It was a braw bricht nicht on Sunday as Maple Creek’s Anglican Church Hall was filled for three hours with the sights, sounds, smells and flavours of bonnie Scotland.
Kilts, sporrans, and tam o’ shanters were proudly worn as about 50 people turned out to celebrate Robert Burns, “The Ploughman’s Poet”.
Toasts, poems, songs, traditional fare and high-energy dancing from the McConnell School of Highland Dance created a festive atmosphere that would surely have had the 18th century romantic bard jigging in his grave.
Although Robert Burns Nights have been held in his native land for more than 200 years, the tradition goes back to about 1993 in Maple Creek.
It allows participants a chance to be Scottish for a wee while.
Sunday’s celebration, with Ray McDougald as Master of Ceremonies, followed a long-established format, starting with a toast to the immortal memory, a reading of “The Selkirk Grace” and a serving of cock-a-leekie soup and Scotch Bannock.
After Kinley Pratt delivered the Address to the Haggis, the Scottish delicacy, cooked to mouth-watering perfection by Ross and Roy Martin, was served with appropriate fanfare.
Originally made from a sheep’s or calf’s offal mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning boiled in a sheep’s stomach, today’s haggis contains modified ingredients, often beef liver, pinhead oats and onions. A centrepiece of every self-respecting Burns supper, it was once described by the great man himself as the “great chieftain o’ th’ pudding race”. Accompanying it were bashed neeps (turnips), champit tatties (mashed potatoes), and whisky sauce (alcohol free).
For dessert there was a Scottish classic, the Typsy Laird, similar to an English classic – the trifle that has graced British tables for centuries. Later, diners enjoyed shortbread with their coffee.
Meanwhile, the non-eating parts of the evening continued apace: Toast to the Twa’ Lands, A Wee Trip to Scotland (a slide show of Dick and Colleen Kennedy’s trip to Scotland), and the Toast to the Lassies (Dick Kennedy), followed by the Reply (Michele Rowe).
A highlight was the dancing by eight members of Medicine Hat’s McConnell dance school: Aurora, 7; Danica, 8; Evi, 9; Annalise, 9; Isla, 10; Elora, 10; Ryleigh, 13; and Sophia, 16. Their teacher is Karen Pillman.
The dancers returned from Scotland last year laden with medals and trophies, and it was easy to see why as they performed “Wilt Thou Go to Barrack’s, Johnny”, Sword Dance, Flora MacDonald’s Fancy, Seann Triubhas and Highland Fling.
It was breathless stuff.
The evening finished with everyone linking hands and belting out “Auld Lang Syne”, the Scots language poem that Burns wrote in 1788.
With stomachs full and spirits high, the time had come to say braw nicht.
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