WILNO – It was standing room only at the Wilno Tavern on the night of January 26, as people from across the Madawaska Valley came together to celebrate Scotland’s favourite son and world-renowned poet Robbie Burns.
Born on January 25, 1759 just outside of Ayr, Scotland, Burns grew up as a farm boy but soon went on to become highly respected within educated society as a violin player, lyricist and musicologist. Through his stories and poetry, he was also recognized for helping to preserve the old Scottish language, and for his ability to touch English audiences around the globe with his blunt and charismatic commentary on the times.
“He was also very prolific in romance,” Reverend Ken Ramsden said, having first organized the Robbie Burns dinner in Wilno nine years ago. “Dozens of women are mentioned in his poems. In fact, some think Burns died at the young age of 39 because he ‘exhausted’ himself.”
In annual tradition, the Robbie Burns dinner commenced with the piping in of the haggis. With a procession from bagpiper John Mullens, Ramsden on the drum and this year’s chef Ambrose Mullin, audience members got an up close and intimate look of the Scottish spectacle, before it was served up to the crowd.
“This is a tradition that occurs all over the world,” Ramsden said. “Wherever the Scottish have gone, whether China or South America, they’ve brought their traditions with them.”
With a knife in hand, Ramsden also addressed the haggis with a poem by Robbie Burns called, “To a Haggis.”
Following the recitation, another ancient ceremony was conducted called paying the piper, which included a cheer to Mullen with a dram of Highland Malt Whiskey for his musical contribution to the dinner. As you can surmise, the crowd continued to cheer each other well into the night.
“There have been some really memorable moments over the years at this event,” Corinne Higgins, owner of the Wilno Tavern, said. “I really like how everyone gets to participate. They can recite a poem, do a Highland fling or expose their knobby knees. It’s a really fun time.”
For Lynne Postil and Bruce Burnett, Robbie Burns Night is a truly special occasion – one they look forward to every year. To them, it’s sort of an informal anniversary.
“We had our first date here eight years ago on Robbie Burns Day,” Postil explained, while enjoying her haggis. “We got married here at the tavern a couple of years ago. Our favourite part is the nostalgia.”
Story continues in the January 30, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.