The Robert Burns’ Supper commemorates a poet who has left his mark on Scots across the globe.
The Prince Albert Caledonian Society will be hosting the supper on Friday Jan. 25.
According to history, the man was many things. He was a poor, malnourished farmer, a poet and a lover. He is widely considered to have been a rake and a womanizer but is lesser known for his works of poetry that championed the rights of women, said Rodney Thomson, key-note speaker at this year’s Robert Burns’ Supper.
“He was a known womanizer and a rake in his own right, but he was also 200 years ahead of his time in terms of promoting women’s liberation. So this is what I’ve concentrated on,” Thomson said.
He points out that women did not win the right to vote in Canada until 1917. It was not until 1954 that the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, which declare women as having equal rights in voting, holding office and gaining access to public services.
“(There was) a little bit of conflict with his behaviour with women,” Thomson acknowledges.
“He wrote a lot of poetry about women,” Thomson said.
Many of those were laments on love, however the poem Thomson highlights is called the Rights of Women.
“While Europe’s eye is ﬁxed on mighty things, the fate of empires and the fall of Kings … Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention, the rights of woman merit some attention,” Thomson said, quoting the poem.
“In this poem, one of many devoted to lassies, he lists protection as the sacred right of women, women and children,” Thomson said.
“Let majesty your ﬁrst attention summon, Ah! si irai! The majesty of woman,” he again quotes.
Robert Burns’ Suppers have been held in Prince Albert for dozens of years, said Bill Kerr, who works with the Burns’ Supper Committee.
“I think probably since the 1920s’… I been here nearly 48 years now, and it has been going on much longer than that,” Kerr said.
Burns was 37 when he died from what appears to have been a weakened constitution, possibly due to poor childhood nutrition and years of harsh farm labour.
“He was pretty darn young. He was just in his sort of middle-to late 30’s. He was quite well-known in his own time which was quite remarkable when you consider the lack of media that there (was),” Kerr said.
Friends of Robert Burns’ held the first Burns’ suppers in Scotland at the end of the 18th century on the anniversary of his death, 21 July. Eventually it was moved to his birthday, and is practiced around the world.
“Somebody talks to the haggis believe it or not. But it’s in a Burns’ poem. It’s enacted in that the Haggis is sort of sliced open. It’s quite amusing to see, and don’t sit too near it because you’re liable to get bits of haggis all over you,” - Bill Kerr warned.
Kerr said Burns’ memory continues to live in the hearts of the Scots for a number of reasons.
“He stuck very close to being Scottish in his outlook and in his writing and stuff like that. It’s just one of those things that people really took to their heart and they stayed with it,” Kerr said.
Burns wrote the way he spoke, dialect and all.
“When you look at it, it is English, there’s no question about that. It’s not a foreign language, but it’s a language that’s spoken,” Kerr said.
“That’s another thing that endears him to the Scottish people. It’s written in their dialect, sort of thing,” he added.
“He was quite a character in his own right, apparently. Bit of a womanizer. Things like that don’t happen nowadays, of course,” Kerr said and chuckled.
Beyond his romantic poems and dalliances, which left Scotland lassies with 12 children by Burns, he also wrote about society and even slavery, as typified in The Slave’s Lament.
Kerr is fond of To a Mouse.
It is a comment on society and the world in general.
“Apparently he was moved to the fact that he was plowing the field and he clattered the plough through a little nest where a mouse stayed. The little thing ran away all frightened and somehow this concocted up in his mind that, ‘hey, Why am a big fella like me, knocking this poor little animal out of its house and home?’ and then it took on … a much more political significance as the years went on,” Kerr ruminated.
The Burns’ supper will include haggis, as well as highland dancers, bagpipers, singing and the speech about Burns by Thomson.
While following a traditional format more than 200 years old, humour is also an important part of the supper. All are welcome, Scots or not.
“Somebody talks to the haggis believe it or not. But it’s in a Burns’ poem. It’s enacted in that the Haggis is sort of sliced open. It’s quite amusing to see, and don’t sit too near it because you’re liable to get bits of haggis all over you,” Kerr warned.
“All in all it’s a fun evening,” Kerr said.
He said they expect between 120 and 150 people for the event, which will be held at the Travelodge Hotel, beginning at 6 p.m.
Tickets are $30 and include dinner and entertainment. They may be purchased now by calling 763-5601.