‘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!