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Sunday, 27 January 2013

Graemsay Burns Supper

A great tradition in Scotland (and around the world it would seem) is to hold Burns Night Suppers on 25th January, which is the birthday of Rabbie Burns, known as The Bard in Scotland. He wrote many poems to his many loves, and lyrics to songs too - Auld Lang Syne being one of them! A Burns "Supper" is not a tradition in Orkney, however, as Orcadians do not consider themselves Scottish having been annexed to Scotland a mere 400 years ago as payment of a debt from the Norwegian King to the Scottish King....sigh....

And as most of the residents on Graemsay are either Orcadian or English, with just two Scots, we have never had a Burns Night on the island.  However a new neighbour, Sue and some of her friends from the South of England were keen to hold a party.  And, as one of our Orcadian musicians said - they might not celebrate Burns Night but an Orcadian will drink whisky with anyone!!

Sue did a magnificent job, making a delicious scotch broth (with lamb), cooking two haggis made by the Stromness Butcher, Fletts, served with mince and clapshot (neeps (turnips/swede and potatoes mashed together with lots of butter and milk - yum!). Cathy (originally from North Ronaldsay in the North of Orkney) made the clapshot - oooh it's the food of the gods!  LOTS of butter must go into it as it's lovely and creamy and smooth.  Dessert was a non-traditional chocolate trifle.  And of course a lot of whisky flowed.  That was the meal - but the night is not a Burns night with lots of ceremony and Odes.... so here are some pictures to illustrate!

First, when everyone is seated the Welcome was offered by Mac and the quaich (filled with whisky of course) was passed round to those assembled.

Before the meal begins the Selkirk Grace, is read. This time beautifully read by young Becky.

Then the haggis is piped in....... Ian MacDonald from the Stromness Pipe Band kindly came to the island to do the honours.

The Haggis follows the pipes, carried by Sue. We all pay due reverence to the Haggis....

This is placed before the Master of Ceremonies (Mac) who then addresses the Haggis.  And the poor Haggis is ceremoniously stabbed!

Dinner is served and much Whisky quaffed during toasts and even poured over the Haggis as "gravy"!

Time then for the Toast to the beautiful lasses! Proposed with humour by young Joe

And the men were upstanding to toast the lasses.....

There was then the ladies "response to the handsome escorts" proposed by Irene (she was sitting next to me so no photo!!).  Various other toasts and responses were proposed (each with a glug of whisky!).

An Odes were read (here's Mac reading one)

It was time then to clear the tables and let the music and dancing begin! Once again we were delighted that Leslye and John Budge could join us for the evening. John providing music, song and stories, accompanied by Leslye on the Bodhran

There was the Graemsay version of Strip the Willow  Young and old take part in this. The young need to learn the traditions too!

Irene Mathieson and John sang "Ae Fond Kiss" as a duet - another Burns favourite

And Irene played some tunes on her guitar - including my favourite "Lonely Scapa Flow".

There was more dancing..... not quite the speed of the whirling dervishes but nearly!

More pipes were played

Ummm notice the wee girl in pink...... not a fan of the pipes then ;-)

More songs were sung - with the kids joining in of course

And maybe the next generation of Graemsay musicians??

As you can see a great night was had by all!  The Graemsay folk know how to party and Sue did a great job of providing a wonderful Burns Supper!  There were quite a few sore heads the next morning and the island has been fairly quiet this weekend. I had a couple of wee drams but as I had to get the visitors to the boat the next day (I usually put up the musicians and guests when I can) I didn't "overdo" it! Though thankfully John & Leslye know not to stand on ceremony in my kitchen. :-)


  1. Oh that sounds like such fun, and it looks like everyone had a great time. As for the little one, well,it does take time to appreciate the pipes at close range.

  2. 400 years and you don't feel Scottish ! What if I could arrange for Norway to take y'all back ? ;-)

    I went to a Robbie Burns dinner a few years back. We did everything 'cept the dancing. Lotsa fun. But 'O I'm not a fan of haggis.

    I have done English and Scottish country dancing though ...

    Thanks for sharing your evening ...

  3. Great Burn's night ! Never seen haggis this size ! ;)

  4. Gosh, you Graemsay folk know how to enjoy yourselves, Sian! That looks like such fun and I do hope it isn't the first and last Burns Night supper you have. DH and I love haggis, neeps and tatties (must try clapshot next time) but I'm afraid both of us would draw the line at the whisky - and he a Scot! :-)

  5. Looks great fun! I miss the camaraderie of wee islands!

    My own haggis has been hiding no amount of piping him in and addressing him I fear will rouse him during the last week of January!