A local account by Insight Tour Director Mike Doughty
Off for a night out to celebrate the life and works of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet. It’s strict dress code this evening so for me highland dress, white shirt, black bow tie, and a kilt in Widows Sons Scotland tartan. The venue for this evening is located in the Cross Keys Pub, which dates from 1688.
As I arrive, there is a piper outside waiting to pipe me into the pub where 150 guests are seated for the start on the evening. I take my seat at the table with 9 other guests. On the table, there are 6 bottles of red wine and another 6 bottles of white wine, along with 2 bottles of single malt whiskey.
The talk at the table is brought to silent as the master of the evening stands in the centre on the room. The piper then starts to play O FLOWER OF SCOTLAND. We all stand up and sing our Scottish national anthem. The evening has just started and I’m already starting to feel the pride for Scotland and Roberts Burns – this great man and freemason! When the piper stops, the master invites us to sit down. Then a haggis is placed on a table in front of the master mason; he draws a knife and then recites the following poem to address the haggis:
TO A HAGGIS
Fair fa your honest sonsie face Great chieftain o the pudding race Aboon them a ye tak your place Painch, tripe or thairm Weel are ye wordy o a grace As langs my arm
Then at the end of the poem, Haggis Tattie and Neeps are served to our table – the feast is about to begin! When they see a haggis for the first time, our guests are not sure what to do with it. I tell them: eat it, and wash it down with whiskey or wine! After two plates of Haggis, I am so full. All I can do is drink more whiskey. As I sit back, the entertainment is about to start featuring three hours of Robert Burns¹s poems.
The first poem is “Tam O Shanter” – 20 minutes of all local accent. It is so funny and so well performed that everyone in the pub is bursting out with laughter. A few more whiskey, then on to next poem, “Lament of Mary Queen of Scots”. I am 6’2 and 250lbs, but tears built up in my eyes. A few more whiskey, then on to more poems, and the night goes on. As we drink more and more, the poems become better and better. Then, all too quickly the night is over and at 2AM my taxi is outside waiting to take me home.
Insight Tour Director Mike Doughty , has over 30 years of experience as a TD. He is most often found guiding Insight tours of Ireland and Scotland but on his time off, he lives in Scotland where you can find him on his Harley Davidson motorbike riding through the Highlands.