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Robert Burns Lives!
Just another Saturday Night in Scotland by
Corinne Buivenga

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA

A year ago we had some young people from the Stonehouse Primary School near Larkhill, Glasgow led by Gregor Hamilton share details of their Burns Supper with our readers. Their story was a real hit. This year by chance encounter while corresponding with Corinne Buivenga (pronounced “buffin hah”), Office Administrator at The Robert Burns World Federation in Kilmarnock, I learned she was having a Burns Supper in her home with a group of close friends. Naturally it intrigued me since on this side of the pond Burns Suppers are usually held in hotel ballrooms or at local country clubs with a hundred or more in attendance. I’ve only aware of one Burns Supper held in a home in the metro Atlanta area and, naturally, it was by someone from Scotland. So I did what I always do when something about Burns catches my fancy, I asked Corinne to share the particulars with our readers, and she readily agreed.

Perhaps the story of the supper in Corinne’s home will entice some of our readers to consider holding one in their homes. If you are worried about what to do, or just as importantly, what not to do, order a copy of The Ultimate Burns Supper Book  by Clark McGinn which is described as “A Practical (but Irreverent) Guide to Scotland’s Greatest Celebration”. In my opinion, no one other than Clark could write such a smashing book on celebrating Burns.  He is, after all, the ultimate Burns speaker!

Thanks, Corinne, for being such a good sport to share with us. I know our readers will have a good time reading about your supper. I know those in attendance certainly did, and what a treat if Susan and I could have joined the fun and celebration of Burns! (FRS: 3.19.13)

Just another Saturday Night in Scotland
by Corinne Buivenga

Corinne Buivenga

We call ourselves the Ayrshire Wine and Whisky Connoisseurs (AWWC), and as such a group of 9 of us meet once per quarter to celebrate life. Our agenda’s have been varied over the years, from a Tex Mex night to a once a year sleepover somewhere in Scotland, but one consistent is our Burns Supper. We hold this every two years always at the home of one of the group.

On Saturday 9th of March 2013 it was my turn to host this year’s Burns Supper. It is always a greatly anticipated event in our calendar and never disappoints.

The group is of various nationalities. My husband, Piet, is Dutch – born in the North of The Netherlands. Ava was born in Germany. Richard is from the U.S.A. Jill is from Manchester in England and Douglas, Irene, John, Alistair and I are Scots.

The Scottish men in the group were all in their kilts, these were worn informally. One of them had a Scotland Football strip on with his kilt for example although the others had the more traditional outfits.

Our house is in Craigie, just outside Kilmarnock. We are only 2.8miles from Lochlea Farm where Burns lived when he was 18 years old, and around 3 miles from The Bachelors Club in Tarbolton. We were in the right place.

The dining room is adorned with the St Andrew’s flag. We use a couple for the table covers and have a few hanging from the wall too. Small bunches of snowdrops and some old fashioned teacups full of daffodils adorn the table.

The menu is perhaps not as traditional as it may be; you would normally have Cock a Leekie soup followed by Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. Traditionally the main course would be steak pie and mushy peas with trifle to follow. Our menu had the Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. We had a whisky sauce served with ours. The Haggis was from a local butcher and was a “Piper Haggis” which basically means a big one!!

Our main course was roast beef and for pudding we had chocolate tart or sticky toffee pudding. Again not traditional but we Scots like our sugar and both of these delivered on that! Of course we had to have a cheese course to finish with some local cheese on the table.

We start off in the traditional manner with Address to the Haggis, this year delivered by Alistair as he plunges his Sgian Dubhs into the heart of the Haggis to kick off the night. He is rewarded with a large whisky. The Selkirk Grace was read by Jill.

Dinner is then served, as the guest’s wait between courses it is a great opportunity to sing a few Burns songs. Ye Banks and Braes, Rantin’ Robin, The Star of Rabbie Burns were a few we managed this year.

We had a solo of My Luv is Like a Red, Red Rose sung by Douglas who has a beautiful voice.

The next item on the agenda was the Toast to Robert Burns, which was mine to deliver. On this occasion I had decided to make a connection with everyone attending to Robert Burns. This proved to be a challenge but with a little help from my Burns friends I was able to come up with a connection to everyone, of course some of them were VERY tenious.

My first connection was to Craigie, where the Burns Supper took place. With help from Jim Thomson there was only one link we could find, this was in Godly Grizle, a poem he sent to William Simson:

The nicht it was a haly nicht,
The day haed been a haly day;
Kilmarnock gleamed wi candle licht,
As Girzie hameward teuk her wey.
A man o sin, ill mey he thrive!
An never haly-meetin see!
Wi godly Girzie met belyve,
Amang the Craigie hills sae hie 

The next connection was with Richard, our American friend. Of course it was a no brainer, Abraham Lincoln was our connection. An extract of the connections is:

Milton Hay, who served as a clerk in Lincolns Springfield law office once told a reporter that Lincoln could quote Burns by the hour. "I have been with him in that little office and heard him recite with the greatest admiration and zest Burns Ballads and quaint things."

In 1859, Lincoln had attended the Springfield Centenary celebration of Burns birthday, and he gave a formal toast to his memory, although exactly what he said has not survived.

Lincoln’s final reference to Burns came just days before his death. John Hay, Lincoln’s secretary, recalled that when he and Lincoln sailed down the Potomac River in early April, 1865, Lincoln recited from several Burns poems. Afterwards, he turned to Hay and remarked that "Burns never touched sentiment without carrying it to its ultimate expression and leaving nothing further to be said."

Perhaps the most tenious link was to Jill. Jill and I have recently enjoyed the US series, Suits. In Suits the star of the show, Harvey is a very sauve gentleman.

Robert Burns was a dandy, much like Harvey from Suits. It was very unusual for a young man of his class in the Tarbolton area to have long hair, tied in a ponytail. Certainly the frilly shirt and long coat would be equally unusual. In his poem The Ronalds of Bennals, which was inspired by William Ronalds, a wealthy farmer of a large local farm in Tarbolton Parish, and his family.

While this poem refers, somewhat satirically, to the family's wealth and to William's daughter's extravagant 'tochers' (dowry), ironically, William Ronald is known to have become bankrupt by 1789.

In the poem Robert Burns describes himself as the following:

My coat and my vest, they are Scotch o' the best,
O'pairs o' guid breeks I hae twa, man:
And stockings and pumps to put on my stumps,
And ne'er a wrang steek in them a', man.

My sarks they are few, but five o' them new,
Twal'-hundred, as white as the snaw, man,
A ten-shillings hat, a Holland cravat;
There are no mony poets sae braw, man.

If I translate this into English for you it would be:

My coat and my vest, they are Scotch of the best;
Of pairs of good trousers I have two, man,
And stockings and pumps to put on my stumps (legs),
And never a wrong stitch in them all, man.

My shirts they are few, but five of them new -
twelve hundred count linen, as white as the snow, man!
A ten-shillings hat, a Holland cravat -
There are not many Poets so well dressed, man!

A ten shilling hat when the annual salary would be perhaps 6 shilling for a well paid farmer shows how much he was prepared to spend on making himself look good, just like Harvey.

With Irene from Ochiltree, living near where the Tennant family lived and John from Auchinleck, they were great targets for connections. Alistair was from Ayr and Tam O’Shanter the obvious choice with for Douglas it was a Masonic link. Ava, born in Germany was an obvious connection to Hans Hecht/Ottto Ritter. Of course for Piet, my darling husband it had to be Parnassus Hill. The greatest love poem every written (in my humble opinion!)

Next on the agenda was Hail Caledonia! John delivered this with finesse sharing about the Great Scots in history.

We then had a Scottish Poem from Irene, followed by a Lancashire Monologue from Jill.

Piet enthralled us talking about William of Orange and the history around the Royal House of Orange-Nassau of which William was the founder.

Richard did his own talk on Abraham Lincoln.  He is such an obvious American choice when we talk of Robert Burns.

Finally Ava took us through the history of the song Lily Marlene, a German love song with a long history.

As Alistair delivered the vote of thanks it was all a bit blurred by then. The wine had been flowing, the whisky was out and coffee and tablet didn’t help to sober any of us. The Scottish banter and joie de vivre filled the room.

It was not a traditional Burns supper, this time we did not do the Toast and Reply to the Lassies as we have in the past. We wanted to make space to allow our foreigners to celebrate the great people from their country, which they did so well.

And so it was over. The hangover on Sunday, Mother’s day here in Scotland, was helped by a long lunch with our son as we shared the fun we had.

Our next meeting of the AWWC is a weekend away in Pitlochry. I know it will be fun.

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