Antigonish Highland Games: Robbie Burns

Suppers to celebrate Robert Burns have been held around the world on his birthday. Burns was born January 25, 1759. His two most remembered poems are Auld Lang Syne and Ode To A Haggis. You may have your favourite like A Red, Red Rose or My Hearts in The Highlands Burns was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, and was the eldest of seven children. He spent his youth on his father’s farm. The family’s poverty was not an excuse to avoid an education. Burn’s father employed a tutor for Robert and his brother Gilbert. When he was 15 Robert Burns worked the farm and used his spare time to write. His first effort was, “My Handsome Nell”, a theme he would return to often. His poem Tam o’ Shanter drew on drink and women becoming a source to cite wherever these topics arose. The church and Brigadoon can still be seen in Alloway! In 1786 Burns traveled to Edinburgh where his ‘Ploughman’s Poems’ had a ready audience and brought him to national prominence. In 1788 Burns married Jean Armour. Robert Burns died young. He was 37. His death on July 21, 1796 occurred on the same day Jean, gave birth to his son Maxwell.

 A Fond Kiss

Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure!

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
Ae farewell, alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge
thee, Warring sighs and groans I’ll wage

The Antigonish Highland Society will host its 2019 Burn’s Night at Piper’s Pub Friday evening, January 25th, beginning at 6:00 pm.

Our 2018 ROBERT BURNS Day celebration was held at Piper’s Pub.  Brian MacDonald and Junior Fraser organized and played exceptional tunes. Brilliant step dancing was on display while the fiddle sizzled and piano pitched. Janice MacQuarrie’s Highland dancers did not disappoint. They were preparing to travel to Scotland for the 2018 World Dancing competition. We would be remiss not to also highlight the many dancers who waited their opportunity for the Square Set. It can be said, “they gave ‘er” on the floor.

Did Duncan best Carol-Anne in the wee lads and wee lassies or was her last line, “a man’s a man for all that” extraordinarily timed? We’ll call it a draw and let it stay at that until 2019.

Peter MacKenzie did the haggis proud as he recited Burn’s Ode to A Haggis while encouraging all if ye wish her gratefu’ pray’r, Gie her a Haggis!

Peter began from memory and did not falter. Here is the famous opening:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm

The evening featured Harley McCaull’s famous haggis recipe, the nips were to perfection, the tats spooned in the proper heap while the accompanying haggis left no one in doubt of its prized origin. Well done Harley! He is on task to repeat in 2019.  Gerarda and Gerardine spooned the haggis guaranteeing  a proper portion and little need be said seeing them pour a clear and uncompromising dram. Glasses up to toast dear Robbie!

In 2018, Robbie Burns night was held Friday evening, January 25 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Piper’s Pub.

The Society extends an open invitation to celebrate Robbie Burn’s birthday with us at Piper’s Pub. The 2019 event will be hosted by the Society Friday evening, January 25 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Piper’s Pub. There is no charge for the evening, donations gratefully accepted to held defray cost.

In 2018 all donations were contributed to the dancers attending the World’s. The Antigonish Highland Society assured the door donations were topped up allow $500 was contributed to the dancers.

We thank everyone who attended in 2018 to celebrate and ‘will ye no come back again’ in 2019.

William Burns’ cottage where he lived with Agnes and their children. Robbie Burns was raised in the cottage.

Burns Cottage sits beside the main road in Alloway, Aye, Scotland.

Nightshirts worn by the Burns’ children. The children’s names identify their shirt, and the dates the children were born.

The lone bed in the household where seven children and William and Agnes lived. The middle section of the cottage was a stable/barn for the animals.

A view of the interior of Burns’ cottage. Note the spinning wheel, and fireplace. There was one bed.

Various household implements that were used in the 1770 to 1796 time period when Burns lived in the Dumfries, Alloway area of Scotland.

Burns’ writing desk. It is in the Burns Museum, Alloway, Aye, Scotland.


William and Agnes Burns’ headstone in the kirkyard, Alloway, Aye, Scotland. This was the kirk made famous in the poem Tam o’Shanter.

Robert Burns wrote this epitaph. It is on the back of William and Agnes Burns headstone, Alloway, Aye, Scotland.

This Burns Monument is located in Alloway, Aye, Scotland. The monument was built in 1823. It is a 70-foot high Grecian-style temple with nine pillars representing muses from Greek mythology.

The Poet’s Path leads from Burns Cottage to Burns Museum. On the walk there is a series of weather vanes showing vignettes from Burns’ 1790 narrative poem Tam o’Shanter.

Tom and Souter Johnie are shown sitting at the pub. From the poem Tam o’Shanter, “While we sit bousing at the nappy, An’ getting fou and unco happy,”

Tam o’Shanter is preparing to leave the pub just as a storm is closing. Tam rides his grey mare Meg, from the pub where Tam and Souter Johnie, (ancient, trusty, drouthy crony) had been drinking after a market day. Tams wife Kate is waiting at home. (Whare sits our sulky, sullen dame, Gathering her brows like gathering storm, Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.)

On his ride Tam is singing (Whiles crooning o’er some auld Scots sonnets) till he spies witches, warlocks and other goblins partying in the ‘ol kirkyard. The devil himself is playing the bagpipes. “Warlocks and witches in a dance; Nae cotillion brent-new frae France, But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels Put life and mettle in their heels. A winnock bunker in the east, There sat Auld Nick in shape o’ beast: A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large, To gie them music was his charge; He screw’d the pipes and gart them skirl, Till roof and rafters a’ did dirl.”

Tam watches the dancing. He sees one young witch with a short skirt. Tam calls out to the witch, ‘Weel done, cutty-sark!’ The lights go out and the chase is on. The storm rises, “The doubling storm roars thro’ the woods; The lightnings flash from pole to pole, Near and more near the thunders roll;”

Tam and Meg flee for the bridge over River Doon with all fiends following. “So Maggie runs, the witches follow, Wi’ mony an eldritch skreich and hollow. Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! thou’ll get thy fairin! In hell, they’ll roast thee like a herrin!

Tam spurs Meg. He makes for Brig o’ Doon. It is well known witches, warlocks and the other creatures of the underworld cannot cross a running stream. The fiendish creatures give chase with one witch reaching out to catch Tam and Meg. She pulls Meg’s tail off just as Tam reaches the River Doon to cross the Brig (bridge). “Hard upon noble Maggie (Meg) prest, And flew at Tam wi’ furious ettle; But little wist she Maggie’s mettle— Ae spring brought aff her master hale But left behind her ain grey tail: The carlin claught her by the rump, And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.”

A statute standing over six feet high of a, “Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie.” To A Mousie was a poem in the Kilmarnock volume of poetry by Robert Burn. The volume was first printed by John Wilson of Kilmarnock on 31 July 1786. “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough”, (written November, 1785) According to Burns lore, Burns was ploughing in a field and accidentally destroyed a mouse’s nest, which it needed to survive the winter. Burns’s brother Gilbert claimed Robert composed the poem while still holding his plough.




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