Jan. 25 was the celebratory tribute to the great Scottish poet and Bard of Ayrshire, Robbie Burns. The day is known as Robbie Burns Day.
“The interesting thing about Robert Burns is that he actually wrote in English, but a Scottish version of English,” said David Hunter, president of the Scottish Studies Foundation. “(He) was a man who used the old Scottish vernacular — the language of the common people … Burns has captured the imagination of Scottish people by speaking in their own tongue as it were.”
Burns was born Jan. 25, 1759 in Alloway, Scotland. Progressive as he was, Burns was seen as a socialist with radical political views. He believed that all should be seen as equals and wrote and believed “a man is a man for all that.”
Hunter said Burns was a champion of the common person.
“He’s a man who said what we would like to have said and he had a number of pithy sayings,” said Hunter. “He said, ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft agley’ – aft agley means they go astray. No matter how well you plan, things always come at you from left field and throw you off guard.”
To a Mouse was written after Burns accidentally overturned a mouse nest with a plough. The poem influenced the title of John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men.
“Burns lived at a time of monumental change,” said Hunter. “Revolution was in the air in both the American colonies and in France. What he said over 250 years ago is just as relevant today, when you hear of all the turmoil in the world and people fighting at each other, it was (Burns’) hope that at some point in time we’d all be able to live together in peace and harmony and we’d all be brothers and sisters. He had very noble ideas and that rings true with people all over the world.”
Burns passed away when he was 37, on July 21, 1796, due to his health, however, he is still remembered and celebrated, as his poems still resonate with people today.
“A few years ago, Barack Obama could be heard saying … “We in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of ‘man’s inhumanity to man.’ This was a paraphrase of an earlier speech made by Dr. Martin Luther King back in the 1960s but Dr. King, in turn, had taken the phrase “man’s inhumanity to man” from the Robert Burns poem Man was made to Mourn. And it’s a quote that has been used many times since,” said Hunter.
Robbie Burns Day, also known as the Burns Supper, is a night filled with drinks, a traditional Scottish meal, readings of the literary work of Burns, song and dance. After gathering and mingling, there is a Parade of the Haggis, followed by the Address to the Haggis.
At the Royals Football Club in Brampton, Johnny Blue gave the Address to A Haggis.
“But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, the trembling earth resounds his tread,” said Blue. “Clap in his walie nieve a blade, he’ll mak it whissle; an’ legs an’ arms, an’ hands will sned, like taps o’ trissle.”
Blue waved his knife around as he sang Burns’ poem, then stabbed the haggis and slit it from one end to the other.