Burn’s Night

It’s Burn’s Night tonight. So in a cheeky mood when it comes to anything from across the border (sincere apologies to my Scottish readers) i had two thoughts.  The first was “Oh.  It’s Burn’s Night.  Shame, I like haggis but I’m having a chow mien tonight.  Hang on.  It could be a Chinese Burns night.” I’ve sure this is a very old joke as a Facebook friend has just reminded me that it iOS entirely appropriate I have one to celebrate Chinese New Year. (Not sure if I have any Chinese readers but if I o, Happy New Year!!!)

The other thing I am reminded of is my favourite question on QI:
“What have Scotland, haggis, bagpipes, tartan and whisky all got in common?
The answer is, somewhat surprisingly; none of them are Scottish! 
The name Scotland is derived from the Irish tribe, the Scoti, whisky is Roman, bagpipes originate in the Middle East, tartan is English and haggis is Viking.  But we think of these as being Scottish in no small part because of the writers, Robert Burns and later, Walter Scott.

Haggis is probably Viking in origin and is first recorded in Britain in Lancashire in 1430 and may not have been imported into Scotland till much later.  Upon being told of this relatively recent discovery, James Macsween, director of Macsween’s, the Edinburgh haggis-maker, said:

“This is certainly a revelation to me, but haggis is now renowned as Scotland’s dish largely due to Robert Burns, who made it famous. That’s not to say that prior to Burns that haggis wasn’t eaten in England, but Scotland has done a better job of looking after it. I didn’t hear Shakespeare writing a poem about haggis.”

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James McSween

Tartan as we know it can be attributed to the Romantic period. After the Jacobite risings it and many other parts of Highland identity were banned under the Dress Act of 1746. This was later repealed in 1782 and reinvented with individual clan association after Scott stage managed the visit to Scotland by George IV in 1822. He wore a specially designed short kilt – before then kilts were much longer – and set them off with rather fetching pink stockings rather than what is portrayed here in the famous picture by David Wilkie.

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Portrait of George IV by David Wilkie (1822)

Enjoy your haggis! and don’t forget the neeps and tatties! 

Aye, an’ a wee dram.  I may have one later. 

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