Revelling in the poetry of the bard, Caledonian natives and aliens alike came together in Blackpool’s Masonic Hall to celebrate the birth of ‘Scotland’s favourite son’, Robert Burns, in a spirit charged with fun and friendship – and with the national spirit of Scotch whisky as well of course – and plenty of it!
Authenticity of the event was secured by enlisting the services of Bob McGown to recite the ‘Address to a Haggis’ and the ‘Selkirk Grace’. Led into the dining room by a lady piper in national dress, the sacred haggis held high by the chef, it was paraded around the hall while the assembled diners applauded in time with the rousing musical accompaniment until it was laid on its allocated pedestal where all could gaze on its splendour.
Sporting a bespoke Burns tie and with his dashing Tam o’ shanter perched in a jaunty manner, Bob enthusiastically launched into the recital and, armed with his traditional dirk, plunged it vehemently into the ‘great chieftain o’ the pudding-race’ with the fervour and ceremonial pomp that the sacrificial fare demands. Up went a roar! Glasses of the ‘water o’ life’ were raised aloft in tribute to the pudding while the lady piper provided further fitting accompaniment. Robbie Burns would have been proud of the spectacle.
A superb meal of piping hot cock-a-leekie soup; traditional haggis, neeps and tatties; not-so-traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pudding; trifle; coffee and mints, provided generous sustenance for the festivities. Scottish readers may have furrowed brows at the thought of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding being included in a Burns’ supper fare but Lancashire Masons can only tolerate a degree of authenticity and denying them their roast beef and Yorkshire pudding would be going a step too far.
The celebrations were hearty and exuberant. Desultory chit-chat, laughter and merriment were in abundance. Masons, non-Masons, lady Masons, charity representatives, friends and family made up a diverse throng in which there were Masons from a wide spectrum of lodges. But there was a common thread. They were all intent on having a good time. Diffidence was absent or suppressed amongst them. There were no shrinking violets or, as Robbie Burns may have observed, ‘there were nae tim’rous beasties’ within the throng. Boisterous would be a befitting description of the horde.
Having consumed the plentiful meal, the diners were treated to a re-appearance of Bob McGown who paid tribute to ‘Scotland’s ploughman poet’ and proposed the toast. Interspersing a brief biographical account of Robert Burns’ short life with classic examples of his works, Bob gave a sincere and heartfelt toast to the great bard. The throng could not help but be moved by the passion of Bob’s delivery. The whisky flowed yet again and the energy of the evening became even more pronounced.
In closing the formal dinner, president of the Masonic Club Colin Goodwin invited interested parties to view the upper lodge room at the Hall, where a number of Masons were on hand to answer any questions. A very successful strategy it was too, resulting in a number of enquiries into joining the fraternity.
It was then into the recently refurbished lounge bar for entertainment and further liquid refreshment. Blackpool group secretary Steve Jelly had brought along his rock band ‘Molly’s Chamber’ and it was he and his fellow band members who punched out the music for the rest of the evening. It may not have been what is generally expected at a traditional Burns’ Supper but, as already established, this was in Lancashire and a little deviation from the customary is good-heartedly tolerated by our guests from across the border. And who knows, it might even have inspired Robert Burns to write a poem ‘to a rock band’.