Robert Burns Night...

..my first Burns Night.....ahhhh....I remember it well....you see, in Scotland, most towns have an annual Burns Night to celebrate the life and poetry of Rabbie Burns...many towns..of any substantial size, have three or more Burns Suppers..the town I lived in...Montrose...had MANY Suppers....some were held in local pubs...some in the townhouse....and, a few were held in local Hotels....THE Burns Supper to ATTEND, was hosted by "The Montrose Burns Club"....of which, the father of my girlfriend had been a former President....He was a Dentist..and a member of the 41 Club...Doctors, Lawyers, the CO of the nearest Naval Base, etc, were invited to THIS Burns Supper....and, it was a high honor to be invited...the Club would offer three or four tickets to the Brass of the base I was on...and the rest had to do without....anyway....to make a long story short, after my soon-to-be-father-in-law invited me, I contacted my SgtMaj to ask his advice....he, of course, reported my invitation to the CO of my Company....who, incidentally, hadn't been invited....and, the report was passed down to me that I would have to dress in full Dress Blues...including sword...as this was a "high" function in the "local" community....and Marines were not often invited...

...my soon-to-be-father-in-law explained the situation to me....he and 8 of his friends would meet at his house...dressed in their kilts and other finery....and have a few drams...we would then have the women of the family drive us to the Hotel....where we would partake of the festivities.....afterwards....on a cold, January, Scottish night...we would WALK through town...and back to our homes...this, evidently, was the tradition of which I was being initiated...fabulous party, plenty of drinks...entertainment...loads of food...some brogue poetry...and then, hypothermia awaited for the walk home...heh....trust the Scots to come up with THAT particular mix of pleasure and pain...

Anyway...that was the plan.... and, at the end of the day...Five US Servicemen attended the Supper that night...A USN Captain...he was commander of the WHOLE BASE I was on...his XO.... and some suck-up LTCDR Chaplain guy...and me...ole Cpl Straight White Guy...and my SgtMaj.... *I convinced my soon-to-be-father-in-law to invite him.... he AND my STBFIL were BOTH happy with this idea*...of course...the OTHER three sat at the top table.... and I was down in amongst the Doctors, Lawyers, and Indian Chiefs....with the SgtMaj...well....we all sat down for our appetizer....haggis, of course....complete with the piper playing the bagpipes, and marching in front of the chef as it was hauled in....and THEN, the recitation....of "Tae A Haggis"...by one of the Soon-To-Be-Presidents....and...Just at the moment of the climax of the poem, he slit open the glorious pudding with his sghean dubh...there was much applauding.... much Scotch consumed.... and much haggis eaten....

Next came the meal..Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding....and then....the speeches....the President called upon someone to give a "Toast to the Lasses"...and then upon another to "Reply on behalf of the Lasses"...of which, I am very sorry to say, none were present....it was a male-only function, you see...Burns having died of Syphilis and all....and the speeches continued...."A Toast to Burns Clubs the World'oer".....inevitably, followed by a "Reply".....and then....the entertainment....while the whole host of party-goers were getting toasty on Rusty Nails and Single Malt, other individuals squirmed their ways through "Holy Willie's Prayer"...the most insightful poem of Human Nature I've ever read.....and "To a Mouse"....a tale about how fragile we all are as humans...

all in all, my first Burns Supper was one of the greatest nights of my life...I really miss the annual January Burns Supper..and, THIS year...I'm having the First Annual SWG Burns Supper here in Tennessee......I miss the comradeship....I miss getting dressed up in a Tuxedo and hobnobbing with the local "gentry".....and, I really miss hearing Burns' poetry being read in the Scottish tongue...it was one of those incredible little bonuses of traveling....that you just happen upon...a true gem..this year, I will be hosting my own little gem....but, I digress....

...later that night....as we walked home through the darkened streets of Montrose...we came to Rose Hill...a small bridge crossing a stream...bordered on one side by a small housing district...and on the other...by a graveyard dating back to the 1600s....I...being me....and armed with a USMC NCO Sword...told the elderly Scotsmen present...that...in our drunken state, we MUST take that BRIDGE....so...drawing my sword from the scabbard, I whirled it over my head like Nathan Bedford Forrest must have done with 2 pints of Scotch in his belly...and yelled..."To Robbie Burns!!!"....and, without thinking, 7 drunken, middle-aged Scotsmen cheered...and suddenly followed me across the stone bridge...

...Exhausted...drunk...and extremely pleased with ourselves after our assault, I sheathed my sword...the police car had just passed, and wasn't likely to turn around at that hour of the night....and, each of us congratulated ourselves for surviving our brave charge across the Rose Hill Bridge at 2AM on January 25th, 1992...a date which will SURELY live in the minds of all present....after we steadied ourselves, we walked the rest of the way home....we arrived to find the women adrift in a sea of wine...seemingly, they had their OWN Burns Night while us MEN were at the Park Hotel....but, they welcomed us, nonetheless...and we went to bed....and, we had sausage and eggs the next morning...

..what I want to get across to you..is the feeling.....I felt so welcome that night...never before have I been so wholeheartedly accepted into a community than I was that night...I attended The Montrose Burns Club's Burns Night for the next 8 years....one more time as an "outsider"...and the rest as that great man's Son-in-Law.....I never missed a meeting....I will miss it this weekend...and for that, Duncan, I am sorry....Absentibus Amicis, Duncan....I wish I was there, my friend...to lead you...John...and Glenn..once again, across the bridge at Rose Hill....

by Eric on January 21, 2004 | Comments(4) | SWG Stories
Velociworld links with: ROBBIE BURNS
The Brier Patch links with: Good Vibes

Comments so far:

That kicked.

posted by: Velociman on January 21, 2004 11:05 PM

Great post, Eric.

posted by: Parkway Rest Stop on January 22, 2004 05:15 AM

lack ye often do, ye make me wish i coulda been thar n feel lack i almos wuz. thats sum good ritin!

posted by: buddy don on January 22, 2004 08:04 AM

Fantastic tale!

posted by: Jonathan on January 22, 2004 06:34 PM