I performed and spoke at my fourth and final Burns Supper of the season on Friday night. A friend of mine had asked me a few weeks ago if I could do this one. As there was the promise of a seat at the top table, complimentary hospitality and a hotel bed to fall into afterwards, it was as they say a no brainer.
Jim had asked me to do a “Toast to the Lassies” which is a traditional part of such occasions. This entails preparing a speech in praise of women and toasting them at the end. Of course any such venture will go down a few humorous by ways and have to turn at a few culs de sac en route.
Mine was a very eco-friendly toast as almost all of the jokes were recycled. I sang three songs, one Burns solo effort, another traditional one which Burns modified, and another traditional Scots folk song.
The one which Burns modified was Killiecrankie performed here in a 1966 film by the Corries:
The battle was fought on a traditional Scottish subject i.e. religion. It had the additional element of competing claims to the English/British throne with the Highland Jacobite Roman Catholic and Episcopal supporting King James VII (II) and the Presbyterian Lowland government forces supporting William of Orange and his wife Mary.
The European Royals in those days were quite an incestuous lot as William was not only James’s nephew but also his son-in-law. Just for added spice, the Jacobite highland army was led by a lowlander, John Graham of Claverhouse aka Viscount (Bonnie) Dundee and the lowland government troops were led by a highlander, General Hugh McKay of Scourie.
The battle resulted in a victory for the vastly outnumbered Jacobite army and the song is written from the point of view of a returning government soldier who meets a young lad kitted out and ready for service in the government army.
The version above includes the Burns verses and some of the traditional ones.
The full story of the Battle of Killiecrankie is here
Here is a beautiful verse from Tam O’Shanter
But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white-then melts for ever;
Or like the Borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the Rainbow’s lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm. –
Nae man can tether Time nor Tide,
The hour approaches Tam maun ride;
That hour, o’ night’s black arch the key-stane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks the road in,
As ne’er poor sinner was abroad in.
The poem is about ne’er do well drunkard Tam O’Shanter who gives his wife Kate a hard time. It involves Tam’s drunken night-time trip home through the countryside on his horse an encounter with some witches, ghosts and ghouls.
The last lines of Kate’s reply (Not a Burns poem incidentally) are as follows:
What the Hell!!
Kate had gone, the twins as well.
But she had left a note for him `
I’ve sailed tae Canada wi’ Jim
And we expect tae settle doon
In a nice wee farm near Saskatoon !
Forgive me, Tam, and don’t be sore
I couldna take it any more
I have tae find a better day
Before I slave my life away
Don’t fash yersel’ aboot the twins
I might as well confess – they’re Jim’s
Now wha this tale o’ truth shall read
Ilk man and mothers son tak heed
Just try tae live a sober life
Remember Tam O’Shanter’s wife.
Anyway, a good time was had by all with a rendition of the Star o Rabbie Burns (including standing and singing on chairs) finishing off the evening.
This was the view from the top floor of the hotel. That’s the River Clyde with Clydebank and Knightswood on the other side and Glasgow in the distance: