Address to a Haggis

Organising a Burns Supper

The annual celebratory tribute to the life, works and spirit of the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796). Celebrated on, or about, the Bard's birthday, January 25th, and certainly an ideal date for brightening up the cold, wet and dark winter evenings.

Birth Date 25th January 1759. The song Rantin, Rovin Robin ( There was a lad ) confirms this date.
Our monarch's hindmost (final) year but ane was 1759. Was five and twenty days begun.

They can range from simple affairs, held in a house for a few friends or elaborate gatherings in a hotel holding up to 1000 guests. They should always be fun evenings and they should follow a similar structure, however loosely.
A Burns Supper encompasses the whole of life's emotions in one evening. There is the serious thought provoking speech ( of course laced with humour ) there is song, nostalgia, merriment, satire, wit, happiness and sadness all compressed into approx. 2 hours.

The following format is a guideline to such an evening.
Welcome - Grace - Meal
After Soup - Parade of the Haggis
Address to the Haggis -
Remember three whiskies for Chairman, Reciter and Piper


The Night's Ongauns

Introduce Top Table
Company Sing - There was a Lad
Immortal Memory
Selection of Songs, Music and/or Poems.
Toast to the Lassies
Selection of Songs, Music and/or Poems.
Reply on behalf of the Lassies
Selection of Songs, Music and/or Poems.
Vote of Thanks
Closing Remarks from Chairman
Auld Lang Syne

Burns Grace at Kircudbright
Some hae 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

Though sometimes given the title as above the popular name is the Selkirk Grace. It is probably much older then Burns, however it is associated with him since he used it in the company of his friend The Earl of Selkirk, whose seat was near Kircudbright. The Earls political views appealed to Burns. I also include A Grace before Dinner for your consideration

O Thou who kindly dost provide
For every creatures want
We bless Thee, God of Nature wide
For all Thy goodness lent
And, if it please Thee, heavenly guide
May never worse be sent
But whether granted or denied
Lord, bless us with content

This can range from a plate of Haggis, neeps and tatties to a full 5 course setting. The Haggis must be part of the meal and if a fuller menu is required normally it takes the place of the fish course i.e. after the soup and before the main course.
The haggis is piped into the company. The Piper leading the procession and followed by the chef holding the haggis aloft for all to see, with the reciter bringing up the rear. The company should stand and clap the haggis in, but should then sit while it is being addressed.

Fair fa' your honest sonsie face
Great chieftan o' the puddin' race
After the address, the Chairman, reciter and piper toast the Haggis with a wee dram and it is then piped out and the meal continues.

Immortal Memory.
As its name implies this speech should give the reason why, in the orator's opinion, Burns memory is immortal. This is the main speech of the evening and should last from 5 minutes at an informal house party to 25 minutes at a more formal affair.

Toast to the Lassies.
This should be as hilarious as is humanly possible. Of course it should poke gentle fun at the female sex but should always end up by being complimentary to them.

Reply on behalf of the Lassies.
Well, of course, the ladies always get the last word and now it is their turn to jibe at the men.
If it is an all male Supper this speech can be given by a member or can be substituted by a Toast to the Club, Guests or missed out entirely.

A selection of Songs and Verse for a Burns Supper. A welcome addition for any one who has to organise a Burns Supper. Ideal as a memento of the evening or as a thank you to participants.

House Supper
Make everybody do at least one small turn. I appreciate that not everyone can be a singer or orator but they should be encouraged at the very least to read a small poem or say the grace. If there is someone who won't even do that, then they can arrive earlier in the day and set the table, bring the wine and/or cheese, do the dishes, or some suitable penance!

Club Supper
Similarly for clubs around 50 to 100 guests, it is good to pick a member from the club to sing, recite or give the Toasts ( No, not the one person ) as it engenders more of the feeling that you are at a kirn or rockin'. It also encourages friendly banter.

Last Word
Remember, it should be fun if you want your guests to return in greater numbers.
The chairman should be well prepared and should keep the pace going. There is nothing worse than long pauses, e.g. what will we do next, intervals, raffle tickets and such like.
Plan the songs, especially if there is to be a community sing along. A chairman should be in charge of the proceedings but the best ones are those who say the least.

My CD of Burns poems - The Greatest Poems in the World is an ideal companion for a Burns Supper.
Listen to the Address to a Haggis
Or have it played complete with bagpipes
It could be a present for a star performer, a raffle prize, or even used at a house Supper.
To read more about this Click Here.

This life, sae far's I understand
Is a' enchanted fairy-land,
Where pleasure is the magic wand,
That, wielded right,
Maks hours like minutes, hand in hand,
Dance by fu' light.

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The Immortal Memory.

The Toast to the Lassies.

Reply on behalf of the Lassies.

A Toast to Canada



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