You haven't yet viewed any products on our store. If you've been here before, you may need to sign in.
What would Burns say, on reading this week's tinsel show news? "Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine; A Ma… twitter.com/i/web/status… … 1 week ago
Robert Burns - and the "haggis mystery", the "stinking edition" and the arrival of Burns that was heralded with a w… twitter.com/i/web/status… … 2 weeks ago
The poem which we know as ’Address to a Haggis’ was written in 1786 - one of Burns's most famous and regularly performed poems.
Researching ‘AN OLD FARMER'S NEW YEAR'S MORNING SALUTATION’ we were distracted by a reference to the ‘Address to a Haggis’ which entitled it: ‘An Address To A Scotch Haggis on New Year’s Day’.
In 1806, it was part of a chapbook pamphlet published by Charles Randall, Stirling, with the title ‘An Address To A Scotch Haggis on New Year’s Day’, as a ‘filler’ supporting ‘The Auld Farmer’s Salutation To His Auld Mare Maggy’.
Burns didn’t call it ‘An Address To A Scotch Haggis on New Year’s Day’.
Where did that come from?
There are various stories linked to the writing of 'Address To A Haggis’.
• The first found, was contained in a caption relating to an engraving:
Archibald Prentice of Covington Mains, near Lanark, farmer, and friend of the Poet, known as "The Gudeman o' the Mains."
Mr. Prentice subscribed for 20 copies of the Edinburgh edition of the poems.
Burns, when on his way to Edinburgh in 1778, stayed overnight with Prentice. A sheet hoisted on a stack in the yard was the signal of the Poet's arrival, and all the neighbours assembled. To them, at supper time, the Poet recited the ‘Address to a Haggis’, composed for the occasion.
• Other accounts of the evening at Covington Mains make no mention of ‘Address to a Haggis’ but do however recount a telling of the ’Jolly Beggars’.
‘Robert Burns, in his itinerary to Edinburgh (per Mr Thomas Somerville LLD, nephew of Archibald Prentice) spent a night at the farmhouse of Mr Prentice, Covington Mains, near Carnwath. Archibald Prentice informed his brother farmers that Burns was expected at the Mains and a white sheet hoisted on a cornstack was to be a notice of his arrival and for all to assemble. Rev Briye Little, minister of the parish, Lang the schoolmaster and his brother the minister of Leadhills were present. Burns’s wonderful conversational powers drawn out by intelligent gentlemen and congenial friends carried all by storm. Songs and recitations, now grave, now gay, melted and cheered them by turns. In their excitement Burns said he would give the best yet after Mrs Prentice had left the room. She told him to go on – she would not leave the room that night. Burns then said, “Here is for the ‘Jolly Beggars’ (which was not published till after his death). Next morning accompanied by Prentice and the two Lang brothers, Burns breakfasted at Mr John Stoddart’s bank. On the way Mr Lang, of Leadhills asked Burns for a repetition of the ‘Jolly Beggars’. He replied ‘Na, na, Mr Lang, the inspiration is gone.’
• The Edinburgh Literary Journal, 1829 : “About 16 years ago, there resided at Mauchline, a Mr Robert Morrison, cabinet-maker. He was a great crony of Burns and it was in Mr Morrison's house that the poet usually spent the ‘mids o’ the day’ on Sunday. It was in this house that he wrote his celebrated ‘Address To A Haggis’ after partaking liberally of that dish, as prepared by Mrs Morrison.
• According to Robert Chambers, Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd has, on the contrary, averred that the poem was written in the house of Mr Andrew Bruce of Castle Hill, Edinburgh after in like manner partaking of the dish, but declares that it was first published in the Scots Magazine for January 1787. It was indeed published then, but it was actually first published on Tuesday December 19th 1786 when the poem appeared in The Caledonian Mercury with the heading :
FOR THE CALEDONIAN MERCURY
ADDRESS TO A HAGGICE.
BY R. BURNS
[NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED]
But there’s a difference to the last verse that we are familiar with.
The Caledonian Mercury has, as the last verse :
The last verse – as we know today is :
• The Life & Works of Robert Burns, 1852, edited by Robert Chambers, features the original last verse as an impromptu Grace given by Burns :
EXTEMPORANEOUS GRACE ON A HAGGIS
It has been stated, that being present at a party where a haggis formed part of the entertainment, and being asked to say something appropriate on the occasion, Bums produced this stanza by way of grace; which being well received, he was induced to expand it into the poem entitled ‘To a Haggis’, retaining the verse in an altered form as a peroration. [The concluding part of a speech, typically intended to inspire enthusiasm in the audience.]
Robert Crawford’s The Bard, in which Crawford states “The best new poem Burns added (to the Edinburgh Edition) was ‘To a Haggis’. Perhaps composed in Mauchline for a ‘Haggis Club’ harvest supper in 1785 (as John Richmond claimed) the poem was certainly ready in time for 19 December’s Caledonian Mercury – a ‘taster’ for his second edition.
It seems unlikely that Burns composed a poem of 48 lines with 267 words ‘there and then’ at dinner on Castle Hill.
Perhaps it began at Mauchline, in Mr Morrison's house, and Robert Burns worked away at it and was perhaps able to perform it at Castle Hill – from memory.
Available from Waverley Books :
Happy New Year from Scotland! Gifts that are given at new year - 'the hansel'
We wish you and your family a very happy new year.
In this blog post we have taken a look at Robert Burns' poem that celebrated his horse, Maggie. In his poem Burns' celebrates his horse and the years of service Maggie has given him. He writes about giving Maggie a ripp of corn 'to hansel' in the new year.
Today people still 'first foot' a neighbour or family member or friend with a token gift of shortbread or coal. This tradition is centuries old but now symbolic of rural customs.
In various parts of Scotland, a sheaf of oats was a common first-footing present. On some occasions the sheaf of oats was the last sheaf of harvest. In other parts of Scotland, the last sheaf, with the grain, was mixed with the seeds for next year’s planting. Or it was fed to farm animals as a cure or charm, perhaps to ensure the animal’s fertility. It was the custom to give a token gift to mark the new year.
Burns' poem 'An Old Farmer's New Year's Morning Salutation to his old Mare Maggie' mentions the hansel, and confirms the custom of giving a hansel on new year's day, in Ayrshire in the eighteenth century.
Hansel – or Handsel - was a gift or token given at the beginning of the year or to mark an acquisition or the start of an enterprise, supposedly to bring good luck.
The first Monday after New Year was considered by many to be the first winter holiday of the year, and it was marked by the exhange of small gifts between family and friends, and from masters to servants. ('Hansel' is from an Old English word, and has roots also in Norse.)
“Whenever Burns has occasion,” says Hogg, our Ettrick Shepherd*, “to address or mention any subordinate being, however mean, even a mouse or a flower, then there is a gentle pathos in it that awakens the finest feelings of the heart.”
The Auld Farmer of Kyle has the spirit of knight-errant, and loves his mare according to the rules of chivalry; and well he might: she carried him safely home from markets, and triumphantly from wedding-brooses; she ploughed the stiffest land; faced the steepest brae, and, moreover, bore home his bonnie bride with a consciousness of the loveliness of the load.
Christmas in Scotland had been a religious feasting day until the time of the Scottish Reformation in 1560, when Scotland split from the Catholic Church and new beliefs and practices came in to being.
In 1640, the Scottish Parliament passed a law that made celebrating ‘Yule vacations’ illegal. The Reformation abolished Christmas as the greatest festival of the Christian year. Even baking Yule bread was an offence. Christmas was frowned upon in Scotland for a long time, which is why Hogmanay and New Year celebrations in Scotland became important. 25 December didn’t become a Scottish public holiday until 1958.
Previously, Yule bread had been a tradition for hundreds of years across the British Isles, as Yule was a pagan tradition, and part of the 12 day festival in winter that began with the winter solstice. Yule festivities were observed and practiced in Germanic nations and northern Europe. The ancient Celtic practice of bringing in a living tree to the home to bless it. Bringing in misletoe was also a tradition to praise nature.
And so here we are, January 25th. Burns Night.
We have been featuring Burns’ epic poem Tam O’ Shanter, today being the 5th and concluding part with a simplified English translation.
The story behind the poem is interesting.
This marvellously vivid piece of description, represents more fully than any of Burns' other poems the greatness of his imaginative gifts; and apart from songs and the Elegy on Captain Henderson is the only very notable example of his muse during the last nine years of his life.
Yet it owes its origin to mere accident.
The churchyard surrounding the ruined kirk of Alloway was the burial place of his father, and when Burns in 1789 met Captain Francis Grose while he was staying with Robert Riddell at the Friar’s Carse, when visiting Scotland to making drawings for his work on The Antiquities of Scotland, he suggested to Grose to insert a picture of the ruined kirk in his volume. But as no architectural interest attaches to the ruin, Grose only agreed to the request on condition that Burns should "furnish a witch story to be printed along with it". Apparently what Grose expected and Burns first intended was a witch story in prose, for he sent three samples from which Grose might chose; and it was only by a happy second thought that Burns found in one of the tales the theme for his immortal Tam o' Shanter.
Here is the Tam O’Shanter story in Burns's own prose: —
On a market-day in the town of Ayr, a farmer from Carrick and consequently whose way lay by the very gate of Alloway kirkyard, in order to cross the river Doon at the old bridge, which is about two or three hundred yards further on than the said gate, had been detained by his business till by the time he reached Alloway it was the wizard hour between night and morning.
Though he was terrified with a blaze shining from the kirk, yet, as it is a well-known fact that to turn back on these occasions is running by far the greatest risk of mischief, he prudently advanced on his road.
When he had reached the gate of the kirkyard, he was surprised and entertained, through the ribs and arches of an old Gothic window, which still faces the highway, to see a dance of witches merrily footing it round their old sooty blackguard master, who was keeping them all alive with the power of his bagpipe.
The farmer, stopping his horse to observe them a little, could plainly descry the faces of many old women of his acquaintance and neighbourhood. How the gentleman was dressed tradition does not say, but that the ladies were all in their smocks: and one of them
happening unluckily to have a smock which was considerably short to answer all the purposes of that piece of dress, our farmer was so tickled that he involuntarily burst out with a loud laugh, 'Weel luppen Maggy wi' the short sark!', and, recollecting himself, instantly spurred his horse to the top of his speed.
I need not mention the universally known fact, that no diabolical power can pursue you beyond the middle of a running stream. Lucky it was for the poor farmer that the river Doon was so near, for notwithstanding the speed of the horse, which was a good one, when he reached the middle of the arch of the bridge, and consequently the middle of the stream, the pursuing vengeful hags were so close at his heels that one of them actually sprang to seize him; but it was too late; nothing was on her side of the stream but the horses tail, which immediately gave way at her infernal grip, as if blasted by a stroke of lightning; but the farmer was beyond her reach.
However the unsightly tailless condition of the vigorous steed was, to the last hour of the noble creature's life, an awful warning to the Carrick farmers not to stay too long in Ayr markets.
From Robert Burns' Poems, Edited by T.F. Henderson, published Heidelberg, 1906.
Illustration : Alloway Kirk from Grose's The Antiquities of Scotland
A traditional Burns Supper can be a formal dinner held on, or around, Burns Night. Guests normally dress in traditional Highland dress – the men in kilts or tartan trousers and the women in smart dresses or formal evening wear, perhaps with a dash of tartan. Burns himself did not wear tartan but now the night is something of an occasion. Families and friends might dress up and have something along the same lines, or have a quiet evening celebrating Scotland’s national poet and the universal themes he immortalised. Some elements will be common to each meal. Outside of the normal toasts, there may be a keynote speaker (at a big dinner this might be a celebrity or personality).
The Selkirk Grace :
This is a Scottish Prayer associated with Robert Burns. After the host’s words of welcome, when the guests are seated, this grace is said:
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.
A soup made with chicken with giblets, leeks, water, rice, bay leaf and seasoning.
(A vegetarian dish is offered also)
Other soups commonly on a Burns Night menu :
Scotch Broth (Soup of barley; lamb, mutton or beef, root vegetables; pulses)
Cullen Skink (Soup of smoked haddock, potatoes, onions)
Address To A Haggis
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 of a grace
As lang’s my arm.
Haggis, Warm ‘n Reekin’, wi Champit Tatties Mashed Neeps and a Wee Dram
Haggis – traditionally made with a sheep's pluck and stomach-bag, the lungs and heart minced, the liver chopped; suet; oatmeal; onions; chopped parsley, herbs and seasoning, served with mashed potatoes and mashed turnips, presented with a small glass of Scotch whisky.
A vegetarian or vegan dish is always offered now of course.
A classic trifle, made with whisky, Scottish raspberries, jelly and custard, with grated chocolate.
Oatcakes and Ayrshire Cheese ; A Tassie o’ Coffee and anither Wee Dram
The Immortal Memory :
The Immortal Memory celebrates Burns' enduring spirit, in a tribute to Robert Burns.
Ca’ the Yowes : a song, by Robert Burns. The chorus:
Ca' the yowes to the knowes,
Ca' them where the heather grows
Ca' them where the burnie rows,
My bonie dearie.
Tam O’ Shanter :
A recital of ‘Tam O’Shanter’– the epic poem in which Burns paints a vivid picture of the drinking classes in the old Scotch town of Ayr in the late 18th century. where the speaker is expected to recite the poem from memory. First lines :
When chapmen billies leave the street,
And drouthy neebors, neebors meet,
As market days are wearing late,
An' folk begin to tak the gate;
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
And getting fou and unco happy,
A Toast to the Lassies :
These days this toast may be a humorous speech. It is treated as a highlight of the evening. The speaker is expected to praise the role of women in the world today. There will be some references to Burns work. It is about women and their influence and effect on men, perhaps alluding to some of those present.
The Reply or Toast to the Laddies:
Again, this toast is expected to be a highlight of the evening. A female guest will give her views on men. She has to think on her feet and reply to any specific points raised in the previous toast. Also she needs to be witty and humorous and not offensive. Done well, it is full of charm.
Is There For Honest Poverty : a song, by Robert Burns.
"A Man's a Man for A' That", also known as "Is There for Honest Poverty" is a 1795 song by Robert Burns famous for its expression of support for the principle of equality for all people. The first verse :
Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave - we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.
Vote of Thanks and anither Wee Dram
Auld Lang Syne