RT Burns Club

*Federation No. 2085*


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Forum Home > What makes a Burns Supper > THE FORMAT FOR A BURNS SUPPER

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Chairperson's opening address

A few welcoming words start the evening and the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace.

The company are asked to stand to receive the haggis. A piper thenleads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table, while the guestsaccompany them with a slow handclap. The chairman or invited guest thenrecites Burns' famous poem To A Haggis,with great enthusiasm. When he reaches the line 'an cut you up wi' readyslight', he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife.

It's customary for the company to applaud the speaker then stand andtoast the haggis with a glass of whisky.

The company will then dine. Atypical Bill o' Fare would be:

Cock-a-leekie soup

Haggis warm reeking, rich wi' Champit Tatties,

Bashed Neeps

Tyspy Laird (sherry trifle)

A Tassie o' coffee

The Immortal Memory

One of the central features of the evening. An invited guest is askedto give a short speech on Burns. There are many different types ofImmortal Memory speeches, from light-hearted to literary, but the aimis the same - to outline the greatness and relevance of the poet today.

Toast To The Lasses

The main speech is followed by a more light-hearted address to thewomen in the audience. Originally this was a thank you to the ladiesfor preparing the food and a time to toast the 'lasses' in Burns' life.The tone should be witty, but never offensive, and should always end ona conciliatory note.


The turn of the lasses to detail men's foibles. Again, should behumorous but not insulting.

Poem and Songs

Once the speeches are complete the evening continues withsongs and poems. These should be a good variety to fully show thedifferent moods of Burns muse. Favourites for recitations are Tam o' Shanter, Address to the Unco Guid, To A Mouseand Holy Willie's Prayer.

The evening will culminate with the company standing, linking hands andsinging Auld Lang Syne to conclude the programme.

Some verses

Selkirk Grace

Somehae meat and cannot eat. Some cannot eat that want it: But we hae meat and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Theclosing stanza said to have been composed extempore during a dinnerat the home of John Morrison, a Mauchline cabinet-maker. The completepoem was written soon after Burns arrived in Edinburgh and appeared inthe Caledonian Mercury - the first of Burns's poems to be published inany periodical. Oddly enough, the earliest recipe appeared in the sameyear, in Cookery and Pastry by Susanna Maciver.

Address to a‘Haggis’

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o thepuddin'-race! Aboon them a' ye tak yourplace, Painch, tripe, or thairm: Weel are ye wordy of agrace As lang's my arm. The groaning trencherthere ye fill, Your hurdies like adistant hill, Your pin wad help to menda mill In time o need, While thro your pores thedews distil Like amber bead. His knife see rusticLabour dight, An cut you up wi readyslight, Trenching your gushingentrails bright, Like onie ditch; And then, O what aglorious sight, Warm-reekin, rich! Then, horn for horn, theystretch an strive: Deil tak the hindmost, onthey drive, Till a' theirweel-swall'd kytes belyve Are bent like drums; The auld Guidman, maistlike to rive, 'Bethankit' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout, Or olio that wad staw asow, Or fricassee wad mak herspew Wi perfect sconner, Looks down wi sneering,scornfu view On sic a dinner? Poor devil! see him owrehis trash, As feckless as a wither'drash, His spindle shank a guidwhip-lash, His nieve a nit: Thro bloody flood orfield to dash, O how unfit! But mark the Rustic,haggis-fed, The trembling earthresounds his tread, Clap in his walie nieve ablade, He'll make it whissle; An legs an arms, an headswill sned, Like taps o thrissle. Ye Pow'rs, wha makmankind your care, And dish them out theirbill o fare, Auld Scotland wants naeskinking ware That jaups in luggies: But, if ye wish hergratefu prayer, Gie her a Haggis!

Composedfor Francis Grose to accompany an engraving of Alloway Kirk,and published in the second volume of Antiquities of Scotland in April1791. It was written in fulfilment of a promise to Grose in 1789 butnot carried out before the winter of 1790. In November that year Burnssent the first fragment to Mrs Dunlop. Grose received the complete poemat the beginning of December.

Like 'Halloween' it draws heavily on the lore of witchcraft which Burnsimbibed from Betty Davidson. The story is losely based on DouglasGraham of Shanter (1739-1811), whose wife Helen was a superstitiousshrew. He was prone to drunkeness on market-day and on one suchoccasion the wags of Ayr clipped his horse's tail - a fact he explainedaway by this story of witches which mollified his credulous wife.

TamO’Shanter WHEN chapman billies leave the street, And drouthy neebors,neebors meet; As market-days arewearing late, An folk begin to tak thegate; While we sit bousing atthe nappy, An getting fou and uncohappy, We think na on the langScots miles, The mosses, waters,slaps, and styles, That lie between us andour hame, Whare sits our sulky,sullen dame, Gathering her brows likegathering storm, Nursing her wrath to keepit warm. This truth fand honestTam o Shanter, As he frae Ayr ae nightdid canter: (Auld Ayr, wham ne'er atown surpasses, For honest men and bonielasses). O Tam had'st thou butbeen sae wise, As taen thy ain wifeKate's advice! She tauld thee weel thouwas a skellum, A blethering, blustering,drunken blellum; That frae November tillOctober, Ae market-day thou wasnae sober; That ilka melder wi themiller, Thou sat as lang as thouhad siller; That ev'ry naig was ca'da shoe on, The smith and thee gatroarin fou on; That at the Lord's house,even on Sundav, Thou drank wi KirktonJean till Monday. She prophesied that, lateor soon, Thou would be found, deepdrown'd in Doon, Or catch'd wi warlocks inthe mirk, By Alloway's auld,hauntedkirk. Ah, gentle dames, it garsme greet, To think how moniecounsels sweet, How monie lengthen'd,sage advices The husband frae the wifedespises! But to our tale:- Aemarket-night, Tam had got planted uncoright, Fast by an ingle,bleezing finely, Wi reaming swats, thatdrank divinely; And at his elbow, SouterJohnie, His ancient, trusty,drouthy cronie: Tam lo'ed him like a verybrither; They had been fou forweeks thegither. The night drave on wisangs and clatter; And ay the ale wasgrowing better: The landlady and Tam grewgracious, Wi favours secret, sweet,and precious: The Souter tauld hisqueerest stories; The landlord's laugh wasready chorus: The storm without mightrair and rustle, Tam did na mind the storma whistle. Care, mad to see a mansae happy, E'en drown'd himsel amangthe nappy. As bees flee hame wilades o treasure, The minutes wing'd theirway wi pleasure: Kings may be blest butTam was glorious, O'er a' the ills o lifevictorious! But pleasures are likepoppies spread: You seize the flow'r, itsbloom is shed; Or like the snow falls inthe river, A moment white then meltsfor ever; Or like the borealisrace, That flit ere you canpoint their place; Or like the rainbow'slovely form Evanishing amid thestorm. Nae man can tether timeor tide, The hour approaches Tammaun ride: That hour o night's blackarch the key-stane, That dreary hour Tammounts his beast in: And sic a night he taksthe road in, As ne'er poor sinner wasabroad in. The wind blew as `twadblawn its last; The rattling showers roseon the blast; The speedy gleams thedarkness swallow'd; Loud, deep, and lang thethunder bellow'd; That night, a child mightunderstand, The Deil had business onhis hand. Weel mounted on his graymare Meg, A better never liftedleg, Tam skelpit on thro duband mire, Despising wind, and rain,and fire; Whiles holding fast hisguid blue bonnet, Whiles crooning o'er anauld Scots sonnet, Whiles glow'ring round wiprudent cares, Lest bogles catch himunawares: Kirk-Alloway was drawingnigh, Whare ghaists and houletsnightly cry.

By this time he was cross the ford, Whare in the snaw thechapman smoor'd; And past the birks andmeikle stane, Whare drunken Charliebrak's neck-bane; And thro the whins, andby the cairn, Whare hunters fand themurder'd bairn; And near the thorn, aboonthe well, Whare Mungo's mitherhang'd hersel. Before him Doon pours allhis floods; The doubling storm roarsthro the woods; The lightnings flash frompole to pole, Near and more near thethunders roll: When, glimmering thro thegroaning trees, Kirk-Alloway seem'd in ableeze, Thro ilka bore the beamswere glancing, And loud resounded mirthand dancing. Inspiring bold JohnBarleycorn, What dangers thou canstmake us scorn! Wi tippenny, we fear naeevil; Wi usquabae, we'll facethe Devil! The swats sae ream'd inTammie's noddle, Fair play, he car'd nadeils a boddle. But Maggie stood, rightsair astonish'd, Till, by the heel andhand admonish'd, She ventur'd forward onthe light; And, vow! Tam saw an uncosight!

Warlocksand witches in a dance: Nae cotillion, brent newfrae France, But hornpipes, jigs,strathspeys, and reels, Put life and mettle intheir heels. A winnock-bunker in theeast. There sat Auld Nick, inshape o beast; A touzie tyke, black,grim and large, To gie them music was hischarge: He screw'd the pipes andgart them skirl, Till roof and rafters a'did dirl. Coffins stood round, likeopen presses, That shaw'd the dead intheir last dresses; And, by some devilishcantraip sleight, Each in its cauld handheld a light: By which heroic Tam wasable To note upon the halytable, A murderer's banes, ingibbet-airns; Twa span-lang, wee,unchristen'd bairns; A thief new-cutted frae arape - Wi his last gasp his gabdid gape; Five tomahawks, wi bluidred-rusted. Five scymitars, wi murdercrusted; A garter which a babe hadstrangled; A knife a father's throathad mangled - Whom his ain son o lifebereft - The grey-hairs yet stackto the heft; Wi mair of horrible andawefu, Which even to name wad beunlawfu. As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'dand curious, The mirth and fun grewfast and furious; The piper loud and louderblew, The dancers quick andquicker flew, They reel'd, they set,they cross'd, they cleekit, Till ilka carlin swat andreekit, And coost her duddies tothe wark, And linket at it in hersark! Now Tam, O Tam! had thaebeen queans. . A' plump and strapping intheir teens! Their sarks, instead ocreeshie flannen, Been snaw-white seventeenhunder linen!- Thir breeks o mine, myonly pair, That ance were plush, oguid blue hair, I wad hae gien them offmy hurdies, For ae blink o the bonieburdies! But wither'd beldams,auld and droll, Rigwoodie hags wad speana foal, Louping and flinging on acrummock, I wonder did na turn thystomach! But Tam kend what waswhat fu brawlie: There was ae winsomewench and wawlie, That night enlisted inthe core, Lang after kend onCarrick shore (For monie a beast todead she shot, An perish'd monie a bonieboat, And shook baith meiklecorn and bear, And kept the country-sidein fear). Her cutty sark, o Paisleyharn, That while a lassie shehad worn, In longitude tho sorelyscanty, It was her best, and shewas vauntie... Ah! little kend thyreverend grannie, That sark she coft forher wee Nannie, Wi twa pund Scots ('twasa' her riches), Wad ever grac'd a danceof witches! But here my Muse her wingmaun cour, Sic flights are farbeyond her power: To sing how Nannie lapand flang (A souple jade she wasand strang), And how Tam stood likeane bewitch'd, And thought his very eenenrich'd; Even Satan glowr'd, andfidg'd fu fain, And hotch'd and blew wimight and main: Till first ae caper, syneanither, Tam tint his reason a'thegither, And roars out, 'Weeldone, Cutty-sark!' And in an instant all wasdark: And scarcely had heMaggie rallied, When out the hellishlegion sallied. As bees bizz out wi angryfyke, When plundering herdsassail their byke; As open pussie's mortalfoes, When, pop! she startsbefore their nose; As eager runs themarket-crowd, When 'Catch the thief!'resounds aloud: So Maggie runs. thewitches follow, Wi monie an eldritchskriech and hollow. Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! thou'llget thy fairin! In hell they'll roastthee like a herrin! In vain thy Kate awaitsthy comin! Kate soon will be a woefuwoman! Now, do thy speedyutmost, Meg, And win the key-stane ofthe brig; There, at them thou thytail may toss, A running stream theydare na cross! But ere the key-stane shecould make, The fient a tail she hadto shake; For Nannie, far beforethe rest, Hard upon noble Maggieprest, And flew at Tam wifurious ettle; But little wist sheMaggie's mettle! Ae spring brought off hermaster hale, But left behind her aingrey tail: The carlin claught her bythe rump, An left poor Maggiescarce a stump. Now, wha this tale otruth shall read, Ilk man, and mother'sson, take heed: Whene'er to drink you areinclin'd, Or cutty sarks rin inyour mind, Think! ye may buy thejoys o'er dear: Remem


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