Day 409: Burns Supper

Perhaps best known worldwide as the champion of the Scottish spirit is Scotland’s famous bard, Robert Burns. Each year in January, Burns Suppers are held around the world, where Burns enthusiasts get together to hear Burns poems and songs, drink whisky, watch highland dancing, and eat haggis, a pudding (sausage) of organ meats and oats, traditionally stuffed into a sheep’s stomach before cooking. The highlight of the evening occurs when the haggis is piped into the room with great ceremony and addressed using Burns’ poem To a Haggis. Laetitia took her group to a Burns Supper at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow and wrote up the event in verse.

In a hall like a cathedral nave
The pipers play Scotland, the Brave
As tartans swirl and drumsticks wave
For Robert Burns, long in the grave
As that pipe band its tribute gives
To Scotland’s bard, whose spirit lives.

The Ayrshire lad of long ago
Who, at hame, faught his aunty-O
Was honored as a man of worth
In celebration of his birth
In seventeen and fifty nine
With Scottish dance and music fine.

A tall Glaswegian was M.C.
Clad in fine Scottish garb was he
And a ceilidh group, a trio fine
Played Burns tunes, but not Auld Lang Syne,
A fellow sang with great elan
Burns songs with guitar and bodhran.

And then a group did country dance
As done in Scotland, not in France
A sergeant did us all impress
With his deft sword dancing prowess
But no Burns night would be complete
Without the Scottish gourmet treat.

I’m speaking not of cullen skink
Nor of shortbread, as you may think
Nor of black pudding, nor of white
But awed, we did await the sight
Of haggis, piped into the room
With chef and henchman and fork and spoon.

And then they came, the group of five
The piper led with music live
Then came the chef who the haggis bore
And the henchman poised to the haggis gore
And then a fellow, clad in kilt
Addressed the haggis with Scottish lilt.

He spoke in Robert Burns’ words fine
The high point of the scene sublime
Then was the whisky, well deserved
By the dram bearer to the piper served
It was for all a special treat
That all admired, and soon did eat.

But then alas, we’re on our way
Tomorrow is another day
And we must end this mirth and cheer
‘Til another month or another year
We say to those who planned this lark
With Tam, a “Weel done, Cutty-sark!”

“Foodies” around the world do not universally admire haggis, but Laetitia enjoyed what she had at the Burns Supper served with neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes), and washed down with Scottish ale or Scotch whisky. At the end of the evening Laetitia wrote the limerick of the day.

A Burns Night would not be complete
Without that renowned pudding treat
Duly piped and addressed
In Burns’ words well expressed
And followed by whisky served neat.

Day 408: Titty Ho

From Airdrie, Laetitia and her group drove west to the Firth of Clyde and north along the east bank. A bit north of Largs, they stopped to visit Knock Castle—actually, two castles: a nineteenth-century castellated Tudor-style mansion and the ruin of one from the seventeenth century. They then drove up to Castle Levan.

The Tower House at Castle Levan is from the seventeenth century and is now a bed and breakfast, but there have been castles on the spot since the fourteenth century, and the original structure has a tragic past. Lady Mary Montgomery, keeper of the castle while her husband was at war, was sentenced to death for torturing and murdering her tenants. Her sentence was later commuted, but her husband was so outraged when he returned and learned what she had done that he confined her in the castle and starved her to death. A ghost, a white lady assumed to be Lady Mary, is said to haunt the castle.

The group finished the day in Greenock on the banks of River Clyde. After a brief walk on a street in the dockside area called East Breast (Rude Britain number 64), Laetitia dismissed her group with instructions about where to meet for dinner and went to a nearby pub for a pint and to write a limerick. The pub wasn’t busy, and she had a lengthy conversation with the bartender. He told her he was a bachelor and that he loved fox hunting. It’s illegal in Scotland, but he has a friend south of the border in the village of Raunds, Northamptonshire, where hunting is still allowed. Every so often they went fox hunting in West Yorkshire and, when they do, he stays at his friend’s home on a street called Titty Ho.

There were always jokes among the fox hunters about his friend’s street address and its similarity to “tally ho,” the expression shouted when a rider sees the fox. In his view, the best joke was his friend’s behavior when they went to a strip club down the street and the friend kept shouting his street name during each performance. Having neglected to put her notebook in her purse, Laetitia wrote the limerick of the day on a napkin.

A fox hunter who in Scotland’s west
Went to a strip show on East Breast
Shouted out, “Titty Ho!”
In the midst of the show
When all the performers undressed.