At the request of the director of ceremonies, the assembly stood and applauded as the ‘guest of honour’ was escorted into the room, preceded by the piper and accompanied by the orator with sufficient pomp and ceremony to satisfy even the most demanding, visiting dignitary.
On reaching the allotted place of honour, the ‘guest’ received an enthusiastic welcome, a most complimentary address and effusive salutations before being repeatedly stabbed with a large kitchen knife in front of over 70 witnesses.
At this point, in order to avoid confusion or alarm, it would perhaps be helpful to clarify that this was not an installation ceremony but was in fact the annual ‘Burns Night Supper’ at Rowley Court, Lancaster organised by Duke of Lancaster Lodge No 1353 and the ‘guest of honour’ was a haggis. The address to the haggis and the subsequent ‘stabbing’ was, literally, in the capable hands of Ian Stephenson of Runic Lodge No 6019 who also gave the ‘Selkirk Grace’ with consummate fluency. There can be few, if any, pre-dinner literary works that seek to stimulate the guests’ appetite for what is about to be set before them with lines such as ‘trenching your gushing entrails bright’ but such is the universal appeal of Burns’ work that the diners were not dissuaded from enjoying all three delicious courses on offer.
It fell to the newly installed master, Steve Stanley who had only been ‘in post’ two days to deliver the ‘Immortal Memory’ which traditionally takes the form of a retrospective summary of Burns’ life and literary works, concluding with the resounding toast ‘tae Rabbie Burns’.
Graham Haddow of Poulton le Sands Lodge No 1051 provided further evidence of the great poet’s diversity and observational skills by reciting ‘To a louse’ and ‘To a mouse’ with exceptional skill and received generous applause. Perhaps the most perilous toast of the evening was that proposed by Nigel Parrish, who in his ‘Toast to the lassies’ endeavoured to make one or two observations on the differences between the two sexes; a task undertaken by those possessing either great confidence or unbelievable naivety! Employing the skills normally associated with a lodge DC, he escaped unscathed and soothed any affronted female sensitivities by entertainingly rendering several romantic ballads as recompense.
The grand finale of the evening, prior to the singing of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ was the spectacle of the piper circling the room whilst playing some stirring Celtic airs, followed by Graham Earl enthusiastically beating a drum to a rhythm that could best be described as ‘unique and independent’. Given that Graham had been the main organiser of the event, his percussive short comings could be forgiven and his enquiry to the audience of “Shall we do it again next year?” received a resounding “Yes”. With the raffle and whisky draw having raised over £400 for deserving causes, the evening would have undoubtedly received the approval of the great man himself.