‘Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, first saw the light on this day, the 25th January 1759, in a small cottage by the wayside near the Bridge of Doon, two miles from Ayr. A wonderful destiny was that of the peasant’s babe born that day – a life of toil, imprudence, poverty, closed in early death, but to be followed by an afflatus of popular admiration and sympathy such as never before nor since attended a literary name in any country. The strains of Burns touch all hearts. He has put words together, as scarcely any writer ever did before him. His name has become a stenograph for a whole system of nation feeling and predilections.’
So wrote the original Chambers Book of Days in 1864. What can we add to this? Perhaps the descriptions in the 2004 publications will serve us:-
‘The birthday of Robert Burns (1759-96) on 25 January is celebrated by people of Scottish descent all over the world. The central attraction of the Burns Night festivities is a traditional Burns Supper of haggis – a dish made of the heart, lungs and liver of a sheep or calf, chopped up with suet, onions and oatmeal – and traditionally boiled in a sheep’s stomach-bag. It is then served with tatties and neeps – potatoes and mashed swede.
The meal begins with the ‘Selkirk Grace’ and a short rhyme of an unknown author: Some hae meat and canna eat; And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat and we can eat`, And sae the Lord be thank it.
The company then stand to ‘receive the haggis’ as it is ceremoniously piped into the room and set down in front of the chief guest, who the recites Burn’s poem of 1786 – ‘To a Haggis’:- Fair fa’ your honest, consie 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.
This is, of course, just a touch of the whole event but – unless you have the right credentials – I’m afraid that I cannot tell you anymore!
Back in 2002 I was a part-time tutor for the Worker’s Education Association and, after one series of talks, one of my audiences kindly allowed me to copy some essays written by her mother. I felt they were worth publication and was given a freedom to proceed providing accreditation was given to her mother who would be 100 on 4th August 2002. I was very happy to agree with that. Unfortunately things didn’t go quite as planned from my end and the world never had a chance to read some of the writings of Nelly Gladys Lant age 15. Fortunately I kept those photocopies the family kindly gave me. A lot has happened since then – but I still have Nellie’s writing, it doesn’t age even if mine does! We’ll be picking up bits of Nellie’s life in school in the next few weeks but to start with let’s have a look at her term report of 31st March 1916.
Nellie Lant is in class IV – and is one of a class of 54. She has been absent twice during the term but has never been late. She has been marked on 18 different subjects in class – one of which is homework! Three of the class subjects – Composition, Arithmetic and Algebra – have also undergone examination as has the non-class test of Dictation. Shorthand, Typewriting and Book Keeping are on the sheet but do not appear to be part of this term’s work.
Her marks are good and her Class Mistress remarks: ‘Nellie again deserves prais for her steady managing of cooking.’ She is registered as: Position 6 Exam 15 Class 7
Beneath all of this is the notice that:- ‘The next Term begins on May 1st when every girl is expected to be present. No one is permitted to absent herself at any time unless she is ill.
We’ll learn more about Nellie in the weeks to come.
Dear Mum and Dad
I think I am in love.
Trouble is – so are the other six guys. Grumpy has lost his ‘grumps’; Sleepy gets up an hour earlier; Doc has reduced Sneezy’s problem; Bashful is prepared to talk and me – well I’m just HAPPY. That just leaves Dopey – and we are all envious of him because Janine thinks he is ‘sweet’!
Janine is a treasure. She’s pretty good looking as well!
You would not believe the change she has made in all our lives. Now the place is always spotless. All of us are now perfectly house trained. We take turns in the chores to help Janine. She only has to mention that something needs doing and we all fight to see who does it.
The only drawback is that we are all putting on weight!
She makes us all have breakfast before we go out and has a super three-course meal waiting for us when we get home.
Honestly – the day we all agreed she should stay rent free, in exchange for her cooking and cleaning, was the best day’s work we have all done in a long time.
Hope to see you soon
Do you remember the girl I told you about? Well …. one week and we’re fed up with her already. She is a pain. Within a couple of days she has cleaned the whole place up. None of us could find a thing! That was bad enough – but now it’s ……
“Take your shoes off in the hall!”
“Don’t bring those dirty tools in here.”
“Wash your hands before you eat.”
All the lads are finding it tiresome.
Well must go now – dinner’s on the table and its home-made steak & kidney pie with fresh vegetables and apple pie and custard to follow.
I’ll write again soon
You will be pleased to hear that things are looking up at the flat. The vacant eighth place has been taken – by a girl!
She’s a strange person. She seems to be lost or trying to escape from something or other.
We know nothing about her except that she seems a decent sort and offered to cook and clean for us all in exchange for free board and keep. She said she had nowhere to go and no money at the moment to pay rent.
We had a quick conflab and agreed to a three-month trial period. Time will tell if it works out.
Your loving son