of Scotland’s greatest poet has been celebrated in Scotland
for more than two hundred years. It is thought that the first
Burns Supper was held by friends of Robert Burns not long after
he died, to recognise his birthday and pay tribute to his achievements.
Burns Suppers can be either formal or casual affairs and can
involve any number of people, from a small group of
friends to a gathering of more than one hundred people. The
basic format varies little, the pomp and ceremony with which
it is carried through very much depends on the formality of
the circumstances. First and foremost a Burns Supper should
be full of fun and wit.
Burns Supper Menu
Haggis, Neeps and Tatties
of starter and dessert for a Burns Supper can vary, but haggis
is essential. You can also try a few
Whisky Mixed Drinks )
guests at a Burns Supper should be offered a drink, whisky is
traditional, but wine is acceptable. Once the party has assembled
at table, the evening should proceed as follows:
— The Selkirk Grace (see below)
the first course has been cleared away the haggis is ‘piped
in’ that is, carried to the table by the chef, who is
accompanied by a piper playing a stirring tune.
4. The chairman,
or another elected speaker, gives the Address to the Haggis.
(see below). The address should be given with enthusiasm and
the speaker should have a knife beside him, ready to plunge
into the haggis at the
appropriate moment in the poem:
cut you up wi’ ready slight
Trenching your gushing entrails bright
Like onie ditch.’
address is over, the guests toast the haggis with whisky.
the address, the haggis, neeps and tatties are served to the
the meal is over, the chairman, or another elected speaker,
makes the first speech The Immortal Memory. The speech should
pay tribute to aspects of the life and work of Robert Burns.
7. The Toast
to the Lasses. This should be a light-hearted tribute to ladies
present and may recall some of the many women in the bard’s
own life. It may be delivered in prose or rhyme. It should be
humorous and may be teasing, but it should not be unkind.
8. The Lasses
Response. An elected female member of the party takes the opportunity
to make a witty reply to the Toast to the Lasses, either in
prose or in rhyme.
the formalities of the evening over, the rest of the night is
generally spent enjoying the songs and poems of Burns, performed
by volunteers from among the guests.
the Selkirk Grace is commonly attributed to Robert Burns, it
is likely that it was in use before he wrote it down.
meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.
To a Haggis
your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o' the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.
trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
see Rustic-labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
for horn they stretch an' strive,
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scronful' view
On sic a dinner?
see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro' bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs, an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.
wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae shinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if you wish her gratefu' pray'r,
Gie her a Haggis!*
* This stanza
was originally written out as follows:-
"Ye Pow'rs wha gie us a' that's gude
Still bless auld Caledonia's brood,
Wi' great John Barleycorn's heart's bluid
In stoups or luggies;
And on our boards, that king o' food,
A gud Scotch Haggis!"
the end of the poem, a whisky toast will be proposed to the
haggis. Then the company will sit and enjoy the meal. The main
course is, of course, haggis, and is traditionally served with
mashed potatoes and mashed turnip. A dessert course, cheese
courses, coffee, etc. may also be part of the meal. The courses
normally use traditional Scottish recipes.