Scottish American Society Celebrates Robert Burns
Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns lived from 1759 to 1796 and is still regarded as the national poet of Scotland. He was fiercely patriotic, an opponent of slavery and a champion of the rights of thecommon person which won him (and continues to win him) fans all over the world including the Soviet Union. If he had taken out a copyright for his song "Auld Lang Sync" he would have acquired a fortune greater than those of Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, and Elvis Presley combined.
Every year around January 25th (his birthday) Burns suppers are put on all over the world so on Friday night, we drove to Stow to attend one at the SYB Party Center on Hudson Drive put on by the Scottish American Society. We had been out to this very location in December to attend a St. Andrew Day dinner, and several of the members recognized us including Mr. Alex Murray who organized this affair because Scotland is his native land and he and the Scottish American Society wanted this tribute to embrace their culture.
Mr. Murray told us right off that not only could we expect to enjoy ourselves but if we felt like "bursting" by all means do it.
Before dinner, we were entertained by violinist Amy Schneider who played some beautiful songs like "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" and visited with some people who told us about a friend of theirs who came to the United States after his entire family had been killed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. He first worked in a factory in Rhode Island where he met his wife (who immigrated to the United States from Portugal). Due to the fact that both of them were in the process of learning English but did speak fluent French, they formed a bond and got to know each other. They married and moved to Northeast Ohio where she became a teacher and he became a successful engineer who was profiled in the local newspaper. We intend to look this about and find out more about him because he sounds like a remarkable man.
As for the proceedings, Mr. Murray was very enthusiastic about the program he put together and conducted which followed the traditional Scottish venue (which we looked up in Wikipedia) very closely. During the "Immortal Memory" speech he shared all sorts of interesting things about the life of Robert Burns and did the "Address to the Haggis" with genuine gusto.
(A haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck minced with such things as onion, oatmeal and spices. Robert Burns loved eating it so much he wrote a poem about it so an "Address to the Haggis" is part of every Robert Burns dinner.) Scattered throughout the evening were Burns poetry readings and musical entertainments like Burns songs, Burns fiddle tunes, and Scottish Traditional Dancing performed by the Urquart School of Scottish Dance and, certainly, Scottish Pipe Tunes.
Even though Robert Burns was a notorious ladies' man who fathered at least eleven children (the actual number varied in presentations throughout the evening) by five women the only w omen he allowed to come to a dinner that he put on were those serving the food and cleaning up after the men. Thus a "Toast to the Lassies" done by a man and a "Reply to the Toast of the Lassies" done by a woman are another staple of a Robert Burns dinner. On this occasion the toast was done by Mr. Bill Kennedy and the reply was done by his wife, Mrs. Julie Kennedy. To be sure, some gentle digs were taken but the overall message delivered by this longtime married couple is that even though frustration may exist men and women need each other and "fill the voids in each other's personalities" as Mr. Kennedy said. We didn't exactly "burst" but we still had a wonderful time and a wonderful dinner (we don't eat meat so no haggis for us but plenty of potatoes, pasta, and mashed turnips aka neeps) and the drive to Stow was certainly worthwhile.
During the course of his "Immortal Memory" speech Mr. Murray talked about the various artists influenced by Robert Burns including J.D. Salinger and Bob Dylan.
Robert Burns even touched the life of the boxer, Muhammad Ali who was motivated to write this poem:
"I'd heard of a man named Burns-supposed to be a poet;
But, if he was, how come I didn't know it?
They told me his work was very, very neat,
So I replied: But who did he ever beat?"
We have to admit we were "bursting" as we were writing that last entry so Mr. Murray was ultimately right after all!
By the way, from what we learned about Robert Burns we believe that he would have admired Muhammad Ali because they were both icons who spoke their minds and took risks to do so.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.