So, today is Burns Night. The birthday of Robert Burns. I have been to Scotland dozens of times, but my memories of Burns Night Suppers take me back… not to Glasgow or to Islay, but to the sitting room of the late great Dr. Jane Alden in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Alden was my college journalism professor she was born and bred and Paisley, Scotland, before moving to the US in the 1970s.
She was maybe 80 pounds and for 50-plus years she had chain-smoked Virginia slims cigarettes that were as long, thin and white as her fingers. The decades of smoke and drink had left her with a voice that dared all accents to try and best it.
And she threw burns night suppers that were epic.
We would go to her house and begin with dozens of pies, scotch eggs, and baked goods. And we would have haggis, which most of the Americans would poke at with forks at arms length.
But then as the evening wore on whisky would appear along with pipers who nearly blew the window out of her small house. And suddenly I was not a debauched 19-year-old but a confidant with a room full of widowers and expatriates, all 50 years my senior.
I have tried on more than one occasion to read “The Address to the Haggis” aloud, but the trouble is, it is written in Scots, which has just enough in common with English to give one confidence that he or she can pronounce it. He or she cannot. Unless you’re born into it. Plus, the poem and the vernacular are both more than 200 years old
Fortunately, I know people. My good pal, Douglas Bicket, a friend since back in my Glasgow days, agreed to read it for us… and boy did he deliver.
We have no haggis this year, nor camaraderie. Nor Cranachan. We have no neeps or tatties. But we do have some lovely wee drams and we do have this video, which we made for you as a wee gift from us to you, this Burns Night 2021.