The 17th Annual Burns Night Dinner will be held at Tartan Hall on Saturday, Jan. 19. This supper, with a traditional five course menu, is held world wide on Jan. 25 or as close to the date as possible. This year is the 254th anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth.
Celtic customs are dramatic and colorful and contributed to the politics of Great Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries. After centuries of fighting across the border, the English monarchy conquered the clans of the Scottish Highlands in 1745. Every attempt was made to eradicate Scottish customs. Speaking Gaelic and Olde Scots was forbidden, for example, and schools and businesses were required to use only English. Born a generation after the Battle of Culloden, Robert Burns, a farmer and a poet from Ayrshire in Scotland, wrote down many of the Gaelic folk songs and pub melodies that were almost forgotten. He also set many of his poems to old tunes.
Burns was a handsome, musical young fellow and not a very good farmer. Instead, he became an entertainer in the salons of Edinburgh.
Although he died in his 40s in 1796, he is considered the National Poet of modern Scotland to this day for retaining a rich musical culture that was almost lost. Robert Burns suppers are now held on every continent. It is often asked, “How did a country musician become a worldwide celebrity?” During the 19th century, Great Britain was an imperialist super power. Its military was largely staffed by Scots. Wherever these soldiers were stationed (India, Australia, South Africa, Canada. etc), they loved and taught Burns’ songs around the campfires and in the classrooms until the songs were known universally.
The Burns Night meal incorporates a number of Scottish events including the “Calling Out of the Clans,” a parade of present guests carry their clan banners, form a pattern, a circle or an “x” and call out the name of their district or clan. The Haggis, a meatloaf of liver, other meat and oats is carried at the head of a parade of officials and the “Ode to the Haggis” by Robert Burns is performed in Scots dialect. Arthur Hays, a lawyer from Murphy, does this at the dinner here. Other recitations may include the “Immortal Memory of Robert Burns,” and Scottish songs by local vocalists. This year, an octet from the “Carolines” and “Men Macon Music” will perform. The entertainment is held together with piping by Jean Hayes and music by the “Caledonia Swing Band” from Georgia. Scottish Dancing completes the evening (Elaine and Bob McCollum will be instructing) and concluding with “Auld Lang Syne.”