Scots and would-be Scots celebrate in the Hudson Highlands
By Jeanne Tao
The Hudson Highlands Pipe Band held its annual “Burns Night” fundraiser at the Highlands Country Club in Garrison on Saturday, Jan. 26, in the tradition of warming the hearts of expatriate Scots (and Scots for a day) on a cold winter night with whiskey, haggis, bagpipes and poetry, on or near the Jan. 25 birthday of legendary Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Saturday’s Burns Night followed the traditional form of Burns Nights the world over — beginning with a gathering for cocktails, followed by the welcome and Scottish soup course, the “piping” of the haggis, the supper, a speech on the “Immortal Memory” of Robert Burns, a toast to the “Lassies” and a toast to the “Laddies,” and closing with the singing of Burns’ famous poem, Auld Lang Syne, and music and dancing.
After a grand entrance of the marching pipe and drum band, Hudson Highlands Pipe Band Chairman Mark Civita welcomed the guests. Piper Mike MacNintch presented the haggis, playing the pipes while leading the cook to bring out the haggis — the Scottish national dish and what those on the British Isles call a “savory pudding” consisting of ground sheep’s heart, liver and lungs encased in sheep’s stomach.
Nick Groombridge toasted the haggis with Burns’ poem, Address to a Haggis, and band member Jared Wigdor recited the Selkirk Grace. Guests were then treated to a buffet dinner, which included the strange-sounding but nevertheless delicious haggis.
The gathering was accompanied by traditional music played by Carl Radens (guitar), Dan Gurney (accordion) and Dylan Foley (fiddle); the latter two won medals in last year’s All-Ireland Fleadh. The Hudson Highlands Pipe Band Pipe Major (and Cold Spring Mayor) Seth Gallagher gave a welcome after dinner.
This year, Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong (local writer and a senior correspondent for The Paper) gave the traditional toast “to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns” in the form of a poem she wrote, entitled Ode to Robbie Burns. The poem sums up the spirit of the event well and follows in its entirety.
Ode to Robbie Burns
Although we’re far frae Scotland,
fair country of yere birth,
We come here to salute ye,
with pipes, and wit, and mirth.
But just why, Robbie Burns,
should we remember ye, somehow?
What have ye got about ye,
To make us laud ye, this day, now?
Well, there’s yere meikle grand genius
for writing poetry and song,
E’en misfortune couldn’t thwart ye,
yere dreams bore ye fast along.
Ye had a generous spirit,
giving poems away for free,
When ye could’ve used the money,
as ye fought off poverty.
Though farming was quite harsh,
ye kept yere deep love of the land,
Thrilling in beck, woods, and glen,
where the Lowland mountains stand.
Ye wrote of simple beauty,
As ye roamed frae field to house,
Ye immortalized a daisy,
and a wee, ill-fated mouse.
When ye gave up plowing soil,
for numbers, not words, in town,
Ye turned the job of tax collecting,
From one of scorn to great renown.
Ye dined with lords and literati,
but never lost the common touch,
Yere pen skewered proud and pompous,
crass greedy rogues and such.
Ye were clearly close to God,
but loathed Fundamentalist teaching,
and Calvinist oppressiveness,
and smug, self-righteous preaching.
With American Revolution raging,
and then the radical French sequel,
Ye considered men – “for a’ that”
inherently all equal.
Ye had courage and a vision,
and while ye died two centuries ago,
There’s much in ye still worthy,
so we gather to tell ye so.
But yere fine points notwithstanding,
and despite our fulsome praise,
Ye should not be assuming
we like quite all yere ways.
We remain a trifle troubled
by yere relationships with lasses,
Because ye seemed unable,
to refrain from endless passes.
Ye fathered 13 children,
by five –aye! – separate mothers,
Doubtless promising each woman,
ye loved her above all others.
Nor were they the only ones,
nay, we count 7, 8, half a score,
Whom ye also romanced and left,
to chase some fresh amor.
Yet when we tally up yere vices,
we find there’s not too many,
And a man would not be mortal,
if he didn’t e’er have any.
So to ye bonnie Robbie,
we raise our cups in cheer,
For in these Hudson Highlands,
we’ll forever hold ye dear!