A Conversation for Planning for Burns Night
Fashion Cat Started conversation Jan 29, 2002
Ah dear.. I thought Burns night was last Friday no? Preparation for next year then, must be!
Seeing this on the front page reminded me of the school traditions that existed for Burns night. I couldn’t remember it entirely, but after nosing through a few websites, all the hours of those evenings came flooding back!
The school dining hall was a separate building from the rest of the school, and had a foyer that enabled teachers and guests to gather appropriately before the dinner, and to have a pre-dinner glass of wine. Meanwhile the pupils (from senior one to lower sixth) entered the hall through the fire-exit around the back. Once all the pupils had gathered and were in place, the upper sixth entered the foyer and escorted the correct teacher/guest to their table.
On arrival at the table, a dear old teacher – appropriately enough, named Mr Burns – delivered the age-old 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.
We would then sit and soup – as far as I remember it was usually Cock-a-leekie - would be served.
After the soup had been cleared, the pipes would start in the kitchens, and the room would go silent, and we would all crane round to see the haggis being piped in by the school’s pipe major, and carried by the head-chef. It would take a long way round, but would eventually end at the top table, and was placed under Mr Burns’s watchful gaze. The piper and chef were rewarded with a dram, and the well-known Ode to a Haggis is recited, ending with the haggis being split open with a dirk (the dagger Scot’s keep hidden away down their sock). After this pomp, each table was presented with a haggis and a bowl of neeps and a bowl of tatties.
After the main meal, there followed a series of speeches, performed by various people. It began with a speech about Burns himself, (and from other websites, have found this to be entitled the Immortal Memory), which never changed from year to year. A guest would then normally recite a poem by Burns, and one that stands out is To a Moose, not entirely sure why, but something in the memory banks says that it was a particularly funny recital!
Then, ‘the toast to the lassies’. A very important part of the evening, in which men remind us women of everything that is wrong with us. Daft really, considering how much of a ladies man Burns was, but then, that’s tradition! This is followed by the ‘Reply from the lassies’ where we graciously accept what has just been said, but tactfully remind men that they are most definitely below us on the scale.
The headmaster would recite Tam o’ Shanter, an inescapable part of the evening. A fantastic poem, which I will dig out and post here too. Just fantastic. They even did a musical version of it, which I heard at primary school, and is probably why I am so fond of the poem.
We would then all retire to the far end of the dining hall, where a ceileigh would then start in full swing, with pipes, dancing, the occasional song, and I even once performed a Sword Dance! Now that is going to take some explaining if required!
At the end of the evening, before trudging home with very sore feet, everyone would stand in a circle, and sing Old Lang Syne. Looking back now, and I may not have remembered everything absolutely correctly I admit, it still seems like a great evening out. Except having to eat haggis! yuk!
Fashion Cat Posted Jan 29, 2002
Hmmm. wonder why those &numbers came up. Maybe I shouldnt have copied my post over from word...
Anyway! Tam o' Shanter. About a man who ignores his wife's advice, gets drunk, ends up dancing with witches to the tune played by the de'il himself, runs away, and ... well, you'll just have to read the ending...! Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic...
Tam o' Shanter
When chapmen billies leave the street,
And drouthy neebors, neebors meet,
As market-days are wearing late,
An' folk begin to tak the gate;
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
And getting fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps, and styles,
That lie between us and our hame,
Whare sits our sulky sullen dame.
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.
This truth fand honest Tam o' Shanter,
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter,
(Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpases
For honest men and bonie lasses.)
O Tam! hadst thou but been sae wise,
As ta'en thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum,
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum;
That frae November till October,
Ae market-day thou was nae sober;
That ilka melder, wi' the miller,
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller;
That every naig was ca'd a shoe on,
The smith and thee gat roaring fou on;
That at the L--d's house, even on Sunday,
Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday.
She prophesied that late or soon,
Thou would be found deep drown'd in Doon;
Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk,
By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.
Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet,
To think how mony counsels sweet,
How mony lengthen'd, sage advices,
The husband frae the wife despises!
But to our tale:-- Ae market-night,
Tam had got planted unco right;
Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,
Wi' reaming swats, that drank divinely
And at his elbow, Souter Johnny,
His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony;
Tam lo'ed him like a vera brither--
They had been fou for weeks thegither!
The night drave on wi' sangs and clatter
And ay the ale was growing better:
The landlady and Tam grew gracious,
The Souter tauld his queerest stories;
The landlord's laugh was ready chorus:
The storm without might rair and rustle,
Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.
Care, mad to see a man sae happy,
E'en drown'd himsel' amang the nappy!
As bees flee hame wi' lades o' treasure,
The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure:
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious.
O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!
But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You sieze the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white--then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.--
Nae man can tether time or tide;
The hour approaches Tam maun ride;
That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks the road in
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.
The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd
Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellow'd:
That night, a child might understand,
The Deil had business on his hand.
Weel mounted on his grey mare, Meg--
A better never lifted leg--
Tam skelpit on thro' dub and fire;
Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet;
Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet;
Whiles glowring round wi' prudent cares,
Lest bogles catch him unawares:
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,
Whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry.
By this time he was cross the ford,
Whare, in the snaw, the chapman smoor'd;
And past the birks and meikle stane,
Whare drunken Chairlie brak 's neck-bane;
And thro' the whins, and by the cairn,
Whare hunters fand the murder'd bairn;
And near the thorn, aboon the well,
Whare Mingo's mither hang'd hersel'.--
Before him Doon pours all is floods;
The doubling storm roars thro' the woods;
The lightnings flash from pole to pole;
Near and more near the thunders roll:
When, glimmering thro' the groaning trees,
Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze;
Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing;
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.
Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi' tippeny, we fear nae evil;
Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil!--
The swats sae ream'd in Tammie's noddle,
Fair play, he car'd na deils a boddle.
But Maggie stood, right sair astonish'd,
Till, by the heel and hand admonish'd,
She ventured forward on the light;
And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight
Warlocks and witches in a dance;
Nae cotillion brent-new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.
A winnock-bunker in the east,
There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast;
A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large,
To gie them music was his charge:
He scre'd the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a' did dirl.--
Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That shaw'd the dead in their last dresses;
And by some develish cantraip slight,
Each in its cauld hand held a light.--
By which heroic Tam was able
To note upon the haly table,
A murders's banes in gibbet-airns;
Twa span-lang, wee, unchristen'd bairns;
A thief, new-cutted frae a rape,
Wi' his last gasp his gab did gape;
Five tomahawks, wi blude red-rested;
Five scymitars, wi' murder crusted;
A garter, which a babe had strangled;
A knife, a father's throat had mangled,
Whom his ain son o' life bereft,
The gray hairs yet stack to the heft;
Wi' mair o' horrible and awfu',
Which even to name was be unlawfu'.
[Three lawyers' tongues, turn'd inside out,
Wi' lies seam'd like a beggar's clout;
Three priests' hearts, rotten, black as muck,
Lay stinking, vile in every neuk.]
As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'd, and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;
The piper loud and louder blew;
The dancers quick and quicker flew;
They reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit,
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit,
And coost her duddies to the wark,
And linket at it her sark!
Now Tam, O Tam! had thae been queans,
A' plump and strapping in their teens,
Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flannen,
Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linnen!
Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair,
That ance were plush, o' gude blue hair,
I wad hae gi'en them off my hurdies,
For ae blink o' the bonie burdies!
But wither'd beldams, auld and droll,
Rigwoodie hags was spean a foa,
Louping and flinging on a crummock,
I wonder did na turn thy stomach!
But Tam kend what was what fu' brawlie:
There was ae winsome wench and wawlie,
That night enlisted in the core,
Lang after ken'd on Carrick shore;
(For mony a beast to dead she shot,
And perish'd mony a bonie boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
And kept the country-side in fear.)
Her cutty-sark, o' Paisley harn
That while a lassie she had worn,
In longitude tho' sorely scanty,
It was her best, and she was vauntie,-
Ah! little ken'd thy reverend grannie,
That sark she coft for he wee Nannie,
Wi' twa pund Scots, ('twas a' her riches),
Wad ever grac'd a dance of witches!
But here my Muse her wing maun cour;
Sic flights are far beyond her pow'r;
To sing how Nannie lap and flang,
(A souple jade she was, and strang),
And how Tam stood, like ane bewitch'd,
And thought his very een enrich'd;
Even Satan glowr'd, and fidg'd fu' fain,
And hotch'd and blew wi' might and main;
Till first ae caper, syne anither,
Tam tint his reason ' thegither,
And roars out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!"
And in an instant all was dark:
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied.
As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke,
When plundering herds assail their byke;
As open pussie's mortal foes,
When, pop! she starts before their nose;
As eager runs the market-crowd,
When "Catch the thief!" resounds aloud;
So Maggie runs, the witches follow,
Wi' mony an eldritch skriech and hollo.
Ah, Tam! ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin'!
In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin'!
In vain thy Kate awaits thy commin'!
Kate soon will be a woefu' woman!
Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stane o' the brig;
There at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross.
But ere the key-stane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake!
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie's mettle -
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain gray tail;
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.
No, wha this tale o' truth shall read,
Ilk man and mother's son take heed;
Whene'er to drink you are inclin'd,
Or cutty-sarks run in your mind,
Think! ye may buy joys o'er dear -
Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare.
LL Waz Posted Feb 9, 2002
Hi Fashion Cat - that more or less exactly matches the Burns night I went to last weekend. It was in Cheshire but organised by Scots. We only had an extract from Tam read out. Even then there was only an hour and a half left for dancing.
One thing that was mentioned that night that I haven't seen in these threads is that Burns is now internationally popular. Apparently the Russians are quite keen on him. The speaker we had said Burns had been translated into every language except English! Also that he refused to write in English despite strong pressure to do so.
Demon Drawer Posted Feb 11, 2002
The 'English' room at work here has an extract from Burn's on display.
Other great English writers thus honoured are Dylan Thomas, James Joyce and Oscar Wilde.
There are btw no English writers on display.
Jamie Posted Feb 15, 2002
The Russians are quite keen on Irn-Bru too, to the extent that Barr have a bottling plant over there. Hmmm...
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