Hundreds of Pictou Countonians will be taking a cup of kindness for auld lang syne this weekend in honour of Scotland’s national poet, Robbie Burns.
Jan. 25 marks the 255th anniversary of the birth of Burns in Scotland and events in Stellarton, Plymouth, Westville and Pictou will honour his life and works.
Troy MacCulloch, president of the Federation for Scottish Culture, said the first Robbie Burns night occurred in 1921. Shortly after that, it became an annual event.
“Normally, this is our really fun night,” said MacCulloch, treasurer of St. Andrew's Society of Pictou County. “Our feast of St. Andrew’s is more official so this is an opportunity to let our hair down.”
MacCulloch noted that it’s a time to celebrate Burns and the world and time from which he came.
“He didn’t live a long life, dying at 37, but here we are hundreds of years later celebrating his legacy.”
Burns is the best known of poets who have written in the Scots language but he also wrote lyrics for popular folk tunes, including the famous ‘Auld Lang Syne.’
Every Robbie Burns night follows a certain format with subtle variations. First is the piping of the guests, The Selkirk Grace and the ‘piping’ of the haggis. For Frank Gammell of the Western Star Lodge in Westville, that particular meal isn’t for everyone.
“It’s prepared for those who will partake of it,” said Gammell.
Burns was a Mason and the Western Star Lodge has celebrated his special night for over 100 years.
“For a long time, it was considered one of the premier social events in Westville.”
The Na Gaisgich Society will be hosting a night of festivities honouring Burns at the Stellarton Fire Hall. For piper Robbie MacInnis, he’s pleased the number of those interested continues to grow.
“The society did gatherings at houses of band members at first then moved from The Braeside and Celtic Circle until we maxed their capacity,” he said.
While this Saturday will see plenty of bagpipes, haggis and Scotch, there will also be time for reflection on Burns’s legacy through the Immortal Memory, a short speech, remembering some aspect of Burns's life or poetry.
Entertainment in Stellarton will include Spyder Macdonald, the fiddler, highland dancers and some original pipe tunes.
“I think, originally, Robbie Burns spent his entire life in poverty, but he still found the beauty and patriotism of Scotland,” said MacInnis. “It’s always a good time.”
The St. Andrew’s Society will have Ann Emmett of the Hector Heritage Quay to speak of the region’s local connection to Scotland.
For MacCulloch, he’s happy to see the Scottish culture being preserved.
“It’s when I see the kids, then I know it’s safe for the next generation,” he said. “But Burns night is more for the adults since it’s more intimate, romantic. It certainly harkens back to a time that we’ll never see again.”
There will also be a Burns night hosted by the Pictou Masons, the New Caledonia Lodge at St. Andrews Church on Feb. 1.
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn
FACTBOX: A TOAST TO THE HOST
The Selkirk Grace:
Some have meat and cannot eat,
Some cannot eat that want it;
Sae let the Lord be thankit
A Scottish dish consisting of seasoned sheep’s heart, liver, lungs and stomach (or nowadays, sausage casing); onion, oatmeal, suet and spices.