January can be a bit of a social blank after the chimes of the New Year have passed, so why not celebrate our national bard’s birthday? You’ll find that most towns and villages have a Burns Supper around 25 January.
Robert Burns was born back in 1759 and is regarded as a pioneer of Romantic poetry, often praising the charms of his latest paramour. Burns is surprisingly popular around the world, with the Russians being particular fans, perhaps because of the poet’s affection for a dram and a lovely lassie or two.
Stonehaven has a Burns Memorial Garden, you’ll find it, somewhat incongruously, next door to KwikFit. Aberdeen opted for a statue on Union Terrace, which was paid for by public subscription. It was unveiled in 1892 and is the work of Henry Bain Smith. According to Visit Scotland, only Queen Victoria and Christopher Columbus have more non-religious statues dedicated to them. Given that Burns worked as an exciseman rather than discovering new continents or ruling an empire, that’s a pretty impressive legacy! His work has been translated into hundreds of languages, though he has never gained an audience in Japan. Perhaps because the original translation of “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!” was rendered as the Japanese equivalent of “Good luck to your honest friendly face, Great King of the sausages”.
In addition to being associated with just about every old pub in Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway, Burns also had a family connection to Aberdeenshire. Burns’ father was born near Stonehaven and the family farmed in the Mearns. Several of his ancestors’ graves can be found in the Glenbervie Cemetery. He also visited the city in 1787, but described Aberdeen as, “a lazy town”! He was also less than complimentary about one of the local worthies, describing him as, “a little decrepit body with some abilities”.
One of the largest Burns celebrations takes place at the Beach Ballroom on Friday 26 January and Saturday 27 January, with the £35 per person ticket including the obligatory haggis, neeps and tatties as well as a ceilidh. Most hotels, towns and villages will host Burns Supper events, so check local social media for details.
If you can hold out till February, Nae Ordinary Burns Supper at the Beach Ballroom features Fiona Kennedy with special guest artists including award-winning actors, singers and musicians. Entertainers include John Bett, George Drennan, James Muldoon, Ainsley Hamill, Nils Elders, the University of Aberdeen Chapel Choir, conducted by John Frederick Hudson/Paul Mealor with Laura Urquhart, and champion highland dancers. There’s a three course dinner, fabulous entertainment, followed by ceilidh dancing to The Jacobites. Tickets from £85 per person, with tables of 8, 10 or 12 available as well as individual tickets. There will also be charity auctions in aid of VSA, NESMS, the University of Aberdeen Development Trust, FROM Scotland, The Archie Foundation and Birchwood Highland.
So, seek out a haggis, grab some friends, recite a few lines and raise a glass to our national poet. As the man himself said, “I found that old Solomon proved it fair, That a big-belly’d bottle’s a cure for all care.”