ASSIGINACK—It has been a few years since the Island’s Scottish roots have sprouted in that most traditional of celebrations of Caledonian expats—the Robbie Burns dinner. Well don your kilt, tartan or tam, clasp your lassie and leave your wee bairns behind as ye gang to the Assiginack Curling Club hall by 8 pm on January 25, because the curling club is reviving the spirit (and spirits) and immortal memory of the Blessed Bard of Scotland with a celebration of dance, song, poetry and scotch—complete with the piping in of the haggis courtesy of Andy Atchison of Manitowaning.
Usually celebrated as close to Robbie Burns’ birthday (he was born on January 25, 1759 in Alloway) as possible, Robbie Burns dinners have evolved into a particular form and function, which the organizers of the event in Manitowaning intend to follow as closely as possible.
“We wanted to follow the proper form as closely as possible,” said co-organizer Judy Atchison. “There is a whole official website on the Internet that lays out how the dinner is supposed to go.”
Along with Denise McKenzie, Marilyn Logan, Jean McLennan, Melanie Carr and Jane Rohn, Ms. McKenzie has been putting together an evening that includes readings of the works of Robbie Burns by Colin Pick and Graham Lloyd and they have enlisted the good offices of the Burns Wharf Theatre troupe, Marilyn Wholberg, Debbie Robinson and an evening of music by Robbie Shawana.
“We are going to have traditional Scottish music and some contemporary Scottish music as well, some Gaelic offerings from the Newfoundland group Great Big Sea, that sort of thing,” said Ms. Atchison. “We are hoping people will dress up for it. There will be finger foods and appetizers, even a haggis, sort of.” Ms. Atchison admits the haggis itself, that most glorious of puddings, will be there more in spirit that authenticity. “It’s really not that easy to find a sheep’s stomach around here,” she laughed.
The Robbie Burns dinner will be accompanied by the curling club’s annual men’s bonspiel for an added Scottish touch. There will be games with a Scottish theme, including an on-ice draw to the button contest available for your edification as well.
For those uninitiated in the lore of the Scottish bard, Robbie Burns recently beat out William Wallace (of Braveheart fame) as Scotland’s greatest son. Quite a feat for a poet born into lowly means on a rented farm in the backcountry. The late lamented poet was a wee bit of a womanizer and noted for his prodigious intake of the ‘water of life,’ but he produced poetry and songs of amazing grace and power, including that most ubiquitous anthem of the New Year, Auld Lang Syne.
“And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.”
So help keep the tradition alive and the bard immortal by stepping out to the Robbie Burns dinner at 8 pm on Saturday, January 25 at the Assiginack Curling Club. Tickets are $10, for more information see the advertisement on page 11 in this week’s edition of The Expositor.