An Address to the Haggis… – Cruise Traveller

An Address to the Haggis…

by Noah Patton

If you’re lucky enough to be in Scotland on the 25th of January you might be treated to one of their greatest traditions – Burns Night.

Robert Burns, born 25th of January 1759, was a prolific Scottish poet. He is regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and as such his life has been celebrated in Scotland since July 21st  1801, where on the fifth anniversary of his passing friend’s gathered for supper. In the following years they decided to celebrate on his birthday, rather than his passing. Thus, began the national tradition of Burns night, which is held by Burns clubs, Freemasons, St. Andrews Societies and appreciators of his work.

A bagpiper greets the guests

The night itself follows a fairly strict order, a bagpiper will greet the guests or traditional Scottish music will be played as people arrive. The host will then welcome the guests, and once they are seated the Selkirk Grace is recited, a grace that Burns himself created.

Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be Thankit!

A Scottish soup is served first. Then the main event begins. Everyone stands as the haggis is brought in on a large platter, followed by a bagpiper. Once the haggis is laid down on the table the “Address to a Haggis” begins.

Haggis by Beck –

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my airm.
The groaning 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.
His knife see rustic Labour dicht,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht,
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sicht,
Warm-reekin, rich!
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve,
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
“Bethankit” hums.
Is there that o’re his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his wallie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whistle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thristle.
Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a haggis!

When the speaker recites “His knife see rustic Labour dicht”, they will draw a knife and begin to sharpen it as they continue to recite the address. As he calls out “An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht” they slice through the haggis. A toast of whiskey is then given to the haggis and everyone begins to eat.

Usually the haggis is served traditionally, with tatties and neeps (potatoes and turnips). After the haggis is done and coffees are begging to be drunk, more toasts or speeches are given. After this the speaker will give another speech in memory of Burns, this usually includes a poem and ranges from extremely light-hearted to dead serious. A toast to the Immortal Memory of Burns ends this speech.

And a toast to the Immortal Memory of Burns ends this speech….

An address to the lassies begins. This tradition was only a passing thought in the original days of Burns Night, but it has become a highlight of the night. A male guest gives his view on women, this is kept humorous and inoffensive. A toast is drunk to the health of the women.

An Address to the Lassies begins…

Then the address to the laddies begins. This is a reply to the previous toast, where the woman guest gives her view on men and replies to points raised by the male speaker, in an equally humorous and inoffensive manner.

Then the Laddies are given the right of reply…

The host calls to close the night and thanks are given, then everyone stands and links hands or arms and sings Auld Lang Syne, ending the night at last.

What might seem a strange tradition for a strange culture, Burns Night is an endearing event to not only remember the legacy left by Robert Burns, but to properly appreciate and show love to each other – and to the haggis of course.