Join us on Sunday, January 15th to celebrate Robert Burns! Every year, the week before Robert Burns’s birthday, Rutherford House celebrates Scotland’s national poet with dancing, poetry, and – of course – haggis! Robert Burns and his friends used to gather regularly on his birthday – January 25th – to celebrate and, after his death, his friends determined to continue to do so. That celebration became larger and larger, and spread across Scotland and to wherever the Scots traveled.
Alexander Cameron Rutherford, a bibliophile and first generation Canadian of Scottish immigrant parents, not only admired Robert Burns’s work, but he may have heard many of Burns’s poems recited at his father’s knee. One of the family artifacts at Rutherford House is a small print of Robert Burns wearing his Masonic apron – another connection as Rutherford was a Mason and responsible for founding the lodge here in Strathcona soon after his arrival in Western Canada.
Who is Robert Burns anyway?
Born January 25, 1759, in the tiny village of Alloway, Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland, Robert Burns was a lyrical poet and well known for more than just his poems. He adapted the words of old Scottish folk songs and contributed over 300 songs to the Scots Musical Museum. One of his most famous poems was ‘Auld Lang Syne’ which is set to the music of a traditional folk song.
Robert Burns wrote about common, everyday things. He wrote about mice in “To a Mouse”, a woman and her spinning wheel in “Bess and Her Spinning Wheel”. He wrote about many other subjects as well: politics, Masonic meetings and the countryside he so loved. His presence and poetry loom large in the minds of all Scots, and he has evolved from being a poet and songwriter to being symbolic of all things Scottish. He is now one of the great cornerstones of modern Scottish history.
Haggis, you say?
Haggis is a savoury pudding – originally containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); – that is minced with onions, oat meal, and spices, which is then encased in the animal’s stomach. Haggis is not historically known to be exclusively Scottish. Many countries made similar dishes but with Burns’s poem, “Address to a Haggis” of 1787, the dish came to be considered traditionally Scottish, and eventually the national dish! It is the main course of a “Burns Supper,” and is often served with mashed turnip and potatoes (neeps and tatties), and accompanied by a “wee dram” or shot of scotch. Today Haggis is made with pork or beef and with commercial sausage casing.
How does it taste? Meaty, oaty, fiery and moist. It’s an excellent source of iron and fiber!
Let there be dancing!
What would a Robert Burns celebration be without Highland dancing, Scottish Country dancing and, of course, the Pipes! Originally worn during dances of victory in battle, after the Battle of Culloden in 1746, Scots were banned from wearing their tartans and from carrying weapons. This was strictly enforced, which weighed heavily on their enthusiasm for traditional dances such as the Sword Dance. With Queen Victoria’s discovery of the beauty of Scotland, the Sword Dance, Highland Fling, and the Seann Triubhas returned in competitions at the first Highland Games, a tradition continuing today all over the world.
Scottish Country Dancing
While “Country” sounds rustic, this style of dancing was actually the formal dancing of Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries. It fell out of favour in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but grew in popularity in 1923 as the waltz and other ballroom dances became popular again.
Of course, we love the pipes, but Scottish music comes in several genres and it has played an important part in social and cultural life for generations of Scots. The bagpipe is the national instrument of Scotland and is best represented in the music of the Scottish Highlands with its strong connection to Gaelic culture. Bagpipes were used to lead men into battle, and at weddings and funerals the bagpipe both celebrates and mourns. The pipes are important to the traditions at Rutherford House both to celebrate Mr. Rutherford’s Scottish heritage and to recognize Canadian Scottish Pipers’ involvement in the First World War, the time period that Rutherford House is set in.
Interested in knowing more about Robert Burns? One place you can find out more about Robert Burns is at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway.
Featuring Highland Dancing by Celtic Ceilidh Dance Academy, Scottish Country Dancing by Caledonian Scottish Country Dancers and pipes by the Edmonton Youth Pipe Band. Address to the Haggis will take place at 2pm with samplings after, followed by a Burns poetry reading by Dr. Raymond Grant.
When: Sunday, January 15 from noon until 4:00 pm
Where: Rutherford House, 11153 Saskatchewan Drive (University of Alberta campus).
Admission: $7 for adults, $20 for a family, $6 for seniors and $5 for youth aged 7-17. Children six and under are free.
For more information, please call 780.427.3995 (or dial 310.0000 for toll free access within Alberta), email us at Rutherford.House@gov.ab.ca, or go to our website.