LITTLE CURRENT—The skirl of the pipes and flashing of tartans heralded the arrival of that “Chieftain of the Pudding Race,” the haggis, as the annual Robbie Burns Dinner and Scottish Evening got underway at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre this past weekend. The dinner celebrates the birth of the Bard of Scotland, Robbie Burns, whose poetry and song has left indelible marks on Canadian, indeed global, culture as members of the vast Scottish diaspora gather each year at the end of January (officially the 25) to honour their favourite son. The event is a fundraiser for the Manitoulin Sea Cadet Corps and has proven to be a popular event with Island residents, many of whom trace their ancestry back to antecedents from highland or lowland shores. This year’s sold out event was no exception.
The itinerary for this year’s event followed a by now familiar routine, with the piping in of that most peculiar of Scottish delicacies, the haggis—followed soon after introductions of the head table by the recitation of the Burn’s poem ‘Address to a Haggis.’ As has been the case in recent years, the address was delivered in fine Scottish brogue by the incomparable Bernard Andrews, who acted as master of ceremonies for the evening festivities. Pastor Erwin Thompson delivered the traditional ‘Selkirk Grace’ before everyone settled into a dinner of the aforementioned haggis, cock-a-leekie soup (potato leek), tatties and neeps, rolls, roast beef with gravy and a host of delicious cakes and beverages.
Entertainment was provided by piper David Beaton, George Williamson on guitar and vocals, ‘To the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns’ delivered again by Mr. Andrews, a parade of tartans, the hilarious ‘Toast to the Lassies’ (Mr. Andrews again with a cheeky rendition of a Burns’ song) and its even more humorous rebuttle ‘Toast to the Laddies’ delivered by Maggie King-Roi.
Fred Nesbitt delivered the touching ‘Toast to Absent Friends,’ recalling many Manitoulin Sea Cadet founders and supporters who are no longer with us, before leading the gathering in the singing of that most familiar of Robbie Burns songs, ‘Auld Lang Syne.’