilidh did not develop very far, but the music was grand.  

It was a wonderful night and made me realise how important it is that we show our strength as a community and do things that bring us together.  It's so easy to stay isolated in our little homes, especially when there's a gale blowing outside and it's sleeting or snowing.  But all of us need each other, and my resolution when I am back is to try harder to make those connections with others - especially when it's reaching across the Scots-English divide.  Although, maybe I should invite people round for whisky rather than coffee...

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