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A light-hearted e-magazine with facts, figures, folklore, photographs; with lots of wee bits  of general info about Scotland - and some big bits. A site for folk to read, browse and, if you like - contribute to.

 

In WEE BITS, in The Mag., thre's an article on the correct colour of Blue for The Saltire WELCOME to Find it in Scotland. The site's navigation menu Main Headings are down the left-hand panel. Click on these to see what's in each one. Some sections have a LOT in them.
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Readers' Contributions & Articles (cont)

...from Jim Shon, Chieftain of the Java St.Andrew Society (there's a link to his Society's website in the Scottish Group Links pages, and a Blog asking for help in tracing former Chieftains on the Scot-Talk site)

The Java St. Andrew Society was founded in 1919 and over the years has instituted several traditions which may appear, at first glance, to be curious at best and bordering on the insane at worst.

The flags and the pipers and the Saltires and the thistle and all the other symbolic icons of Scotland are used in these traditions but the pageantry has been known to make some non-Scots a tad uncomfortable. Why ? perhaps they feel that this is a dig at them but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. No jingoism here…the Scots just like to celebrate their culture and the pipes and the kilts.. and that is all there is to it.

The Scots throughout history have traveled and assimilated into virtually every country of the world and have carried with them their traditions and rituals whilst enjoying and embracing the traditions of their hosts. This is the mark of any great nation and as debate rages on the real origins of the haggis and the bagpipes no Scot that I know really cares. These are Scottish and even if they weren’t… they are now …and we're having them.
 
Giving a speech to a big sausage whilst disemboweling it is just one such tradition
 that many may look upon with a wry smile. But traditions are just that. Things that we do and have done and like to do without the normal requirement of reason or logic. No secret embedded codes or conspiracies and even many a Scott requires a dictionary to make sense of it.

The address to the haggis is of course a Robert Burns poem and there are numerous hypothesis, from learned, and other not so learned, scholars, as to the true reasons behind the poem. These range from a hidden and fiercely nationalistic agenda, to a stab at the upper classes and the disproportionate differential between them and the majority of us, the have-nots. Nothing new there then?. 

The address to the haggis can be split into three sections really. The praising of the haggis and its place in the culinary hierarchy alongside Painch, Tripe and Thairm, (Stomach, tripe and intestines) Yummy! Once cut open with the prerequisite skill by a common man (Rustic Labor) the sausage is described as exuding a gloriously warm and rich smell and is consumed at a great rate of knots by those seated until they are fit to burst! (Rive)

The poem then deals, rather eloquently, with those who would look down on the humble haggis preferring "foreign dishes" like fricassee and Olio and perhaps this is why the scholars attach a nationalistic interpretation to the poem…who knows? What Burns would have made of the rampant "foreign food" sections at modern Scottish supermarkets might be likewise mused.

The poem extols then the health giving benefits of the dish and draws comparison between the rustic laborer who causes the earth to tremble with his contemporary, but non-haggis eating, companion who is described as a fairly feeble specimen and promptly dismissed as being of little value for such tasks as running over flooded fields or for chopping off "Heeds", as one does. 

In closing, the poem addresses the  "Powers who be" asking them  (perhaps a dig, at the same time, for introducing such foreign fare to the Scottish diet) to give the common folk what they want i.e. not something that sloshes around in bowls. In return for this a nation's grateful prayer. is offered. Interestingly some historians suggest that haggis was not even a food consumed by common folk but rather a luxury item in the times of Burns and if that hasn’t confused you well read the following poem and you'll still be absolutely none the wiser.

The address to the haggis is traditionally performed at the society ball held this year on November 28th and at the Burns Supper to be held on the 27th of January in the new year.  

The Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

 

Fair and full is your honest, jolly face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

 

The groaning trencher  (platter) there you fill,
Your buttocks like a distant hill,
Your pin would help to mend a mill
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distill
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin’, rich!

 

His knife see rustic Labour wipe,
And cut you up with ready slight, (skill)
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm -steaming, rich!
 

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

 

Then spoon for spoon, the stretch and strive:
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
Till all their well swollen bellies by-and-by
Are bent like drums;
Then old head of the table, most like to burst,
'The grace!' hums.
 

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

 

Is there that over his French ragout,
Or olio that would sicken a sow,
Or fricassee would make her vomit
With perfect disgust,
Looks down with sneering, scornful view
On such a dinner?
 

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

 

Poor devil! see him over his trash,
As feeble as a withered rush,
His thin legs a good whip-lash,
His fist a nut;
Through bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.
 

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,

He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle.

 

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his ample fist a blade,
He'll make it whistle;
And legs, and arms, and heads will cut off
Like the heads of thistles.
 

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery stuff,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But if you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her [Scotland] a Haggis!
 

 

So there you are … all clear?

   27.09.2009

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