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Robbie Burns night: an evening of haggis, bagpipes and poetry

Beloved Scottish poet Robbie Burns was born on this day, Jan. 25, in 1759. On Saturday, Jan. 23, about 100 Sudburians got together at the Lockerby branch of the Royal Canadian Legion to celebrate his birthday a little earlier.
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On Saturday, about 100 Sudburians got together at the Lively branch of the Royal Canadian Legion to celebrate the birthday of Scottish poet Robbie Burns, whose actual birthday is today. Darren MacDonald photo.
Beloved Scottish poet Robbie Burns was born on this day, Jan. 25, in 1759. On Saturday, Jan. 23, about 100 Sudburians got together at the Lockerby branch of the Royal Canadian Legion to celebrate his birthday a little earlier.

Performers included Andrew Lowe and the Laurentian University Pipe and Dance Band, who performed as the traditional haggis was brought in for all to see.

"Haggis is good,” laughed Derek Young, organizer and bagpiper with the LU band. “I was watching (talk show host) Craig Ferguson one night and he said it was the only food that hasn't been banned by the World Health Organization.

"And they say if you tell people what's in it, they're not going to eat it ... So at a Burns dinner, we would serve the haggis in a sampling bowl, so those who wish to try it can, and those who don't want to have any don't have to."

Young said there are a number of reasons why the Scottish poet is still honoured on his birthday centuries after his death. He had both tremendous talent and a connection to common people of his day.

"If you look at Burns overall, the kind of person that he was, his poetry, we really sort of relate to that when you look at his kind, caring nature,” Young said. “He wrote a poem to a mouse, he wrote poems about rebellion, about love and war. I think these are things we can all relate to.

"And you don't necessarily have to be Scottish to appreciate Burns. Every year on New Year's Eve, we all sing his song 'Auld Lang Syne.' You wouldn't necessarily think of it as a Burns song, but it was written and composed by Robert Burns."

To kick off the evening, Dianne Cameron recited the Selkirk Grace, a version of grace before meals that Burns popularized when he recited it before a meal at Lord Selkirk's castle.

The grace is as follows: “Some hae meat and canna eat, and some wad eat that want it. But we hae meat, and we can eat, sae let the Lord be thankit.”

"To me, it really reflects the character of Burns, that he had a very tough life,” Cameron said. “He started out life living on a farm with seven brothers and sisters and barely scraping out a living. It was hard for him as a child, it was hard for him all through his life. He understood the common labouring man. He understood not having meat on your table."

Among those in attendance was Mayor Brian Bigger and CBC Radio's Markus Schwabe, who hosted the event. It was the ninth edition of Robbie Burns night put on by the LU pipe band. Member Ray Young said the kilts worn by the band display the official university tartan.

"It's the Laurentian University tartan,” Young said. “It's registered with the Scottish Tartan Authority. They determine the authenticity of a tartan."

With their 10th anniversary next year, Young said they were planning on a larger celebration for Burns Night 2017. They're also looking for new members for the LU pipe band.

"You don't have to be Scottish to pick up the instrument,” he said. “We have highland dancers, we have drummers, we have bagpipers. And the fact we're associated with the university, we take part in a lot of on campus events.

“Things like the convocation ceremonies, we've played for former prime ministers, governors general. So it's a really fun group of people to be a part of."

Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

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