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Welcome to the RBSA!

Robert Burns Society of Annapolis is an association dedicated to the preservation and appreciation of the life, works and philosophy of Scotland’s National Bard

– Robert Burns, and to promote Scottish culture and heritage in North America.

The Robert Burns Society of Annapolis is a member of The Robert Burns Association of North America (RBANA) and is a member of the World Federation.

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Hosting A Burns Supper at Home (Part 3)

Part 3: The Event

A Burns Supper is intended to be a celebration among friends. As such, even though this isn’t a huge formal dinner in a fancy location complete with professional pipers, entertainers, speakers, and catered food, it can still be a festive affair. 

Get your guests actively involved in the event by assigning them duties. Whether those duties are host, Master of Ceremonies, poetry reader, toastmaster, or even just the person who manages to start and stop the bagpipe music, the more participation you have in your miniature event, the better. 

Set a challenge for your guests by putting out trivia questions about Robert Burns. Word games and puzzles can also be a lot of fun. Or just ask each guest to bring a trivia fact for your supper. These small remembrances are part of the tradition and are best suited to small gatherings and not as much for larger ones. Make your Burns Night Supper unique!

Send invitations and specify formal highland attire (or not, this is your event, after all). Plan your menu or just do a potluck style meal. Food is central and maximum engagement for your friends and family are what makes this a special evening. 

Lastly, have fun. Robert Burns enjoyed life to its fullest from the wee smallest detail to the grandest of gestures. This may be a night about his life, but it is being held in order to embrace our lives. Sláinte!

Resources

Robert Burns Trivia Quiz: https://www.heraldscotland.com/life_style/arts_ents/15893673.big-quiz-robert-burns-well-know-bard/ 

Word Puzzles: https://www.scotslanguage.com/articles/node/id/549

Sláinte! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sl%C3%A1inte 

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Hosting a Burns Supper at Home (Part 2)

Part 2: The Program

A Burns Night Program has a well-established format. And while there is some slight variation in the order of these elements of the fiesta, they generally will fall into this pattern  The pattern of the program dates back to the earliest Burns Supper events. 

The “running order” falls into this general pattern:

  1. Piping in guests
  2. Host’s welcoming speech
  3. “Selkirk Grace”
  4. Soup/Salad course
  5. Haggis
    1. Piping in the haggis
    2. “Address to a Haggis”
  6. Main course
  7. Other courses
  8. Toasts
    1. Immortal memory
    2. Address to the Lassies
    3. Reply to the Laddies
    4. Works by Burns
  9. Closing
  10. “Auld Lang Syne”

Piping in the Guests

Unless you play the bagpipes or have a good friend who plays them you’ll likely be playing a jaunty tune to welcome your guests in a suitably festive manner. Scotland the Brave, or Highland Laddie make great entry tunes.

Welcome and Grace

The welcome is a formal beginning to the festivities. It can be as simple as a greeting on behalf of the host to the guests. It can also be a less formal “Cheers” to the assemblage, but immediately after this comes “Grace”. At a Burns dinner it is traditional to use the Selkirk Grace

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!

Burns himself is said to have delivered this before the Earl of Selkirk at a private event. 

The Courses

The meal is served in three courses. Obviously for your at-home a multi-course meal may not be practical, but there are a few traditional dishes that should be expected to be served:

  • Tatties and Neeps (A mix of potatoes and turnips – usually mashed)
  • Haggis (I’ll refer you to part 1 of this series for obtaining haggis in the US)
  • Something to toast with (Scotch or wine, traditionally)

The haggis is treated as an honored guest at a Burns dinner. It is piped in. Someone declares the “Address to the Haggis” (and the more dramatics the better for the evening). And then it is served with great ceremony. Remember to pay the piper with a dram of scotch (or the cook, or whomever delivers your address – Scotch is a universal currency at a Burns Supper). 

For dessert some fine scottish shortbread or warm gingerbread will hit the spot. 

Toasts

Toasts are broken into three sets and are generally delivered by guests rather than the host (although the host is free to deliver them should they wish). 

First, the Immortal Memory, is usually an essay extolling Burns and his work and may include samples of his works as well as historical information. Best make it quick (especially if everyone has had a big meal) or else your audience will fall asleep. I find 10 to 15 minutes is about the longest a crowd can stand. For a private gathering, perhaps some “Burns Trivia” if nobody feels up to a full essay. 

The Immortal memory is always concluded with a toast to Robert Burns. 

Second, the Toasts to the Lassies and the reply from the Lassies. These are usually humorous, and often in rhyme. This is usually followed by any additional  toasts to friends who have passed over the year, toasts to the president, the queen, veterans, hosts, and anyone else of importance. 

And lastly a reading of Burns Poetry. One of the RBSA board swears that “Tam o’Shanter” is too long for such an event (it takes roughly 10 minutes to read) but any Burns poem is appropriate and whomever is taking responsibility to do the recitation should pick something approp[riate and be practiced in its delivery (especially after toasting!). 

Closing

Your closing should be a salute to the host and a profound thanks to the participants. Everyone who participated is to be thanks, toasted, and celebrated. And to wrap it all up a chorus of Auld Lang Syne to close the evening. Many dinners do this holding hands in a circle , which for an intimate private meal is very appropriate. 

After the song clean up quickly and spend the last part of your evening in good cheer. And hope that a bigger public event is open next year (2023) 

Resources

Sample Programs:

Pipe Music

Entertainments (2022)

Toasts to the Lassies and Reply to the Laddies

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Hosting a Burns Supper at Home (Part 1)

The Essentials

A Burns Supper is a tradition started by the friends of Robert Burns in 1801 on the fifth anniversary of his death. They started as informal affairs, but thousands of these formal dinners are held all over the world every year around Burns’ birthday on January 25th. 

Because of isolation restrictions during the pandemic we aren’t able to have a formal dinner this year but we are here to assist you in having your own private gathering in memory of the Bard of Ayreshire. 

So what are the essentials to stage a Burns Dinner?

  1. A group of friends or family. This is a celebration, so find a friend, family member or someone you can have a Video Chat with to share in the festivities. You can’t properly do this alone. Burns was known for his circle of friends and that is part of the what we are commemorating
  2. Find a haggis. There are a few places online to get a haggis. I recommend a one pound haggis for every four people. You do not have to import one from Scotland (It is hard/expensive to do that and it won’t be a proper haggis as import restrictions make that tricky, but many of the domestic haggis can be quite good).
  3. Get some Scotch. If single malts aren’t your thing, or Scotch isn’t your drink that’s fine, but some sort of spirit or wine is traditional for making toasts. In cases where that’s not appropriate (you know who you are) then a sparkling juice or seltzer may be substituted.
  4. Find a book of Burns poems. There are several specific poems you’ll want to locate: An Address to the Haggis, the Selkirk Grace, and possibly Auld Lang Syne
  5. Tartans (Optional).  If you have a family tartan, it is traditional to dress for the occasion. Robert Burns celebrated his highland heritage and you should, too! If you don’t know your family tartan, or don’t have one, the Black Watch tartan is not family-specific and is completely appropriate (especially for military). Or look for one of the many, many cultural and geographic tartans that are available. 

Once you’ve assembled all of these elements you are ready to put together a Personal-sized Burns dinner for your friends and family that will be fun, educational, and the heart of a tradition that has been continuous for over 200 years. 

Part 2 (The Program)

Resources

Background

Video Chat: 

Haggis Sources

Scotch

Burns Poetry

Tartans

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We are getting ready to Eat! Again!

Killarney House Fundraising Dinner

Hosted by Robert Burns Society of Annapolis

Please call the restaurant (410-798-8700) to make reservations and Mention Robert Burns Society!

Killarney House, Davidsonville, MD

What else happened on that day? (like we needed a reason to eat…)

September 23, 704: St Adamnan died. St Adamnan was the successor to Columba as the Abbot of Iona and, in about 690, he wrote ‘Life of Columba’ which described in detail the life of his predecessor, many of them crediting Columba with performing miracles. As such Adamnan helped to establish the cult of Columba.

Although he is primarily remembered as Columba’s biographer, he seems to have had a large impact on the spread of Christianity, particularly in the Pictish lands of the North East. He also drew up the ‘Law of Innocents’ which attempted to protect women, children and those in Holy Orders from war. Iona Abbey Admanan managed to get this agreement signed by the Irish Kings as well as those of the Dalriada and Picts. In his time, he was probably as important as Columba, but by so effectively establishing the historical reputation and cult of Columba, his contribution is now somewhat overlooked.

September 23, 1678: The Earl of Mar was commissioned to raise a regiment nicknamed “Earl of Mar’s Gray Breeks” which later became the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

September 23, 1779: The Battle of Flamborough Head takes place off Yorkshire between ships of the American Continental Navy commanded by John Paul Jones and Royal Navy ships protecting a merchant convoy.

September 23, 1880: John Boyd Orr, Nobel Peace prize winner in 1949, was born in Kilmaurs, Ayrshire. Orr studied at Glasgow University before being appointed as director of a nutritional research unit near Aberdeen.

However, when the war broke out Boyd Orr joined the army, where he won the MC and the DSC before joining the Royal Navy. He was an advisor to the government on nutrition during the Second World War, and in 1945 he was appointed Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. He argued for an international food policy based on need rather than trade but failed to persuade the FAO to set up an international body to supervise food production. Orr was knighted in 1932, granted a baronety in 1949 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961- only the second awarded to a Scot.

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Natterjacks House Concert

The Robert Burns Society of Annapolis will be hosting a Celtic House Concert on Saturday, June 29th, 2019. This event will be held at the home of Karolyn and George St Clair in Crofton and begins at 2:00pm. You can email Heather Ackroyd to get directions and details.

Musicians are with the Natterjacks Band and will perform music from English, Celtic, and maritime traditions. These experienced musicians have also played with others bands, including The Pyrates Royale and The O’Danny Girls. Music will be pleasing to the ear and band members will be playing on a variety of instruments: guitar, violin, hammered dulcimer, concertina, flute, and percussion. A chorus of lush vocal harmonies will make for a rich and innovative sound.

Bring your friends and family for an enjoyable and relaxing afternoon of fun music and socializing. Light refreshments will be included.

Suggested donation $25.00 per person attending.

For more details, including the full address, please message us on our Facebook page or email Heather Ackroyd.