The Burns Supper


I am quite often asked what the order of ceremony is at a Burns Supper. This a difficult question as there really is no set pattern however for those planning their first one the following guide may help.

If a piper has been found then it is nice to have the guests piped in to dinner.

The M.C. should give a brief account of the Life and achievements of Robert Burns.

A brief resume of the life of Burns

1757 William Burns, a tenant farmer at Alloway, Kincardineshire marries Agnes Broun.

Their son, the poet Robert Burns was born 25th January 1759. Educated by his father, he developed an early inclination for literature and wrote much of his best poetry whilst employed as a farm labourer. In 1786 he published his first book of Poetry - it was a success and he became famous.

During his short and troubled life he managed to father at least 9 children by several different women including, Betty Paton (his mother's servant girl), Jean Armour (with whom he entered into a "sort of wedlock") and Anne Park.

Severe problems with his health lead to an early death on the 21st July 1796. He was buried on the 25th July and on that same day his final child was born, a son, Maxwell.

Before the first course Grace is said:

Selkirk Grace (Traditional)

There's some hae meat an' canna eat,
There's some hae nane and want it,*
But we hae meat an' we can eat,
Say let the Lord be thankett

* "want it" is pronounced "whant it" to rhyme with thankett.

After the first course the MC should announce the arrival of the Haggis - stand or sit and clap (in time).

Haggis is Piped in to the tune "A Man's a Man"

The Haggis is carried in (Piper leading the procession) and paraded around the tables. It should be well "glued" to the plate by Tatties (mashed potato) as they have a mind of their own even when cooked and will leap from the plate at the slightest excuse.

The Haggis is set down on head table and the addressed - knife required for third verse.

The speaker should if possible have a strong Scottish accent and have learnt the address by heart ! Actions to add meaning to the words also help. I have witnessed a number of embarrassing addresses where the speaker has stood staring at a crumpled piece of paper mumbling the words to himself.

Address to a Haggis (Robert Burns)


Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o' the pudding race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, Tripe, or Thairm;
Weel are ye worthy of a grace
As lang's me arm.


The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need;
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.


His knife see rustic-labour dight,
an' cut ye up wi' ready slight,
trenching your gushing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight
Warm-reeking, rich!


Then, horn for horn they stretch an' strive,
deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit hums.


Is there ower his French ragout,
Or Olio that wad staw a sow,
Or Fricassee wad mak her spew,
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?


Poor devil ! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro' bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.


But mark the rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade
He'll mak it whistle;
An' legs, an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.


Ye pow'rs wha mak mankind yor care,
And dish them out their bill o' fair,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' pray'r
Gie her a Haggis.

Explanation of dialect (in order of appearance)

* Sonsie: Good natured/Buxom
* Aboon: Above/over
* Painch: Belly/Paunch
* Thairm: Intestine
* Trencher: Stomach
* Hurdies: Buttocks
* Dight: Make ready
* Oni: Any
* Diel: Devil
* Kyte: Belly
* Staw: satiate
* Sconner: Disgust
* Rash: Rush
* Nieve: Fist/clenched hand
* Walie: Handsome
* Sned: Cut off/lop
* Thristle: thistle
* Skinking: watery
* Jaups: jerks as in adjitated water
* Luggies: Wooden Dish with handles

The Piper should now pipe himself out with a 2/4 March or similar, preferably a "Burns" tune such as "Corn Riggs are bonny"

Haggis is dished up and and served with neaps (mashed swede) and tatties (potato).

Piper may play sets of tunes round the tables and Burns poems recited as and if required.