25th January is Burns Night – a Scottish celebration of Robert Burns. In Scotland and all over the world there are Burns Suppers to mark the life and work of this great poet.
I play in a ceilidh band, though we play less frequently now. We played a lot of Burns Suppers – a twirl of an Eightsome Reel and a spin of a Strip the Willow is just what you need to bed down the haggis and whisky. Over the years, the memories blend into one, but it’s a glorious ritual of piping in the haggis, the toasts, the poems, songs and dancing. I remember the Edinburgh University Jewish Society celebrating with a Rabbi Burns Night. The toasts went on for so long they gave the band a bottle of whisky to help us pass the time while we waited on one side for our turn. By the time we came on stage, our playing was variable that was okay – the dancing was, er, eccentric.
Another memory is the Reply to the Toast of the Lassies, at Glenrothes College in Fife. The speaker’ name doesn’t come to mind, but I haven’t forgotten her mischievous smile. This was just after the John Wayne Bobbitt episode. You’ll remember this – it was when Lorena Bobbitt took a knife to her husband’s “equipment,” and threw her trophy out of the car window.
Even as I write this I can still recall, as our cheery speaker retold the tale, half of the audience wincing and bending double, and the other half leaning their heads back and laughing. An alternating Mexican Wave. Why was she telling us this story, at a Burns Supper too? Because, she said, Burns was way ahead of the times, and had a song written for the occasion.
What? How could that be?
Oh, yes: Aye Fond Kiss, and then we Sever…
None of us who were there, will ever hear that song in the same way again. And now, neither will you.
And one of my favourite renditions of the song.