Burns Club of Vancouver… a traditional Burns dinner in the tradition of the Tarbolton Batchelor's Club
Which way do you hold these things? My first time holding bagpipes! I am used to my accordion – photo Ian Mason.
The Burns Club of Vancouver prides itself on being faithful to the tradition of the Tarbolton Batchelor's Club,
which was founded on 11 November 1780. Robert Burns and some
friends formed a debating
'forget their cares and labour in mirth and diversion', to promote
friendship and to improve their minds with meaningful debate. The
Vancouver dinner was held on Monday evening, February 20th, at the
Terminal City Club in downtown Vancouver.
I first attended a Burns Supper with the Burns Club of Vancouver in 2004, and wrote this description.
Back then, I was a wee bit intimidated by the idea of a Men's only
club… having attended college and university with many
feminists. But now having also attended their “Big Night” event,
and having been welcomed so warmly by many of the members… I felt
real comfortable. Without the presence of female partners to
attend to, we were all free to discuss Burns, haggis, and
Andy Miller plays bagpipes in the Vancouver Police Pipe Band – photo Ian Mason
A good feeling of cameraderie filled the room. Many of the club's
members are retired, and they all carry themselves like grandfatherly
elders – full of wisdom and benevolence. Indeed, they seemed both
amused and very supportive that I, a youngish Chinese Canadian, is
regularly hosting an annual Robbie Burns Dinner for 400+ people.
There were four tables of ten in the upstairs salon rooms, with an
attended bar featuring Glenlivet and Glenfiddich scotch, as well as
beers and wines.
The host of our table was Dr. Ian Mason, president of the club, who had
spoken at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy World Poetry Night at the Vancouver
Public Library on January 16, and also came to attend the Gung Haggis
Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner on January 22nd.
A piper named Andy, who is now recently retired from theVancouver
Police Pipe band sat on my left. We talked about Constable Tim
Fanning, of the Vancouver Police Force who plays both highland pipes.
the smaller Irish pipes and penny whistles, and who had appeared in the CBC television special “Gung Haggis Fat Choy.”
Andy Miller shows me how to hold his bagpipes. They are incredibly ornate. He is a wonderful piper, and a lovely man, sharing much knowledgable information with me. – photo Ian Mason.
Andy was piped in the haggis, and was followed by other members of our
table… Colin (the sword bearer), Strachan (who was the 2nd sword
bearer), and Donald. They were joined by the chef (an Asian man!)
who carried the haggis nestled on the plate on a bed of mashed neeps
and tatties. They paraded around the room and down the centre
aisle to finally set haggis down on the presentation table. Drams
of whiskey were downed by each of the haggis parade party, then Donald
gave a splendid reading of the Address To A Haggis.
The haggis was very nice… almost like a meat loaf. We discussed
the three major types of haggis found in the Vancouver area. This
one came from North Vancouver on Keith Road, near Queensbury. The
other types are a spicier haggis with a liver pate quality made by
Peter Black at Park Royal South (which I feature at Gung Haggis Fat
Choy) and a more traditional dryer lard recipe – which I don't
like. We all had second helpings of the haggis.
A nice roast beef dinner followed the haggis, and the dinner
conversation was very pleasant. Andy told me about his visits to
Hong Kong, with the Vancouver Police Pipe Band. Donald asked me about
Gung Haggis Fat Choy. They liked that at the GHFC dinner, we
share the verses of Address To A Haggis with different members of the
audience. And people were delighted to hear that some of the
Adressees had included Faye Leung (the hat lady), and former MP/MLA Ian
Wadell (actually born in Scotland).
The formal part of the evening was hosted by Fraser, a wonderful MC
looking very smart in kilt and tuxedo. A talk about the
Tarbolton's Batchelor's club was first, followed by several other
addresses that included: a history of Scots in Canada, a Toast to
the Lassies, and finally the “Immortal Memory” of Burns – read by
Robert Armour from our table.
Of the talks, I was most fascinated by the history of Scots in Canada,
which described how many Scots had come to Canada due to the Highland
Clearings, and also Loyalists from the then soon-to-be United
States… Of course the Scots became adept at exploring Canada,
and helping to develop both the Hudson's Bay Company and the Northwest
Company. Everytime I attend an event by the Burns Club of
Vancouver I learn more about Burns and Scottish culture.
These are all good men, who revel at the universal values promoted by Burns in which “a man's a man for all that and all that.”