Last night marked my second go at addressing the haggis at a local Burns Supper. I’d been called upon by Crazy Uncle John a few weeks back to perform the duty again, after he’d been asked to recite a couple of poems at the Colgrain Bowling Club.
The 12th of February is a little bit late for a Burns Supper, but it did give me few weeks to brush up. I was actually surprised that it only took me an hour or so of going through the poem in my head before I could do it from memory again. Considering it had been a year since I really thought about it I can only marvel at the capacity of the human brain for deep learning through repetition!
Even so, I printed the words out and kept them under my monitor on my desk at work, just to make sure I wasn’t being cavalier in my approach. I did, after all, miss a line out when I addressed the haggis at the Rosslea Hall Hotel last year, so I was mindful that I couldn’t practice enough.
Unfortunately stage fright got the better of me when the time came. We were late in arriving because I’d under estimated how long it would take to get into my outfit. I’d ordered the same kilt as before from Gilt Edged in Glasgow and everything fit perfectly, so I looked the part and didn’t really feel that nervous about the task at hand.
One and a half verses into it, though, and warning lamp went on in my brain that made me think I’d skipped a line. I stopped in my tracks and muttered under my breath “Have I screwed it up already?”, but the man sitting to my right told me I was spot on, and fed me the next line.
I forged on and delivered a good performance of the rest of it, but once again I could kick myself for messing up – especially so early in the poem. Still, those present seemed to appreciate my rendition and gave a hearty applause as I took my seat back on the head table.
The meal itself was sensational – couln’t fault it at all, and the portions of haggis, ‘neeps & tatties were huge. I wasn’t the only one who failed to finish their plate – it seemed such a shame for it to go to waste, as it was a fine meal.
After the meal, the evening’s entertainment got under way, with local Burns enthusiast David Kinniburgh delivering a superb immortal memory. It really was good fortune that he had been the man to my right when I ground to a halt!
Soon enough, Crazy Uncle John was up to do Tam O’Shanter with his usual gusto. I was pleasantly surprised that he was more measured in his pace this time, as his enthusiasm for the poem tends to make him rush it. Unfortunately he fluffed a couple of lines himself, but considering the number of verses I think he did as well as ever.
The musical entertainment was provided by a lady called Alicia Tindall, accompanied by Anne Binnie – the mother of a good friend of mine, Ian. I hadn’t seen Anne since Iain’s wedding five years ago, so it was great to chat with her and listen to her play the electronic organ. Alicia’s voice was fantastic, and Anne’s incredible talent as a musician was demonstrated perfectly when she “freestyled” The Star O’ Rabbie Burns toward the end of the evening. She had no music, but picked up the chords from listening to the gentleman who was performing it, and within short order he had backing music.
What had been a thoroughly enjoyable Burns Supper was called to a close quite early, so myself, brother Andrew, Crazy Uncle John and partner Theresa took the opportunity to head into town for a few drinks. As a result I ended up staying out a bit later than I really should have and had quite the hangover from the amount of whisky consumed.
On that note, I had been presented with a bottle of Black Bottle whisky by the bowling club for being a speaker. I don’t know enough about the drink to tell you whether it’s a good one or not, but I think as a most Scottish drink it’s quite a fitting reward for speaking on the night.
As one of the best Burns nights I’ve attended, I’m really glad I was asked to do my bit. I wonder if they’ll have me back next year? 🙂