In London’s highly sought-after Belgravia, kindred spirits come together and in the conviviality of a Scottish enclave at the very heart of London life to celebrate the life and poetry of Robert Burns – At The Caledonian Club, we’ve established a high standard for Burns Supper events, hosting up to 40 memorable events each year, complete with the traditions and ceremonies in the splendour the neo-Georgian mansion at 9 Halkin Street.
“Any guest at a Burns Supper will be following in the footsteps of Robert Burns’s own friends who, shortly after he died, decided to keep his memory alive by celebrating his birthday,” explains Ian Campbell, Club Secretary of The Caledonian. “A Burns Supper organised in a lively spirit will be a highly memorable event and The Caledonian is in poll-position to steer Burns Supper ingénues in through its traditions.
“Certain rules are non-negotiable for any self-respecting Burns Supper,” points out Ian, “so do include Robert Burns’s ‘Selkirk Grace’ and ‘Address to a Haggis’ plus, of course, a speech and a toast to the ‘Immortal Memory’ of Robert Burns. A toast to ‘the Lassies’ (unless a ‘stag’ event) by a gentleman and then a response from a lady, recitals of Burns poetry and everyone singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, are optional based on an audience’s wishes.”
The evening begins with the haggis being piped into the dining room. A piper leads the way, parading round the room, as the chef follows behind holding the haggis aloft. Then the ‘haggis bashing’ follows with an animated performance of Burns’s ‘Address to a Haggis’ before the haggis is ceremonially slashed with a ‘skean dhu’ – the Highland dress knife that ‘kilties’ have tucked into their socks.
“Some ten minutes will be devoted to a serious and thought-provoking aspect of Burns’s life or work as his ‘Immortal Memory’ is honoured,” explains Ian Campbell. “To instil some levity next, at the poetry stage, you might be best to opt for a recital of “To a Mouse’ at just over 3 minutes rather than “The Cotter’s Saturday Night” lasting nearly 27 minutes!” As the strains of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ strike up, remember that this is the song which was spontaneously sung by the crowds who gathered outside the poet’s home in his final hours.”
Where space is available (as it is at The Caledonian), Scottish country dancing ensues. While sometimes seen by sticklers for form as being more of a Highland tradition, there’s no doubt that dancing adds great jollity to the evening, drawing everyone in together. Beginners, particularly, will appreciate the step by step instructions provided by a ‘caller’.
As Burns Suppers are the perfect antidote to the post-festive season lull, we find ourselves honouring Robbie Burns across January and into early February… and sometimes into March! Our members and guests tend to place less emphasis on marking the exact date, preferring instead that a top class and truly Scottish event with the best possible performers be guaranteed at some stage around this time. If the consumption of a metric tonne of haggis and over 2,000 nips of whisky in January 2009 is anything to go by, they do just that!