Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796)
On this day: On the 25th January 1759, Robert Burns was born in a humble cottage in the village of Alloway, two miles south of Ayr. His parents Willian Burnes (later changed to Burns) and Agnes Broun were tenant farmers, but they ensured their son received a good education and he soon began to read avidly. Burns increasingly turned his attentions away from farming and towards the passions of poetry, nature, drink and women which would characterise the rest of his life
Burns Night, in effect a second national day, is celebrated on Burns’s birthday, 25 January, with Burns suppers around the world. The first Burns supper in The Mother Club in Greenock was held on what was thought to be his birthday on 29 January 1802; in 1803 it was discovered from the Ayr parish records that the correct date was 25 January 1759.
The format of Burns suppers has changed little since. The basic format starts with a general welcome and announcements, followed with the Selkirk Grace. After the grace comes the piping and cutting of the haggis, when Burns’s famous “Address to a Haggis” is read and the haggis is cut open.
|Address to a Haggis (first verse)
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 wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.
(sonsie = jolly/cheerful, aboon = above, painch = paunch/stomach, thairm = intestine)
The event usually allows for people to start eating just after the haggis is presented. This is when the reading called the “immortal memory”, an overview of Burns’s life and work, is given. The event usually concludes with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne”.