On 25 January 1759 poet Robert Burns was born and on that day all over Scotland and the rest of the world where the Scots have settled, Burns Supper are organised and attended.
Barga with its huge Scottish tradition of course took part in these celebrations but this year a week later than normal.
More than 250 years after his birth, guests sat down last night for the Annual Burns Supper organised at Da Riccardo on the Fosso.
To add to the occasion, the guest of honour – the haggis, was “captured” and flown in specially that morning on the Glasgow – Pisa flight.
Burns Suppers have been part of Scottish culture for about 200 years as a means of commemorating their best loved bard. And when Burns immortalised haggis in verse he created a central link that is maintained to this day.
The ritual was started by close friends of Burns a few years after his death in 1796 as a tribute to his memory.
The basic format for the evening has remained unchanged since that time and begins when the chairman invites the company to receive the haggis.
Usually at this event there is the sound of bagpipes playing during the evening but the flu epidemic which has been gradually creeping up on the Italian population laid low the piper Nick MacVicar from Pisa forcing him to miss the event.
The earthquake alert (article here) which meant that many people in Barga Vecchia had to leave their homes for the night, also curtailed the Burns Supper to some extent but still people enjoyed themselves at Da Riccardo’s feasting on smoked salmon and of course the traditional fare of Bashed Neeps, Tatties and Haggis.
THE FORMAT FOR A BURNS SUPPER
Chairperson’s opening address A few welcoming words start the evening and the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace The company are asked to stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table, while the guests accompany them with a slow handclap. The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns’ famous poem To A Haggis, with great enthusiasm. When he reaches the line ‘an cut you up wi’ ready slight’, he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife. It’s customary for the company to applaud the speaker then stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky. The company will then dine.
A typical Bill o’ Fare would be: Cock-a-leekie soup Haggis warm reeking, rich wi’ Champit Tatties, Bashed Neeps Tyspy Laird (sherry trifle) A Tassie o’ Coffee
The Immortal Memory One of the central features of the evening. An invited guest is asked to give a short speech on Burns. There are many different types of Immortal Memory speeches, from light-hearted to literary, but the aim is the same – to outline the greatness and relevance of the poet today.
Toast To The Lasses The main speech is followed by a more light-hearted address to the women in the audience. Originally this was a thank you to the ladies for preparing the food and a time to toast the ‘lasses’ in Burns’ life. The tone should be witty, but never offensive, and should always end on a concilliatory note.
Response The turn of the lasses to detail men’s foibles. Again, should be humorous but not insulting.
Poem and Songs Once the speeches are complete the evening continues with songs and poems. These should be a good variety to fully show the different moods of Burns muse. Favourites for recitations are Tam O’ Shanter, Address to the Unco Guid, To A Mouse and Holy Willie’s Prayer.
The evening will culminate with the company standing, linking hands and singing Auld Lang Syne to conclude the programm source
|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 arm.
|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,
|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,
|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!