Once a year Scottish lads and lassies gather to celebrate their country’s favourite son, bard Robert Burns a.k.a. Rabbie Burns (yes, Rabbie, not Robbie).
If you’re not of Scottish heritage, why should you care about this poet and songwriter born centuries ago (January 25, 1759 to be exact)? He’s had greater influence on the world than you might think. Here are a few fun facts about the man and his legacy:
You likely don’t get out much if you’ve never heard a rendition of Burns’ Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve. The words weren’t his, however. In 1788, he apparently sent the poem to Scots Musical Museum, saying that it was an ancient song but that he’d been the first put it to paper, and it has since been attributed to him. The Guinness Book of World Records notes it as the third most popular English language song in the world, behind Happy Birthday and For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.
Burns was a keen observer of the world in which he lived and his works have inspired many artists, including musicians Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson, and writers JD Salinger and John Steinbeck. A miniature book of Burns’ poetry even made 217 orbits of the earth with astronaut Nick Patrick in 2010, making his works truly ‘out of this world’.
His writings have touched people so much that Canada alone has at least nine statues of Burns erected across the country in his honour. Among non-religious figures, he ranks in the top three with Queen Victoria and Christopher Columbus for most statues in the world. Our own creative son, Tom Thomson, appears to have just one: in Huntsville. (Let us know if you’re aware of more!) Give Thomson a few more centuries and perhaps he’ll catch up.
Kilts and tartans go hand-in-hand with any Scottish celebration. While not specifically related to Burns, did you know that Muskoka has its own tartan? It was designed in 1962 by Mrs Harry Wattson and Mrs Eileen Kirkvaag of Huntsville for the Muskoka Shrine Club. Its colours represent:
“The thrilling RED of the Muskoka fall foliage;
The delicate BLUE of our shimmering inland lakes;
The GREEN of a typical springtime Muskoka forest;
The YELLOW of the filtering rays of a mid-summer Muskoka Sun;
The GOLDEN glow of the colouring Muskoka maple;
The WHITE purity of a Muskoka snowfall;
The AMBER hue of Muskoka’s autumn bedecked woodlands.”
Plus, if you love a good party, Rabbie Burns Night is hard to beat. So don a kilt, or at least a splash of tartan, and join in the fun.
In Huntsville, Rabbie Burns Night is celebrated downstairs at the Legion starting at 4:10 pm. on January 21 and includes dinner – cock-a-leekie soup, Scotch meat pie, haggis, of course, and Tipsy Laird, a trifle-like dessert – as well as much entertainment. The Cameron of Lochiel Pipes and Drums will be there with some rousing music along with some Scottish dancers. Traditional toasts and tributes will be honoured: the Immortal Memory, Address to a Haggis, a Toast to the Lassies and a Toast to Absent Friends. A few wee drams (Scotch Whisky) may be consumed. And there’s a special Huntsville tradition, too: the passing of a stone gathered from the shores of Scotland by Kareen Burns. It’s an evening of Scottish pride, but it’s open to all.
A limited number of tickets are available for $15 – and that includes dinner – at the Legion or Treasures and Trophies. Get yours while they last – they often sell out.
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