Preparations underway for Robert Burns supper

Matt Gardner
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Get out your kilts and dust off your bagpipes -- the annual Robert Burns supper returns to Prince Albert this month.

The Prince Albert Caledonian Society is once again hosting the local celebration, joining legions of Scots and Scotophiles around the world to honour Scotland’s national poet and the culture immortalized in his works.

The 213th Robert Burns Supper will take place on Friday, Jan. 24 at the Prince Albert Travelodge.

Cocktails will be served at 6 p.m. followed by a 7 p.m. dinner featuring traditional Scottish haggis.

“There’s your typical banquet-type meal -- whatever the organizers choose, the roast beef, ham, chicken and all the trimmings -- but the haggis is actually served as well into that,” Caledonian Society member and past president Bill Kerr said.

A pudding that contains ingredients from sheep’s organs, haggis is widely known as Scotland’s national dish thanks to Burns’ 1787 poem Address to a Haggis.

One of the highlights of the Burns supper each year is the recitation of the poem by a speaker who talks directly to the haggis.

“It is addressed by someone who will actually take a knife and stab the hell out of it … cut it up and what have you while he’s reciting the poem,” Kerr said.

Servings of Scotch help complement the traditional Scottish cuisine available at the supper.

Other highlights of the event include the Toast to the Lassies -- inspired by Burns’ reputation as something of a ladies’ man -- and the reply to the toast, provided by a female speaker.

Live entertainment will offer guests a healthy serving of Scottish music and dance.

“There’ll be vocalists of some description,” Kerr noted. “There’s the P.A. Highlanders Pipe Band -- they come and play a few numbers.

There’s your typical banquet-type meal ... but the haggis is actually served as well into that. Bill Kerr

“Traditionally we like to have highland dancing. Whether we’ll have that this year, we’re not too sure yet because we’ve run out of a person to teach it locally. But there are a few of the girls that might be able to go out and dance there, and there’s a bit of comedy and what have you.”

With evidence pointing to a Burns supper being held as early as 1924 in Prince Albert, the event has long been a January staple in the community.

Born in 1759, Burns became widely known in Scotland through his poetry before his early death at the age of 37.

He has since become a literary figure of worldwide renown, with his work appealing to a highly diverse readership ranging from Scottish nationalists to liberals and revolutionary socialists.

Yet it is his reputation as a preserver of Scottish culture that is most prominent at the Burns suppers.

“You’ve got to keep in mind this was originally a Scottish thing,” Kerr said. “It’s very Scottish and even now it’s Scottish, even though there’s not that many real Scots (who) will be at this particular supper.”

Each year in Prince Albert, the Burns supper attracts a steady number of residents from many different backgrounds -- all eager to immerse themselves in Scottish culture.

Kerr described turnout at the 2013 supper as fairly typical.

“I think it was about 130 (people attending) last year,” he noted. “We've had as many as 150.”

Tickets for the Burns supper cost $30 per person and are available by calling (306) 763-5601.

Organizations: Prince Albert Caledonian Society

Geographic location: Scotland

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