Morpeth Rotary Club
Work by past President Andrew Hamnett, retired Vice Chancellor of Strathclyde University, and Stan Bryce, of Scottish descent who recently joined from Bedlington, provided Morpeth Rotary with the fine Scottish cultural event of a Burns Night Supper.
Andrew and his wife Suzanne strode up the steps of Morpeth Golf Club dressed in a Malawi Scottish tartan to preside. Stan wore a MacFarlane tartan tie as the Bryces are a sept of that clan.
Once the 40 members had gathered, the guests were piped in by a member of Morpeth Highland Pipe Band. Andrew recited the Selkirk Grace. All stood for the piping in of the haggis, held on a silver platter by the chef.
The haggis was addressed with great drama by the chairman, using the Address To A Haggis by Burns, before it was stabbed with Andrew’s haggis knife. The deed was celebrated by the piper toasting the haggis with whisky from a silver Quaich, the ‘cup of friendship’, while all sampled a dram.
While the menu included haggis, neeps and tatties, it was not typically Scottish as the main course was beef and Yorkshire pudding.
Stan was the witty speaker on Scotland and the life of Burns. The first Burns Supper was in 1802 and they are held in over 200 countries.
Stan’s ancestors came from Loch Sloy. His family left Scotland in the 1840s when there was a potato famine. They moved to Liverpool, but visited Selkirk before the first son arrived to ensure he was born a Scot. His own father was born in 1915, but grandfather died in 1916. His father joined the Seaforth Highlanders.
Many Scots left in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn in 2014 there were 25 million Scots in the world, with only five million in Scotland.
They were subjugated to the English from 1707 with the Act of Union. The Anglicisation that followed spurred the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745, which were crushed at Cullodon. Acts suppressed Scottish culture, with the banning of tartan and bagpipes, and many Scots executed or exiled.
Between 1753 and 1775 thousands left for the colonies. Landowners expelled tenants as they could make more money from sheep. In the early 20th century 10,000 left Scotland for Canada.
Burns was born in 1759. The Scottish dialect was in decline until Burns breathed new life into it. He did not speak Gaelic, but a form of old Scots. His poems were about what he loved most — patriotism, drink and women, with a radical and anti-clerical flavour. He had a great love of freedom and fellowship. In Russia in 1924 a translation of Burns poems sold 600,000 copies.
Stan gave the toast To The Immortal Memory Of Robert Burns. It was followed by a reading of Burns poems by Vivien and Janet, an amusing Toast To The Lassies by Simon Foley, and an excellent Toast To The Laddies by Rhona Dunn. Barbara read a poem.
The raffle raised £100 towards helping to get rid of polio worldwide, and the evening finished with Auld Lang Syne.