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The Globe Inn

Article Published 25/01/2022

Each year on the 25th January Scotland celebrates Burns Night which marks the birthday of the country's most iconic poet, Robert Burns. Patrick Lamont, Business Events Specialist at VisitScotland Business Events tells us about some of Scotland's Burns Night traditions and his favourite Burns poem.

What is Burns Night?

Burns Night celebrates the life and work of Robert Burns, also known as Rabbie Burns, who is considered Scotland's national poet. Burns was born on the 25th January 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire and is renowned for his poems including Auld Lang Syne; A Red, Red Rose and To a Mouse.

On a typical Burns Night, many Scots will sit down with their friends and family and enjoy a hearty Burns Supper of haggis, neeps and tatties with drams of whisky.

Each Burns supper is individual, but typically the running order is:

1. To start - everyone gathers, the host says a few words, everyone sits, and the Selkirk Grace is said.

2. The meal - the starter is served, the haggis is piped in, the host performs the famous Burns Night haggis poem Address to a Haggis, everyone toasts the haggis, and the main meal is served, followed by dessert.

3. After the meal - the first Burns recital is performed after Burns Night food, the Immortal Memory (the main tribute speech to Burns) is given, the second Burns recital is performed, then there's a Toast to the Lassies, followed by a Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, before the final Burns recital is performed.

4. To end the night - the host gives a vote of thanks, everyone stands and sings Auld Lang Syne, crossing their arms and joining hands at the line 'And there's a hand, my trusty fere!'.

My favourite Burns Poem

One of my favourite Burns poems is To a Mouse. This poem stands out for me because it was the first Burns poem I ever learnt. At primary school in Scotland, we had to learn a Burns poem each year and recite it in front of the whole class. I moved to Newcastle when I was five years old and returned to Scotland five years later with a thick Geordie accent. As I'm sure you can imagine, I absolutely butchered it in my trembling Geordie accent, with very little idea what the poem was all about.

To a Mouse, focuses on a mouse whose nest has been destroyed by the plough of farmer Robert Burns. As the farmer sits down and contemplates what he has done, he is both struck by the sad fact that man and nature so often collide, and the uncertainty of life - the mouse had worked so hard all year to build his nest only to see it destroyed in seconds, just as winter is setting in.

The poem is particularly relevant now, as I think about the impact Covid has made on our lives over the last two years - it reminds us of how uncertain life can be. As a famous line in the poem states, 'the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley' - which means our best laid plans often go wrong. And as we reflect on COP26, now more than ever the union between man and nature is fragile, and one we sometimes don't heed until it is too late.

To a Mouse

WEE, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle!

I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion
An' fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
'S a sma' requet;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
Its silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's win's ensuing,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee bit heap o' leaves and stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' Mice an' Men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I cannot see,
I guess an' fear!

For a translation of the poem click here.