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Robert Burns Lives!
The Auction of a Robert Burns Bowl Replica

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

This is the "real" Burns bowl
This is the "real" Burns bowl. Picture from Zella Hilton of the University of South Carolina

I have always been impressed at how people pay tribute to Robert Burns. Some write books, others put on seminars or sponsor speaking engagements. January 25th is always a big night for our Bard as suppers around the world honor him. This is the story of one village and one person and the outreach to honor Burns. A few months back, Linda Jolly contacted me about the Robert Burns bowl donated to the University of South Carolina by Professor G. Ross Roy. In a previous article, I wrote of Dr. and Mrs. Roy’s gift of several Burns manuscripts to the university. Also included among their gifts was a bowl owned by Burns. It is stories like this one that fosters my premise that Robert Burns Lives! and will never die. It is not just the authors and the professors who keep the story of Burns alive but ordinary people like you and me, as well as the Linda Jollys of this world. Linda lives in Carrbridge, a wee village in the Highlands of Scotland. My wife and I have visited Carrbridge many times as it is near Rothiemurchus and runs parallel to the A-9 toward Inverness. The old bridge draws us there each time we visit Rothiemurchus, the old home place of Shaws dating back centuries ago. Carrbridge is a lovely village you need to put on your list of “Things to Do” on your next trip to the auld country.

Here is a part of the email she wrote:

To: Frank Shaw


The last gift was Burns’s wooden porridge bowl as displayed at the Glasgow Burns Centenary Exhibition in 1896. It was photographed in the Memorial Catalogue Exhibition, a copy of which is in my own personal Burns library. Dr. Roy was with his grandfather when he purchased it in 1932, during their trip to Britain together. At a reception following the event, the Burns bowl was lined with tin foil, filled with peanuts, and served to guests so everyone could say they had eaten from Burns’s porridge bowl. I helped myself twice!

Dear Mr. Shaw,
I came across your name while doing some research on porridge and was very interested to find out a little bit more information about the Burns Bowl. I am the co-coordinator of the annual World Porridge Making Championship held in the small Scottish Highland village of Carrbridge. This year is the Scottish Government's Year of Scotland's Homecoming and our championship is one of the Homecoming events.
Having an interest in all things to do for porridge, we are considering the possibility of getting made, by a local wood turner, a replica of the Burns Bowl to mark this year's championship. It would be very exciting to have such an item on display especially with the link to Burns and his declaration of porridge as...'The halesome parritch, chief o' Scotia's food'.

It would be very much appreciated if you might be able to help us with our quest to find out more information or point us in the right direction.

Many thanks for your assistance.
Kindest regards,
Linda Jolly
World Porridge Making Championship

I put her in contact with Dr. Patrick Scott at the University of South Carolina and last week I received the following delightful email from Linda, as did Professor Scott:

Hi Frank & Patrick
Well, our replica Burns Bowl has been made. The photograph of the finished replica is attached and below is a draft copy of our story...We are also establishing a World Porridge Day - an international celebration of Scotland's traditional national dish whereby porridge ambassadors across the world are invited to join in the World's Biggest Porridge Breakfast to help raise money for Carrbridge village projects. More info at

Many thanks for all your help.
World Porridge Making Championship
Tel: 01479 841211

The Auction of a Robert Burns Bowl Replica

Robert Burns Bowl Replica

Farr based wood turner, Peter Tyler with the replica of the Burns Bowl which is to be auctioned to the highest bidder at the 2009 World Porridge Making Championship. Photograph by Fergus Thom of

The auctioning of a replica of a porridge bowl owned by Scotland's most famous poet is set to be among the hilights of this year's World Porridge Making Championship to be held in the small Scottish Highland village of Carrbridge on Sunday October 11.

Carrbridge Bridge by Flickr Photos
Carrbridge Bridge by Flickr Photos

The annual championship, which is one of the best known events on the Scottish food calendar, is followed by connoisseurs of the traditional national dish across the world.

This year's entries see a strong line up of contenders including a combination of professional chefs and individuals who believe they have the secret of making a winning bowl of porridge.

With the event being one of the main hilights of the Homecoming Scotland celebrations, the organisers have decided to mark the occasion with a special tribute to Burns to tie in with the 250th anniversary of the poet's birth.

"There are many traditions and myths surrounding the making of porridge and with Burns himself having made many a mention of it and even declaring it as the "Chief of Scotia's Food" it was felt it would make an appropriate Homecoming theme," said Carrbridge Community Council chairman, Scott Bruce.

With this in mind, the guest list includes Edinburgh based actor, Christopher Tait who has performed the work of Scotland's most famous poet across the globe and is the official Robert Burns for Homecoming 2009. Dressed in period costume, the Burns look alike will be out and about during the day providing snippets of some of the poet's best known verse. He will also be helping stir up interest in the auctioning of a replica of a wooden porridge bowl which once belonged to Robert Burns himself.

The original Burns Bowl, dated 1770 and inscribed with the initials R.B., is among an extensive collection of Burns work including rare manuscripts and other memorabilia housed in the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina. The one-off replica has been hand-made by local woodturner Peter Tyler at his workshop in Farr near Inverness.

"We first came across the Burns Bowl whilst trawling through the website to see how many mentions we could find of porridge in the poet's work. It was a really exciting find and we thought the commissioning of a replica would add a unique twist to the porridge making championship," said event co-coordinator, Linda Jolly. "It was quite a challenge but Peter has done a fantastic job and the finished version which has been distressed to replicate the years of ageing looks very much like it does in the photograph of the actual bowl."

The replica is to be sold to the highest bidder with email bids being invited in advance of the final auction which is to be held during the World Porridge Making Championship.

Bids can be submitted by email to up until 12noon on Friday October 9.

The championship, sponsored by Scotland's leading oatmill producers, Hamlyns of Scotland, starts off with a pipe band parade of competitors and judges along the main street followed by the traditional official 'Toast to the Porridge'. This year's competitors come from across the UK and further afield including Sweden, Canada and the USA.

As well as the traditional porridge which will see the contenders battling it out for the world title and prestigious Golden Spurtle, there is also a Speciality Section for porridge to which other ingredients can be added. The judges are George McIvor and Colin Bussey of the Master Chefs of Great Britain along with TV presenter and cookery book writer, Nell Nelson who is well known for her TV series, The Woman Who Ate Scotland.

Other events during the day include produce and craft stalls, product tastings, street entertainment and live music as well as the Carrbridge Challenge 5km and 3km Forest Run and minis fun run sponsored by RE/MAX Cairngorm with fund raising in aid of Maggie's Highlands.

More information can be found on the championship website at where there is also a new international recipe section inviting everyone from amateur cooks to professional chefs across the world to submit their own porridge making and other favourite oatmeal recipes. These can be voted on by other internet users with the mostly highly rated recipe being awarded a specially inscribed World Porridge Making Championship spurtle.

Maybe some of you would be interested in placing a bid on the replica of the Burns bowl. I know I am. It is a handsome piece of work and would grace any Burns collection with a wee bit of history that many are not familiar with regarding our Bard. As any good Scot worth his salt can understand, we can honor Burns with our bids and we can assist a very worthy cause for Carrbridge village projects. The Bard himself would be pleased. Yes, Robert Burns Lives! (FRS: 9.14.09)

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