Along with the rest of the world, we celebrated Burns Night on Friday. In fact, it was Robert (‘Rabbie’) Burns’ 260th birthday on 25 January 2019. Burns is a cultural icon in Scotland, who wrote poems in the Scots language in the 18th century. His most famous poem is ‘Auld Lang Syne’, which we sing traditionally on New Year’s Eve. Burns Night however, is really an excuse for a get together on a (usually) grim January evening. A home dining room, a village hall or a church – any excuse to drink whisky, eat haggis or dance a ceilidh!
If you’ve never heard of haggis before, you may want to look away now … It is traditionally made from sheep’s heart, liver and lungs mixed with onion, oatmeal and spices, encased in a sheep’s stomach. Many years ago, we discovered the vegetarian version, which is absolutely delicious. (I can’t vouch for the sheep-wreck version.) This we ate on Friday with ‘tatties’ (potatoes) and other vegetables. (No ‘neeps’ I’m afraid – mashed turnips would be near impossible to get down our children.) We even ‘addressed’ the haggis, another Burns tradition. I’m told many Scots don’t really understand this strange little poem, so I’m not sure that really matters. It’s all about the tradition. You can read it here if you fancy a challenge!
Rabbie Burns father, William Burness, built their family home in Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1757. And the Bard (as Burns is often referred to as) was born there two years later. The building has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland since 2008. And I was lucky enough to visit this inspirational place with our Central European Project participants in 2011.
Today, the Trust urgently needs to undertake remedial works at the Burns Birthplace Cottage and is fundraising for the project.
The trust says that by giving £15, donors can help fix the wall; £35 will help restore a patch of thatch; and £60 will limewash a section of the walls. I have just donated and I hope they reach their target!
I’m reminded that my great grandmother came from Ayr (probably not Ayrshire’s most famous daughter!). I know very little about our family connections there although my mother is very keen to visit. Perhaps this is the year to break her out of her care home and do a road trip to Ayrshire? My great grandparents were also farmers and I expect they would have recognised the hardship of Burns’ life. He died at the age of 37. It was only five years later that the first ‘Burns Night’ was celebrated at the Cottage!