Haggis and pipers? What could be better?
Really, I have come to the conclusion that you really don’t need anything else in your accumulated wisdom about life than to understand that brief quote from Scotland’s poetic folk hero, Robbie Burns.
The Scots around the world are making an especially big deal over Burns this year, since it is the 250th anniversary of the drunken, wenching bard’s birth. In fact, he was nowhere near the drunk his roistering fans suggest as they quaff back another ‘wee deoch’ in memory of ‘auld Rabbie’. Auld Rabbie, in fact, after his youthful foray into Edinburgh society, settled back as a rural tax collector, married Highland Mary, and kept his ‘breeks’ in place except for her.
I only know some of this stuff due to the fact I had a paternal grandmother who was almost a militant Scot and demanded I know absolutely everything about my north of Hadrian’s Wall forebears – especially since three-quarters of my heritage flowed from the predominantly English elements in m DNA.
I know it too because I was once called upon to offer the ‘Immortal Memory’ at a Robbie Burns Night celebration by a local Legion branch. So, in order to do that, I had to do a bit of research.
Burns Night, by the way, is a celebration consisting of (usually middle aged or older) lads and lassies of real or imagined Scots extraction to deck themselves out in kilts (or those lovely long tartan skirts), eat haggis (which is combination of rolled oats and sheep guts, which is surprisingly more agreeable than it sounds) and get ‘faced on single malt whisky (without the ‘e’, if you please.) And, the pipers. Always with the #@%&& pipers.
Anyway, I had to find out what I could about Burns and expand my knowledge of him to exceed a few poems learned in school or from my Gran, and to recognize that the Auld Lang Syne we drunkenly sing on NYE was written by Burns – and best performed, I might add, by Guy Lombardo who was Italian-Canadian, and had nae a drap of Scots blood.
Anyway, I did my research and decided – especially after a few drams of that single-malt (this was still in my imbibing days) -- to do the Burns quotes in Scots dialect. I did quite well, truth be known. Even real Scots commended me. But, I have a natural ear for dialects. I once spent 10-days in Ireland and could have put Barry Fitzgerald to shame.
It went well and was great fun and the organizers gave me a Wallace Tartan necktie to thank me. Appropriate since the Scots part of me is Wallace, as in ‘Scots wha hae …” and Braveheart.
I told my stepdaughter when we saw the video of Braveheart – she was about 13 at the time – that the film was about my ancestor.
“You’re related to Mel Gibson?” she asked, eyes lighting up.
I didn’t pursue the matter any further.
But, I am proud of the Scottish aspect of who I am. I have traveled in Scotland; I love Edinburgh and the Highlands are unexcelled in terms of natural beauty, though the roads are (or were when I was there) pretty challenging.
And Scots should be proud that for a country with a wee population, they have accomplished a remarkable amount in virtually every field throughout the centuries. They may be the heaviest boozers in Europe but they took some time away from the hangover to even invent television – just ask John Logie Baird about that, despite claims of others to the contrary.
Anyway, aside from that digression, I am left with the question: If we have Burns Nights all over the place every February, why don’t we have a Shakespeare Night, a Dickens Night, a Twain Night? I expect it’s something to do with the ‘whisky’.
Labels: Why not a Mickey Spillane Night?