100 Weeks of Scotland: Burns Night and Haggis

Burns Night in Glasgow. Pictures: Alan McCredie
Burns Night in Glasgow. Pictures: Alan McCredie
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I WAS a vegetarian for quite a few years before I eventually caved in and began to eat meat and fish once more. Not for me though the lure of a large, juicy steak or the smell of bacon. It was haggis.

Week Sixty Five

A Burns Night supper in Glasgow. Picture: Alan McCredie

A Burns Night supper in Glasgow. Picture: Alan McCredie

Yes, it was the meat of the reclusive highland beastie that drew me back to carnivorous ways. I don’t know quite what it was about this simple little dish that I found so alluring, but still today, I would happily give up any other meat dish if it meant I could still have the occasional haggis.

So Burns Night has always been one of my favourite days of the year. Now made doubly delicious with the rise of the vegetarian haggis (different, yet equally as tasty as its meaty counterpart) this celebration of the life of the bard, Robbie Burns, is one of the great social events of the Scottish year.

First taking place in Ayrshire towards the end of the Eighteenth Century to commemorate the poets death (21st July 1796) the Burns Supper soon became popular and moved instead to the anniversary of his birth (25th January 1759). Now widespread across Scotland, and wherever the wandering Scots have settled, the Burns Supper is a celebration of the life of, the works of and mostly importantly the man that was Robert Burns, our still hugely relevant national poet.

There has been a lot of debate this week as to whether Burns would be pro-independence or pro-union. None of us can say for sure but one thing I think we can say is that he would probably be in the thick of the action, whatever side he was on. I think he would be up to his neck in it and having a wonderful time.

A Burns Night supper in Glasgow. Picture: Alan McCredie

A Burns Night supper in Glasgow. Picture: Alan McCredie

Organised by actor Iain Robertson and Guy’s Restaurant, the Burns Supper I attended was in Glasgow and was held in aid of The Scottish Cot Death Trust. The pop-up kitchen in the venue had to cater for hundreds of guests and to see it swing into action as the food began to be taken out was incredibly impressive. The skill of the chefs and the waiting staff, working in unusual conditions, was immense.

Although informal the night had all the traditional elements such as the haggis being piped out, the address to the haggis, the Selkirk Grace and so on. Many Scottish actors, writers, comedians and musicians gave performances on what proved to be a very successful night that, were he still here, the bard would surely have mightily approved of.

• Alan McCredie began the ‘100 weeks of Scotland’ website in October last year, and it will conclude in Autumn 2014. McCredie’s goal is to chronicle two years of Scottish life in the run-up to the independence referendum.

McCredie says ‘one hundred weeks...’ is intended to show all sides of the country over the next two years. On the site, he says: “Whatever the result of the vote Scotland will be a different country afterward. These images will show a snapshot of the country in the run up to the referendum.

“The photos will be of all aspects of Scottish culture - politics, art, social issues, sport and anything else that catches the eye.”

Follow the project at 100weeksofscotland.com. You can also follow Alan on Twitter.

• All pictures (c) Alan McCredie/ 100 weeks of Scotland