Meanwhile, back in the land of the Immortal Haggis…
Burns Night has come and gone and so has Mark’s P7 Burns Supper, which they held on 30 January. They are 11 years old and the two classes put on a REAL Burns Supper - it lasted THREE HOURS, beginning at 6.30 p.m. with a small string orchestra and the whole school brass band playing a selection of Scottish songs including ‘The Dashing White Sergeant’ and ‘Scotland the Brave.’ Then, not quite but nearly the highlight of the evening, the entire P7 year recited the whole
of ‘Tam o’ Shanter.’ The way they did this was for each of the 60 kids to recite 4 lines of the poem - they took turns coming to the front in rows of half a dozen to have their say. Mark doing his part. Yes, he is wearing a sporran. The table decoration is hiding it.
And then they sang a couple of Burns songs including (appropriately, since it was the day before the UK taxes were due), ‘The De’il’s Awa’ wi’ th'Excise Man.’ Also, ‘Scots Wha Hae,’ essentially the Wallace fight song. WHICH MAKES ME CRY. (Well, to tell the truth, ‘Scotland the Brave’ does too. But I am a little strange that way. Of course it is not for the same reason that ‘Highland Cathedral’ makes me cry. The sound of five dozen earnest young voices singing their hearts out for home and beauty always makes me cry.)
Sorry, have I mentioned that the dress code was what we call ‘Touch of Tartan’? Essentially this means you can wear whatever you want, but you have to include something Scottish in your outfit. Most of the boys were in kilts. (It just kills me that when my children go to a party, as many boys as girls are wearing skirts.) The girls were in shiny, skimpy party dresses with tartan sashes over their shoulders. The parents all had tartan ties or shawls (one woman was wearing her son’s boyscout troop neckerchief!) I had my silver thistle kilt pin with the Cairngorm amber flower, which I bought in the Portobello Road market in 1984.
The 120-some parents were seated around tables which had been cunningly arranged by Mark’s math class to provide everyone with a clear view of the stage as well as giving fire access (Mark, as one of the MC’s, was responsible for the ‘safety announcement’ which included a word for word recital of what to do in the event of loss of cabin pressure — that’s my boy) — and also to provide a clear path for the Piping in of the Haggis!
This was the highlight of the evening. Honest to glory, I really cannot do this justice in mere words.
A pretty, [understandably] blushing young dinner lady clothed head to toe in white came marching out of the kitchen carrying a haggis on a paper plate. She was PROPERLY accompanied by a piper, the real thing, playing ‘Scotland the Brave’ again on the bagpipes and dressed in kilt and Jacobite shirt (the casual look—the kind of shirt that laces up at the collar). The piper was in his mid-teens, a cousin of one of Mark’s classmates. Marching with them were the three or four kids whose duty it was to Address the Haggis.Note charming collection of haggis pompoms...
They marched round and round the assembly hall about three times and then up on the stage, where the kids recited the WHOLE of the Address to the Haggis — ‘Great Chieftain o’ th' Puddin’ Race’ — and plunged a knife into it, and then marched back into the kitchen, and then we got served a full meal of haggis and neeps and tatties, followed by coffee and shortbread decorated with a thistle motif and made by Mark’s teacher, with our children waiting on us.
They cleaned up afterward, too.
During coffee the kids performed ‘The Immortal Memory’ where they detail Robert Burns’s life. They had all researched and written these pieces themselves. The entertainment took a nosedive (or an upturn, depending on how you look at it) after that with the ‘Toast to the Lassies’ and ‘Reply from the Lassies’ which got VERY. SILLY.
And then there was dancing.
Scottish country dancing, of course — it was in the gym hall and was also rather silly, but UTTERLY charming. The two classes took it in turns to demonstrate each dance and then to dance with their parents. I am devastated to have to admit that when Mark and his father were dancing together, my camera was in Tim’s pocket. Grrrrr. Mark dancing with his mother
The evening finished with all 180 of us holding hands in a circle and singing Auld Lang Syne (why yes, Auld Lang Syne makes me sob too! I might have to take a break from Scottish narrators for a while).
Sara disdained to come along to this event and Mark was fairly happy not to have his older sister heckling him, so I had to go next door when we got home to collect her from the neighbors’. When they heard I’d been at a non-alcoholic Burns Supper they were, at first disdainful. Then the questions started coming:
‘I bet they didn’t pipe in the Haggis.’
‘They did! They piped in the Haggis and marched with it round the hall three times!
And then they did the whole of the Address to the Haggis from memory!’
‘But they didn’t actually serve you Haggis, did they?’
‘Yes! And neeps and tatties and the children all waited on us!’
‘Did they have other entertainment?’
‘They had a string orchestra and a brass band and dancing and they did the whole of Tam o’ Shanter!’
Everybody wished they had been there.
It was the Best Burns Supper EVER. ever ever.
You know, the kids did the whole thing
themselves - all the entertainment, arrangement, table decorations, menus, programme, planning, 'hire' of piper and kitchen staff, set-up and clean-up, figuring the cost and giving out the tickets, and I just have to say hats off
to the teachers and the school and the Council and the Scottish Government. This was really the Curriculum for Excellence and Cooperative Learning at their shining most successful, I think!I found the pervasive prevalence of Irn Bru in the decor, as a representative of All Things Scottish, quite hilarious. There was no Irn Bru served at the meal. But it was There In Spirit.