This poet who crafted the speech of the common man, the man of the soil, the farmer, to the profoundest poetic expression is honored with a feast every year at the Academy, following the tradition of Scots all over the world. We Highlanders are Celtic by adoption and it is fitting that we should celebrate Robert Burns who changed the way English speaking people think about poetry.
Robbie Burns day was filled with happy activity—boys gathering pine branches and festooning the entry, common areas, and refectory with green, boys helping the Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Strong, to cook and lay the tables, boys greeting their families who had traveled far to join in the feast. There was the ceremonial parading in of the haggis, accompanied by a recitation of Burns’ “To a Haggis;” the humorous Toast to the Lasses, followed by the lasses’ retaliatory toast To the Lads, both original compositions by staff members. Then guests and hosts sat to a feast of cock-a-leekie soup, shepherd’s pie, and of course, the haggis. The customary Immortal Memory Address by Mr. John Burger, an alumnus, was received with enthusiastic applause, and the freshman class performed “Tam O’Shanter” as a hilarious drama. Each class took its turn to sing either a rousing Burns plea for the rights of Man, one of his sentimental love ballads, or a Scots battle cry.
We love the poets who give us words for “thoughts too deep for tears” and it is right and proper to honor them and to celebrate God’s gift of poetry. It is deeply satisfying to share what we love with our friends, and we pray we will be granted the opportunity to see again the many happy faces we saw on Burns Night for many happy years.