People all over Britain annually commemorate great Scottish poet Robbie Burns in late January. Indeed Burns' Day has grown to become a Scottish national holiday. The King's Hall and College of Brasenose had their Burns' night last night, which I attended despite not being vaguely connected with Scotland. As a matter of fact, we had a difficult time drumming up anybody from the college who is properly Scottish. Nonetheless, we all managed to enjoy some kilts, bagpipes and haggis.
The evening began with champagne in the chaple antechamber, which is
the usual routine for black tie affairs at college. In honour of Burns
we also had a kilted bagpiper who drowned out all attempts at
conversation while we milled around sipping champagne. The bagpipes are
definitely an instrument invented for usage across the Scottish
highlands, rather than indoors. The piper led the procession from the chapel to the hall for dinner.
After everyone was seated one of the students rose to recite Burns' poem, "A toast to the Haggis". We had some pretty good fish soup for the first course, followed by the traditional Burns' night dinner of haggis, neeps (turnips) and taties (mashed potatoes). The haggis was actually not too bad, similar in taste and consistency to beef hash. If you mixed a bit with the potatoes or turnips it was pretty good stick-to-your-ribs type fare.
Dinner was followed by a number of recitations, including "A toast to the immortal memory of Robbie Burns", the toast to the Lassies and the reply from the Lassies. Each of these was written and given by one of the BNC undergrads, and they were all pretty impressive. We toasted with some scotch of extremely dubious quality and all had a good laugh. The college Visitor, his Lordship the Bishop of Lincoln gave a few brief comments at the end, including a joke which assuredly must've come from the book of 101 Bishop jokes.
We adjourned from the hall so that the tables could be put up to the side and then returned for a couple of hours of Scottish dancing. There were far too many people for the amount of space available, and of course none of us had any clue how to do Scottish dancing. What resulted wasn't so much a dance as much of a jostling crowd of people crashing into each other and smashing people's toes. It was good fun nonetheless, especially as the crowd thinned a bit, allowing enough room to at least move around.