Another Birl to Burns
And tomorrow night we will be having another celebration... this time "An Alternative Burns Night" at the Agape Centre... It's alternative in that it isn't Burns Night, its St. Andrews Night, the bookend to Burns night when not only does haggis hunting season begin, but also that series of celebrations that the Scots have cooked up to see them through the darkest months north of the border (with a little help from the Water of Life)
There will be no liquor tomorrow night (it being Methodist Trust premises) but there will be music and poetry and reflections on the thinking of Burns...
I've written before on the fact that we overplay some aspects of Ulster-Scots culture, but we underplay others, including Burns. I've also pointed to the late great Seamus Heaney's appreciation of Burns and his tribute to him entitled "A Birl to Burns" - here it is in full:
From the start, Burns’ birl and rhythm,
That tongue the Ulster Scots brought wi’ them
And stick to still in Country Antrim
Was in my ear.
From east of Bann it westered in
On the Derry air.
My neighbours toved and bummed and blowed,
They happed themselves until it thowed,
By slaps and stiles they thrawed and tholed
And snedded thrissles,
And when the rigs were braked and hoed
They’d wet their whistles.
Old men and women getting crabbèd
Would hark like dogs who’d seen a rabbit,
Then straighten, stare and have a stab at
Custom never staled their habit
O’ quotin’ Rabbie.
Leg-lifting, heartsome, lightsome Burns!
He overflowed the well-wrought urns
Like buttermilk from slurping churns,
Rich and unruly,
Or dancers flying, doing turns
At some wild hooley.
For Rabbie’s free and Rabbie’s big,
His stanza may be tight and trig
But once he sets the sail and rig
Away he goes
Like Tam-O-Shanter o’er the brig
Where no one follows.
And though his first tongue’s going, gone,
And word lists now get added on
And even words like stroan and thrawn
Have to be glossed,
In Burns’s rhymes they travel on
And won’t be lost.
Come along tomorrow night and you might hear this as well as some poems and songs by the Ayrshire bard delivered by Philip Orr and Mike Gaston, and have some haggis and neeps on tattie bread... Now that's alternative.