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26 November 2008, 12:33
No Burns Supper would be complete without the customary speeches. The long-standing tradition began at the very first Burns Supper in 1801. The nine close friends of Burns held the event in honour of their friend and the celebration has continued ever since.
The initial speech, The Immortal Memory, takes place after the meal, with the primary purpose of providing an overview of the life and work of Robert Burns. The chairman of the supper usually designates a guest to perform the speech well in advance.
The Toast to the Lassies then follows, which was originally performed in order to thank the women present for preparing the meal. This is a generally light-hearted and humorous, but not offensive affair, which often touches on Burns’ well publicised enthusiasm for lassies of all sorts, whether they were married to him or anybody else. The lassies then have their turn to respond in a similar tone.
When the speeches are complete, they are followed by the recital of songs and poems. A common poem read at this stage is the celebrated To a Mouse but the entire catalogue of his work could be considered.
Gavin Barry sheds some light on that particular poem: “Burns wrote To a Mouse in November 1785, when he was ploughing a field and accidentally ploughed over a mouse’s nest. [His work] not only shows his compassion for his brother man, but also the compassion he had for nature.”
The night formally ends with the singing of Auld Lang Syne, as the group join hands and sing what has become Burns’ worldwide ode to friendship.
Last updated: 22 January 2010, 11:08