Burns Supper

The best-known portrait of Burns,
by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787 (detail)



Celebrating the poet’s birth on 25th January 1859


25 JANUARY 2013

When the first edition of Burns’ poetry, known as the Kilmarnock edition, was published in July 1788, extracts were printed in the BELFAST NEWSLETTER – the first paper in Ireland and possibly the British Isles to do so. Thereafter, his poetry frequently appeared in the paper, often before it appeared in a collected edition of his work.

Such was the popularity of his work in Ulster that the first edition of his poetry printed outside Scotland was printed in Belfast. The Edinburgh edition appeared in 1787 and was reprinted and republished by James Magee, of Bridge Street, Belfast, in the same year.  When Burns died in 1796, warm tribute was paid to him in obituaries in both the BELFAST NEWSLETTER and the NORTHERN STAR. His influence in Ulster was such that it was said that in many Ulster homes there were but two books, the Bible and Burns. Ulster people read his poetry and understood it.”

Burns holds a central position in the Ulster-Scots literary tradition and had a profound influence in the late 18th and early 19th century group of Ulster-Scots poets known as the “rhyming weavers”, who often wrote in the same style as Burns, known as the habbie stanza. Indeed some, including Samuel Thompson, the Bard of Carngranny, were in active correspondence with Burns during his lifetime.


Chairman – President Bill Aiken welcomed guests, speakers and entertainers before reciting the Selkirk Grace:

‘Some hae meat and canna eat, And some would eat that want it, But we hae meat, and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit’.

Piping in the haggis

The haggis was piped in to an upstanding audience by Past President Denis Neill. The chef carried the haggis in on a silver platter behind the piper followed by the guest speaker Dr Ian Adamson who addressed the haggis.

The address to the haggis

The guest speaker Dr Ian Adamson OBE gave a dramatic rendition of Burns’ Address to a Haggis with a knife at the ready. After apologising for ‘killing’ the haggis, he  then plunged the knife into the haggis and sliced it open during the line ‘An’ cut you up wi’ ready slight’’ meaning ‘and cut you up with skill’. The recital ended with the platter being raised above their head whilst saying the triumphant words ‘Gie her a Haggis!’ to rapturous applause.

Toast to the haggis

The guest speaker Dr Ian Adamson then invited the audience to toast the haggis and everyone, including the chef,  raised their glasses and shouted ‘The Haggis’ before enjoying a dram. He then read from The Ode to the Potatoe  by the Burns of Ulster, the Rhyming Weaver James Orr of Ballycarry and raised a toast to “The Tattie”. Following this he praised the turnip, which revolutionised farming by allowing the wintering of livestock and raised a toast to “The Neep”.  The haggis was then piped back out to be prepared for dinner.

The meal

As per menu, with starters of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties 

The immortal memory

President Bill  introduced Dr Ian Adamson who  gave his characteristic  account of Burns’ life. His literary prowess, politics, nationalistic pride in Scotland, faults and humour were explored to give the audience an insight into Burns’ life and works in a witty, yet serious way. It  concluded with an invitation to join in a heart-felt toast: ‘To the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns’.

Toast to the lassies

President Bill  introduced Past President Stephen Connolly who gave a humorous speech that gently ridiculed the (few) shortcomings of women that aimed to amuse both sides of the audience – ‘observations’ therefore were not  too cutting or damaging to existing relationships! Despite the initial mockery, the speech ended on a positive note with the men being asked to raise their glasses in a toast ‘to the lassies’.

Reply to the toast to the lassies

President Bill  introduced Jennifer Mussen who will retort with some good-natured jokes of her own, beginning with a sarcastic thanks on behalf of the women present for the previous speaker’s ‘kind’ words, before giving a lively response highlighting the foibles and weaknesses of the male race, using reference to Burns and the women in his life. 

Musical Entertainment

By this stage the audience should be sufficiently inebriated to enjoy some traditional Scottish music provided by pipers and drummers from Cleland Memorial Pipe Band complete with Rotarian Brian Hallon the “big Drum” . The audience will be encouraged to join in with song.

Vote of thanks

Past President Michael Miller will deliverED a vote of thanks to everyone who has made the evening such a roaring success, from the chef and speakers to the audience.

Auld Sang Syne

The evening ended with the singing of Burns’ famous song about parting, Auld Lang Syne. Everyone  joined hands in a large circle and sing the words together. At the line ‘And here’s a hand’, everyone crossed hands with those on either side.

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