'Gie her a haggis!' - Burns' night in Bohemia

24-01-2005

The Scottish poet Robert Burns borrowed his first book from the local baker, and from there the only way was up. His poems, which were originally published to raise money so that he could emigrate, ironically turned Burns into a Scottish icon. The man behind 'Auld Lang Syne' and the title of J.D. Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye' turns 246 tomorrow. His birthday is being marked both at home and abroad, including the Czech Republic. In-house Scot, Rosie Johnston reports...

"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o'a grace
As lang's ma airm."

Such is the centerpiece of every Burns' Supper all over the world, although this Saturday was its premier in Czech. Nearly two hundred and fifty years after his birth, the Bard's birthday is still celebrated from Kathmandu to Cairo, Singapore to Skegness. The British ambassador to the Czech Republic, Linda Duffield, explains his appeal:

"I think most people are familiar with some of his poems, but the amazing thing I suppose is to see how widely known Burns is around the world. It's not easy poetry to read, but it means something to everybody, so that's why I think he is so special."

Prague of course, did not miss out on the festivities - and on Saturday, a homesick Scot got to compare plaids and dance the 'Gay Gordons' with Czechs and Scots alike. The event, a haggis-based supper and ceilidh, was organized by the Czech 'Friends of Scotland' club. Its director, Vaclav Rout describes the connection between Czechs and Scots.

"I think both countries are very similar because we have very similar histories. We both have big neighbours, for us the Germans, for you the English. Our history is not the same but very similar. And also our sense of humour. The likes of beer, the likes of whiskey. So I think it is not only this, it is more, like for example poems, you have Rabbie Burns, we have Karel Hynek Macha, both had very similar lives, and very similar deaths."

Burns' night is January 25th, and a whiskey or two is really all that is needed in order to take part. 'Slangivar', thus, to all those who will be marking it.

24-01-2005