Raise a Glass to Robbie Burns

Raise a glass to Robbie Burns

Published Wednesday January 20th, 2010
Sackville hosts supper and Scotch tasting as fundraiser for LiveBait Theatre
By Meg Edwards
Times & Transcript Staff
SACKVILLE –

Haggis, bagpipe music, highland dances, songs and poetry are all part of the celebrations when Sackville pays tribute to poet Robbie Burns this Saturday.

The Sackville Tribune-Post

If you have never eaten haggis you should probably reserve your tickets for the pre-show Scotch tasting event, as you might need the liquid courage. Haggis was a traditional meal for the thrifty, hard working people of Scotland, and Robbie Burns felt it symbolized the Scottish spirit.

But when people speak of haggis it is often with a mix of fear and laughter because of the mysterious ingredients: it is traditionally made out of a cooked, stuffed sheep’s stomach filled with a mash of cooked organs, oatmeal and spices.

“Jean Scobie makes the real haggis for the event,” says Meredith Fisher, one of the main organizers of the Sackville event. “There are sheep intestines and oatmeal, and there are all kinds of things that you really don’t want to know about.

“But it is a big attraction; When people hear there is a Burns Night they always ask, ‘Are you having Haggis?’ And we can say,’Yes, we are having Haggis!'”

A Robbie Burns night follows the same traditions all over the world. Held on or around the poet’s January 25 birthday, the night officially begins with the piping in of the Haggis and The Address to the Haggis.

“It has to be on a specific silver slaver, and you have to have a dagger to cut it. Then you ‘Address the Haggis’ and then you have the ‘Selkirk Grace,'” says Meredith.

“There is a real traditional program that goes with a Burns night,” says Meredith. “There are many proud traditions that the Scots continue to this day.”

The Address to the Haggis and The Selkirk Grace will be read by Charlie Scobie who, with his wife Jean, are the ones that keep the Burns tradition going.

Robbie Burns was a pioneer of the Romantic movement and a source of inspiration to the founders of Liberalism. His poetry sang the praises of the common man. In his famous poem, ‘A Man’s a Man for a That,’ he argues that riches do not make one man superior to another. And this sentiment is strong in the tribute to haggis, the working man’s meal that used up every bit of meat and leftovers and fed the strong working Scottish people. Sackville has had Robbie Burns celebrations for years in private homes but it was last year that the town had its first public party.

“Last year was the first year that we did at as a public event at a big theatre because it was the 250th anniversary of Robbie Burns,” says Meredith. “It was a big celebration, and there was about one hundred people. All the Scots came out of the woodwork, dressed in their tartans and their family crests.

“Scottish people are very proud of their background. And. then there are always the people who are real scotch drinkers who enjoy that kind of an evening. All kinds of people come for different reasons.”

At the Burns Supper you can pile on some “Neeps and Tatties,’ a traditional Scottish dish made from turnips and potatoes, along with the haggis.

The entertainment begins at 8 p.m. with Margaret Eaton playing the Celtic Harp and an on-going slide show of the Scottish countryside in the background.

“This will get people in the mood of being in Scotland,” says Meredith, “and next there will be three dances by a local Highland dancing troupe.”

Once the audience has sipped their scotch, tasted the Haggis and watched the lovely lassies dance, the evening continues with readings by Sandy Burnett, an actor, singer, and active community member.

“He is an environmentalist and a writer, and an all-round amazing guy,” says Meredith. “But the Robbie Burns night is his passion. He has been on the committee for the last two years and his vision is part of the whole outline for the program, and the way the whole event works out.”

Burnett will do two or three short readings, and then local actor Robert Lapp and Mount Allison University student Liz MacDonald will “be singing and doing some back and forths between poems and songs.”

An important ritual in the Robbie Burns evening is the Toast to the Lassies and The Reply. The toast, usually somewhat serious with some humour thrown in, will be done by Rob Summerby-Murray. This is an unscripted speech, as is the response to the Toast, which will be given by Jean Scobie.

Following the toasts, the crowd will all sing together some well-known Scottish songs, as well as the Burn’s most well known song, Auld Lang Syne, known to everyone as the song that we all sing with great emotion at the end of a festive New Year’s Eve.

In the denouement, everybody is invited for coffee and a dessert called Cranachan, made up of cream, Drambuie liqueur, and the ubiquitous oatmeal.

“We hope to have a bigger crowd then last time,” says Meredith, “Usually when you do an event for the second time, it kind of takes off, especially if you’ve had a successful event the first time. People bring friends the next time around.”

When musing on the population of Sackville residents with Scottish ancestry, Meredith says, “Most of us have ancestors or relatives from Scotland, and some people still have the accent, which is really great, because in the whole Robbie Burns program, it is the Scottish accent that people love to hear.”

Proceeds from the event will go Live Bait’s educational and community programs.

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