Sunday, January 24, 2010

Burns Night Dinner

Last night I attended a Burns night dinner in Columbus, Ohio. This was held at Barley's Smokehouse on Dublin Road. This was the first year to attend at this location. Apparently Barley's has hosted the dinner for the last eleven years. One of the members of our kilt night group happened to stumble upon this event in time to get reservations. I was not sure what to expect at this dinner. Last year we had Burns dinner at another location in Columbus that was just dinner without the other calibration that normally accompanies Burns Night, such as, piping in the Haggis, reading of Burns poetry, etc.

I was not sure how to dress for this event. Some Burns Night dinners are quite the fancy dress while others are casual. I decided to wear what I did last year. I failed to get a proper jacket this past year so I was back to my sweater vest, white shirt, and tie. Turns out this was more of a "come as you feel like" event. Some had on blue jeans and others had a coat and tie. Some of us had kilts that ranged from casual to semi-formal with a PC (Prince Charles) jacket. Personally, I prefer to go to this type of event dressed better than the typical kilt night. I still need to get a PC jacket so it is still on my list to acquire this year.

There were about 60 or so in attendance. I did not count them so my estimated count may be off by +/- 10 or so. Many of those in attendance had attended in prior years so this was annual party of familiar faces to them. From the comments and show of hands there were more first timers at this year and included the four in the group I associate with.

We started the evening assembling in the lobby and bar. Sometime after 7pm we heard the bag pipes and they accompanied the chief with the Haggis. We fell in line and followed them into a large meeting room that was setup for our dinner. Now this was in Barley's Smokehouse that was serving regular customers on a Saturday night. They had a full house and I am sure they were not aware of the Burns Night dinner going on that evening. Everyone seated at the tables stopped and watched the parade of "piping in the Haggis" as we all followed to the other side of the building. I am sure the waitress staff had a lot of explaining to do as to what was going on.

Once in the room the owner said a few words and read Burns poetry. Everyone was in a talking mood so he had some problem getting their attention which was a little disappointment to me. I am not a Burns expert nor am I familiar with all the ceremony around the Burns Night dinner so I wanted to learn and pay attention to what the master of ceremonies was doing. We were then served Haggis which was followed by the remainder of the four course dinner. They had some local brewed beer in a keg so that was tapped and served to the guests. This was in addition to the three samples of Scotch served during the dinner. They use a different Scotch for every Burns dinner. The placemat had a list of Scotch served during prior years.

Those that had stories to tell about Scotland were allowed to do so. For some it was obvious this event was like a home coming.

As the evening progressed the alcohol started to take effect and everyone was having a very good time. I don't think the master of ceremonies finished all the poetry reading he had planned as he had to give up on holding everyone's attention. Some of Burns works published after his death is somewhat suggestive and many were having great fun reading and letting their imagination run with it. A good example was the poem "Johnie Lad, Cock Up Your Beaver". If you imagine the slang usage of "beaver" you can understand the comedy about it. For the record beaver a hat that I have to assume was made from Beaver pelts. Cock being a term for positioning it on the head. It was obvious that everyone was having a good time. We left Barley's around 11pm to go to a local Irish pub that had a band playing. The pub was populated mostly by the college age crowd so us "old guys" were somewhat out of place. I could not stay long as I had a long drive back to Dayton. I got home about 1:30am.

I hope Barley's continues this event next year. Everyone in our group wants to go back.

Johnie Lad, Cock Up Your Beaver

When first my brave Johnie lad came to this town,
He had a blue bonnet that wanted the crown;
But now he has gotten a hat and a feather,
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up your beaver!

Cock up your beaver, and cock it fu' sprush,
We'll over the border, and gie them a brush;
There's somebody there we'll teach better behaviour,
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up your beaver!

-Robert Burns (1791)

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