Category Archives: Robert Burns & Burns poetry

Program revealed for this Sunday's 2010 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner

What's Happening this Sunday at Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner?

Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinners always emphasize BC's cultural and historical past and present. While we acknowledge the Scottish and Chinese pioneers that helped to shape this province of British Columbia, we also look to see where we are going and what kind of cultural fusion is happening.  This year's program is amazing.

Larissa Lai is the featured author (When Fox is A Thousand, Salt Fish Girl + new poetry book Automaton
Biographies).  Larissa enjoyed last year's Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner when Rita Wong was the featured author.  Larissa teaches Burns poetry at the UBC English Department.

Lan Tung
is the featured musician with her trio Birds of Paradox, with guitarist Ron Samworth and multi-instrumentalist  NealamjitDhillon. Nealamjit has performed at Gung Haggis Fat Choy previously with Joe McDonald's band “Brave Waves.”
This will be Lan's first time at Gung Haggis Fat Choy, she is a
virtuoso on the erhu, and is well known with her group Orchid Ensemble

Marcus Youssef
is featured playwright and will perform excerpt from “Ali & Ali and
the Axis of Evil” which pokes fun at Asian Heritage Month,
Multiculturalism and Scottish history and culture.  Marcus is one of the founders of Neworld Theatre with Adrienne Wong and Camyar Chai.  Adrienne is a perennial favorite at Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  She has co-hosted and last year, she presented a preview excerpt from her Neworld theatre play “Mixie and the Half-breeds.”  In May 2009, Marcus and Adrienne co-produced and performed in a reading at the Vancouver Public Library for History Joy Kogawa House's inaugural Writer-in-Residence program with Montreal author John Asfour. This is Marcus's first visit to Gung Haggis Fat Choy, he will be joined by Camyar Chai and Charles Demers.

Tricia Collins,
is our Chinese-Irish-Guyanese-Canadian co-host. Her recent one-woman
play Gravity played to rave reviews in Vancouver, Montreal and Guyana.  Tricia has performed in many theatre plays, and recently her work was featured at the Whistler Film Festival in

Gung Haggis Pipes & Drums – including Dan Huang – Drum Sgt of the Kelowna Pipes & Drums.

Alex and Aidan Huang – Scottish-Chinese-Canadian Highland Dancers age 6 &

William Saunders, president of the Vancouver & District Labour Council, will give the Immortal Memory about our Ploughman's Poet

Joe McDonald, official bagpiper of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, will help lead some singalongs and special tunes

Todd Wong, creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, will read poems, lead singalongs and maybe play some accordion

Tix for “Monkey King” at Centre for Vancouver for Performing Arts
Tix for Vancouver Opera's “Nixon in China
Tix for Firehall Arts Centre “Where the Blood Mixes
Great Book Prizes:
Jim Wong-Chu – Swallowing Clouds
Larissa Lai – Automaton Biographies
Fiona Tinwei Lam –  Enter the Chrysanthemum
Charles Demers – Vancouver Special
Gu Xiong – The Yellow Pear
Ashok Mathur's A Little Distillery in Nowgong
+ Lots More

Google News Alert for “Gung Haggis Fat Choy”

Here are some of the media interviews about Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner + other stories

Every year I do media interviews.  On Robbie Burns Day, I was woken up at 7am by a request from BBC Radio Scotland.  Yesterday, I did an interview for French CBC television.  Monday was Epoch Times.  Last week the Georgia Straight did a food feature article.  Somewhere in Scotland there is an interview in the Sunday Post.  Even SFU, Seattle and North Shore News have stories about Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner this year.  Check out the links:

Gung Haggis Fat Choy is the ultimate fusion feast – Carolyn Ali – ‎Jan 21, 2010‎
“People really like haggis dim sum,” says Todd Wong, otherwise known as Toddish McWong. He's organizing the 12th annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner,

Gung Haggis Fat Choy Celebrates Chinese and Scottish Heritage

The Epoch Times – Ryan Moffatt – ‎11 hours ago‎
At first glance not a lot, but if you ask Todd Wong, founder of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, the two partner together quite well. “In Canada they talk about the

Food Calendar

North Shore News – Pamela Stone, Debbie Caldwell – ‎4 hours ago‎
Gung Haggis Fat Choy:
The annual Scottish and Chinese cultural, musical and literary event
featuring intercultural food, fun, poems and music, Sunday, Jan.

Join the Burns Day fun Jan. 25

Simon Fraser University News – ‎Jan 21, 2010‎
And don't forget to stay for Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a fun meld of Chinese New Year and Burns Day festivities, with dragon cart races, haggis and egg rolls.

Like a trip home

The Kingston Whig-Standard – Ian Elliot – ‎Jan 25, 2010‎
and a unique Canadian twist is a Scottish- Chinese fusion born in Vancouver known as Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinners that feature haggis wontons and other

Vancouver taste treat: haggis won ton

Crosscut (blog) – Knute Berger – ‎19 hours ago‎
The menu for the 2010 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner in Vancouver has been revealed, and it combines the celebratory influences of Chinese New Year with the

Food and Culture Topic of Presentation

Opinion250 News (blog) – ‎Jan 9, 2010‎
We also attend boundary-blurring festivals, such as Gung Haggis Fat Choy Day,” says Dr. Iwama, who has a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies.

77 pounds of haggis are ready for the 2010 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner

77 pounds of haggis for dim sum and traditional one pounders, to be served with Chinese Lettuce Wrap

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Haggis display at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, Scotland.  The furry figure top left is described as a “wild haggis”.  The bottom right figure wrapped in plastic is described as a “domestic haggis”.  – photo T. Wong

There are 77 pounds of haggis that I have just picked up from Peter Black & Sons at Park Royal South in West Vancouver.  I will deliver them to Floata Restaurant tonight, enroute to my appearance to “Address the Haggis” at the Burns Supper for the Vancouver & District Labour Council.

Many people outside of Scotland revile the poor wee haggis.  It is the butt of many jokes.  While in Scotland, I visited the Kelvingrove Museum and even found a display of a “wild haggis.”  (see the picture above).  There was an accompanying sign that read: 

Some believe the haggis is a small creature with shorter legs on one side of its body, so it can run around the hills more easily. To most people, haggis is a delicious Scottish food, best served with “neeps and tatties” turnips and potatoes.

Haggis model
Haggis scotticus
created in Glasgow Museum's workshop 2005
created in a Scottish kitchen 2005

A “ceremonial haggis” should be “as lang's my arm” in length.  It is also called a “piper's haggis”, because it is piped in at dinners on a large serving plate for everyone to see.

Dim Sum can be translated as “pieces of the heart”
or “touch the heart” or “pieces of heaven.”  These are small portions
of food that are succulent and delicious.  But what happens when you
add haggis to this little heavenly morsels?  Will haggis, one of the
world's most celebrated and reviled foods ascend to the celestial

But you cannot give a proper “Address to A Haggis” if it's already cut up into little wee piece.

Scots still like to see a traditional haggis at a Burns Dinner.  We
serve a one pounder of haggis to each table.  It might be not enough
for 10 Scots guests – but it is more than enough for 10 non-Scottish
diners.  To solve the problem we encourage people to share.

also serve a 7 pound banquet haggis that is “as lang's my arm” to our
head table.  This ensures that it is pretty in pictures… as well as
extra leftovers for any of our guests.

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Bagpiper Joe McDonald does the honours at the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner – photo VFK.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

– 3rd verse from Robert Burns poem “Address to A Haggis”

Watch Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson cut up the haggis at the 2009 Dinner

Gung Haggis Fat Choy 2009
8 min – 29 Jan 2009

imagine layering a little bit of haggis with Chinese plum sauce, adding
crispy noodles, finely diced vegetables and Chinese water chestnuts,
and serving on a delicate leaf of lettuce.  This is our Gung Haggis
lettuce wrap, a cultural and culinalry fusion twist. But people say
they have never seen people eat so much haggis, or eat haggis so

And what does our traditional haggis maker think of all this?

Peter Black describes himself as a haggis rancher.

2006, we were paid a high compliment when haggis rancher Peter Black
attended the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner with his family!  Peter loved
what we had done with his haggis.

Peter Black & Sons, at
Park Royal Mall in West Vancouver, is BC's largest producer of haggis. 
Peter's haggis is a family secret with extra spices.  It is different
from a traditional lard recipe – which I have occasionally gagged on. 
I describe a Peter Black haggis to be like a nice liver pate, suitable
for serving with crackers at your next Super Bowl party.

Be sure
to visit Peter Black & Sons at Park Royal South – because there is
an annual display of “live wild haggis.”  Often the haggis is sleeping,
and you have to be very careful not to disturb it – but if you're
quiet, you can sneak up on it.

Peter Black & Sons with family at
the 2006 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, linking hands to sing Auld Lang
Syne to bring a finale to the dinner event – photo Ray Shum

Here are some of the menus from our past dinners:

2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy menu revealed… to welcome the Year of the Ox

2008 Gung Haggis Fat Choy menu announced: now with Mongolian Beef to celebrate Year of the Rat

2007 Menu for Gung Haggis Fat Choy™:Toddish McWong's Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner

2006 Menu for Gung Haggis Fat Choy™: Toddish McWong's Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner – Celebrating the Year of the Dog

2005 Menu for Gung Haggis Fat Choy� at Floata Restaurant

Cultural Connection interview: What is the connection between Chinese New Year and Robbie Burns Supper?

Gary Jarvis interviews Toddish McWong for “Culture Connection”

Gary Jarvis is an Englishman in Canada.  And he is involved in Vancouver cultural and music scene.  He hosts a program on Co-op Radio Last Call on Vancouver Coop Radio every Wednesday midnight to 2amish. He does interviews for The Rational too.  And he's involved with Evolution 1079 online music radio station.

year Gary attended the Burns Supper hosted by Vancouver District Labour
Council, and was amazed by my reading of Burns' “Address to a Haggis” –
and my Chinese/kilt fashion combo. He asked me why???

Listen to Gary's interview of Todd Wong, creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, as he explains the Scottish and Chinese and BC roots of his brain child – a cultural fusion Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.

See More
Todd Wong explains Gung Haggis Fat Choy by Gary Jarvis on MySpace
Blogs! New blogTopics added every minute. Todd Wong AKA Toddish McWong
explains the c

Toddish McWong goes to Vernon BC and meets Betty McChan and Dan McHuang.

Toddish McWong goes to Vernon BC and meets Betty McChan and Dan McHuang.

2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 036Toddish McWong meets Betty McChan:  Todd wears the Ancient Fraser Hunting Tartan – the first kilt he ever wore, while Betty wears her father's jacket made from the Chan plaid.

I come to Vernon at Christmas time with my girlfriend and we spend lots of time with her parents and their friends.  Soon after my arrival on December 26th, Bill (my girlfriend's father) tells me that he met a Chinese guy from the Kelowna Pipe Band – that I have to meet.  It turns out that the Kelowna Pipe Band played with the Okanagan Symphony, and the Chinese guy playing the drums stuck out sooo much, that Bill had to go talk to him.  In the next few days, Dan Huang and I will play lots of telephone tag.

Over the next few days, my girlfriend and I celebrate Christmas with her parents.  We visit with their friends.  We go for walks in Kalamalka Park with the doggies.  We celebrate with two of our best friends in Vancouver who come up on December 28 to celebrate New Year's with us… and her birthday.  

2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 083Todd and Deb walk the dogs in Kalamalka Park

Our friend Randall, an opera singer, comes to visit.  We talk about music, opera, and living in Europe.  The next night we visit some other musical friends and have a singalong – we play classic rock and folk songs.  Good thing I brought my accordion.   

My friend Craig and I go skiing at Silver Star.  We take it easy because it's the first day of the skiing season for both of us.  I share that when I was in grades 5, 6, and 7 – my parents brought me and my brother to learn to ski by taking us out of school for a week in February.  We ski green and blue runs + one black diamond run called Chaos.  We meet a Scottish woman, who is amazed that I organize the largest Burns Supper in Vancouver.  She asks me to recite something by Burns.  I launch into a very fast version of the first verse of “Address to a Haggis.”  She laughs in enjoyment.

On New Year's Eve, I receive a phone call from somebody at CBC Radio, for “On the Coast”.  They want to ask me questions about Auld Lang Syne, because it is originally a Scottish tradition – and apparently I am an expert in “All Things Scottish” (their words).  Luckily it's about things I know such as the lyrics are attributed to Scottish poet Robert Burns, and when to join and cross hands with people in a circle while singing Auld Lang Syne.  I add in that Hogmanay (Scottish New Year) is a lot like Chinese New Year because people make a lot of noise to scare off bad ghosts or spirits, and both Chinese and Scottish people want to pay off their debts before the new year begins.  Oh… and they also like to eat and drink a lot, and visit friends.

After 7 days, I
finally see and talk to some Chinese-Canadian people. And… they both have
Scottish connections. 

2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 039 Some of Betty's newsclippings when she was 10 years old and a Highland Dance champion!

Betty Chan is a former Highland Dance champion,
teacher and judge!  We actually met a few years before, when she had emailed me about the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner, and came to attend the 2006 dinner. 

It's a great meeting, as Betty tells us stories about her Highland Dance competitions when she was a child of 10.  In the late 1950's and early 1960's, she was a champion Highland Dancer.  She taught Highland Dancing for a number of years, and even became a member of the judge's panel of the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing. She has since retired.  Back
around 2002, at the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives, I
first saw an archival issue of Chinatown News with a picture of Betty.

Betty was so good, that there were many media stories written about her.  Even a “Chan plaid” was made up for her.  When Betty went to show us the “Chan plaid” she brought out her father's jacket which he had made in Hong Kong.  She insisted that I try it on.  It's a good fit, and an honour to be wearing it.  Her father Ernest Chan was the first Chinese Canadian to receive the Order of Canada. Betty tells me that I look dashing in her father's Chan plaid jacket!  Wow!

The other guests arrive with extra won ton wrappers.  We fold some pork won tons, we sit down at the table… and after 7 days in Vernon, I finally have
some Chinese food as Betty served us a wonderful won ton soup!  It has bbq pork, water chestnut, siu choy – my girlfriend says is “absolutely fabulous” and “out of this world!”

2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 047 Todd Wong, Dan Huang and Dan's wife Allison who plays bagpipes!

Dan Huang is drum sergeant of the Kelowna Pipe Band.  After days of telephone tag, we had set up a meeting.  Dan shared how he started playing in a pipeband- because his wife played the pipes, and the band was short of drummers – so he gave it a try, having grown up playing violin, piano and other instruments.  The band kilt is the only one he wears, and many people ask to have a picture taken with him, because the sight of an Asian guy in a kilt playing drums in a pipe band is quite unique in the Okanagan.  

And…. it turns out that Dan and I are actually related.  His maternal cousins are my paternal cousins.  So we are not actually related, as we don't share a common ancestor.  But, he brought a picture of his ancestors circa 1940.  Dan showed me his great-grandfather, his 6 wives, then pointed out the 1st born child (his mother) and the 2nd born son standing beside his young wife – who was my dad's oldest sister!  What a small world!

2009 Year of Gung Haggis Fat Choy from Royal BC Museum in Victoria to Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

2009 was an amazing year for Todd Wong and Gung Haggis Fat Choy

2009 opened with a life-size picture of Todd Wong included in “The
Party” exhibit at Royal BC Museum, and by November 30th – Todd was
encountering a life-size picture of himself at Scottish Parliament in
Edinburgh for the exhibit This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.

It was an exciting year for the Joy Kogawa House Society, as the long sought dream of a writer-in-residence program became a reality.  Montreal Arab-Canadian author John Asfour became the inaugural writer-in-residence and helped writers at Kogawa House as well as hosted events at the house, Vancouver Public Library's Central and Carnegie branches.  By Christmas time author Joy Kogawa was enjoying her first Christmas season living in the house (temporarily) since she and her family had been forced to move in 1942 when they were sent to Internment Camps during WW2.

On November 28th, I set foot in Scotland for my first time ever.  Since first wearing a kilt in 1993 for the SFU Robert Burns ceremonies and hosting the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner since 1998, I no longer have to say that I've never visited Scotland before.  It was a short but exciting trip as I attended the closing night reception at Scottish Parliament for the exhibit This Is Who We Are: Scots in Canada – co-hosted by the Scottish First Minster and Presiding Officer.  I also visited Edinburgh Castle and many things Robbie Burns, as I made my way to Alloway in Ayrshire to visit the birthplace of Robert Burns at Burns Cottage.  It had only just re-opened to the public and I had a special tour by manager of the Burns National Heritage Park.

This is a review of some my my favorite stories and events from 2009.

January 1st, 2009
A life-size picture of Todd Wong aka “Toddish McWong” is included in Free Spirit exhibition at Royal BC Museum.  The exhibit closed on January 14th 2009.

Photo Library - 2907 by you.

January 20th

VisitScotland comes to Vancouver to celebrate Homecoming Scotland with Toddish McWong and Gung Haggis Fat Choy
and brings special limited edition of 37 year old Famous Grouse whisky to auction off at the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.

Raise Money for your Favourite Charity with Limited edition bottles of The Famous Grouse up for Auction

January 20th
Georgia Straight news article

Georgia Straight: Why Canada will never have an Obama, except maybe Todd Wong

January 22nd

Westender: Gung Haggis celebrates Canadian interculturalism – article by Jackie Wong

January 25th Robbie Burns Day 250th Anniversary celebration at Burns Statue in Stanley Park

250th Anniversary of Robert Burns recognized with poems at statue in Vancouver's Stanley Park

2009_January 178 by you.

January 25th Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner
2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Toddish McWong's 250th Robbie Burns Birthday
Chinese New Year's Eve Dinner was a big success – worth 2 ceremonial

DSC_3928_103489 - Mayor Gregor Robertson doing the honours by FlungingPictures.

February 4th
Louis Lapprend makes a youtube video of the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner event

Gung Haggis Fat Choy 2009 Dinner highlights on Youtube

February 15th
Seattle Gung Haggis Fat Choy, Sunday February 15th.

3rd annual Gung Haggis dinner in Seattle Washington, hosted by Bill McFadden of the Caledonian and St. Andrew's Society of Seattle.  Bagpiper Joe McDonald and Todd Wong travel to Seattle to perform and MC the event.

March 15th

Gung Haggis Pipes & Drums & dragon boat paddlers… brave the snow in the Vancouver Celticfest St. Patrick's Day Parade

2009_March 104click here for Flickr photo set

April 6-11th Tartan Week in Vancouver

Tartan Day and Scotland Week celebrated by SFU's Centre for Scottish
Studies with Michael Russell, Scottish Parliamentary Minister for

April 20th
Purdy Party at Joy Kogawa House with Shelagh Rogers, John Asfour &
3 nominated poets for BC Book Prizes: Daphne Marlatt, George Stanley
and Nilofar Shidmehr

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May 19th

John Asfour, Kogawa House writer-in-residence gives reading at
Vancouver Public Library with Marcus Youssef and Adrienne Wong of
Neworld Theatre

2009_May_KogawaHouse 020

May 22nd – Todd and Deb go kayaking on Mayne Island

Kayaking in the Gulf Islands: we visit Belle Islets Chain

and visit

May 30th – Final event for Kogawa House inaugural writer in residence John Asfour with Gary Geddes, Ann Erikson and Shelagh Rogers

Another Magical Evening for final event of Historic Joy Kogawa House's inaugural writer-in-residence program

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June 20/21

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team has a great weekend at Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival

2009_June 060 click for Flickr pictures

July 18th

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team places 4th overall at Richmond Dragon Boat Races

July 24/25

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team heats up Vernon Races

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August 8th

Todd Wong elected to board of The Land Conservancy of BC

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October 10

Gung Haggis paddlers compete at Ft. Langley Cranberry Festival Canoe Regatta: 1st in B Final 5th in A Final

2009_Oct_Ft_Langley_cranberry_canoe_race 111

November 29
Todd's first day in Scotland
I start off in Glasgow, visit a Haggis exhibit at Kelvingrove Museum, take the train to Edinburgh and attend the official Homecoming Finale ceilidh on the Golden Mile.

2009_Scotland_1 101

November 30
Toddish McWong arrives in Scotland for inaugural visit and reception at Scottish Parliament for “This is Who We Are”

2009_Scotland_ThisIsWhoWeAre 097 by you.

November 30

CBC Radio interview from Scottish Parliament – On the Cost with Stephen Quinn
“Vancouverite Todd Wong has been celebrating Scottish culture in this
city for years with his Gung Haggis Fat Choy celebration. Now he's in
the home of the Highlands. Stephen caught up with Todd to find out what
he is doing in Edinburgh this week. Listen to the interview.(runs 6:58)”

December 4th
Todd Wong visits Robert Burns Cottage in Alloway Scotland.  After extensive renovations, Burns Cottage is reopened to the public on Nov. 30th.  Todd Wong has a special tour with Caroline Green, manager of Burns Heritage Park.

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December 21st
Christmas Party at Kogawa House

This is the 1st Christmas season, that author Joy Kogawa has spent at her childhood home, since they were removed and sent to WW2  internment camps in 1942.  Friends and family of both Joy Kogowa and Kogawa House attend. 

December 31st
Todd does a short CBC Radio One interview for On the Coast – answering
questions about the Scottish origins of singing Auld Lang Syne.

To be continued

Todd Wong on CBC Radio One December 31st – Traditions of singing Auld Lyne Syne for New Year's Eve.

Why do we sing Auld Lang Syne at New Year's Eve?

Todd Wong
be heard today on CBC Radion One 690 AM – ON THE COAST. 3-6pm

asked me about the origins of singing “Auld Lang Syne” – the Robert
Burns lyrics connection and the proper way of holding hands while
singing. Of course I threw in similarities between Scottish Hogmannay
and Chinese New Year – such as making lots of noise and paying off your

They asked if I will be with friends ringing in the New Year. I said I
am at Silver Star in Vernon, with good friends… including Craig Brown
who was at my 1st Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, when the only “kilts” we
had were Canadian Mackinkaw lumberjack shirts tied around our waists…

Origins of singing Auld Lang Syne in North America are traced back to a Scottish tradition that spread through Scottish and British emmigration.

Wikipedia writes:

Singing the song on Hogmanay or New Year's Eve very quickly became a Scots custom
that soon spread to other parts of the British Isles. As Scots (and
other Britons) emigrated around the world, they took the song with them.

Canadian band leader Guy Lombardo
is often credited with popularising the use of the song at New Year’s
celebrations in America, through his annual broadcasts on radio and
television, beginning in 1929. The song became his trademark. In
addition to his live broadcasts, Lombardo recorded the song more than
once. His first recording was in 1939. A later recording on September
29, 1947 was issued as a single by Decca Records as catalog #24260

Wikipedia's entry
also compares the 1711 version of Old Long Syne by James Watson to the 1788 version of Scots verse by Robert Burns.

Olympic mascots go to Scotland with Toddish McWong

2009_December 025

Quatchi, Miga and Sumi go to Scotland with Toddish McWong and Quatchi brings back a kilt

2009 was Homecoming Year for Scotland.  It was an invitation to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the birth of poet Robert Burns on January 25th, and went all through the year until November 30th St. Andrew's Day.

The year started with Visit Scotland CEO Philip Riddell bringing a special bottle of 37 year old Famous Grouse whisky to auction off at the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.  By November, there was a photo exhibit at Scottish Parliament titled This Is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.  It featured many Canadians of Scottish ancestry including Todd Wong aka Toddish McWong, who is not Scottish, but hosts the largest Burns Supper in Vancouver.

Exhibit creator Harry McGrath invited Todd to come attend the Homecoming Scotland finale weekend events and attend the Closing Reception for the exhibition.

Todd decided in the last days to attend the event, and quickly invited his friends Quatchi, Miga and Sumi to visit Scotland with him.

They arrived in Scotland, late on Saturday night, November 29th  in Glasgow.  They traveled to Edinburgh and visited many Robert Burns displays in the museums – but had lots of fun at the Scottish Parliament reception on St. Andrew's Day.  After the reception finished, they retired to a pub called Jenny Ha's – but Todd had to return to do a radio interview back to Vancouver BC on CBC Radio.

These pictures are their adventures exploring Scotland from Nov 29th to Dec 5th., 2009.

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Sumi Quatchi and Miga are excited to travel on the airplane

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We are excited to see a Harry Potter train on the Welcome to Scotland sign

2009_Scotland_ThisIsWhoWeAre 111

Todd and Sumi pose for a picture with the Visit Scotland display at the Scottish Parliment.

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There is a life-size picture of “Toddish McWong” featured in the Culture section of the exhibit “This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada” at Scottish Parliament.  Sumi attends the closing night reception with Todd.

2009_Scotland_ThisIsWhoWeAre 095

Harry McGrath (the tall dapper feller) is the creator of the This Is Who We Are exhibit.  Todd and Sumi pose with Harry's brother, niece and sister-in-law.  Harry started off the project simply by taking photos of same-named places in both Scotland and Canada.  You can find the project at

2009_Scotland_ThisIsWhoWeAre 093

George Anderson is almost the only other fellow wearing a kilt (besidess Harry McGrath's brother-in-law and a junior piper).  Todd had originally insisted on wearing a kilt every day in Scotland.  But he quickly found out that many Scots don't have kilts, or only wear them for special occasions.  After a few days in the Scotland cold Todd started sneezing and went back to wearing his jeans for the trip to Ayreshire.

2009_Scotland_2 099

Sumi makes a new friend at Jenny Ha's pub, where we all head off to following the reception.

2009_Scotland3 021

Todd makes friends with a border collie and a black lab, beneath Arthur's Seat in Hollyrood Park.

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Todd visits the Telfer Wall – the old wall that used to surround Edinburgh city.

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Sumi finds a seat in the Telfer Wall, Edinburgh Castle is in the distant background.

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Sumi visits the pubs at The Grass Market.  Apparently this is where all the hen and stag parties happen, but we didn't see any animals.

2009_Scotland3 054

Finally!!!  A monument to an animal!  Sumi pays homage to the monument to Greyfriar's Bobby – the little Skye Terrier doggie that held a 14 year virgil, guarding his master's grave site, at the Greyfriar's kirkyard (church yard).

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Sumi visits the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.  He really liked this ancient picture of a boar.

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Todd went to The Vaults – Scotch Whisky Tasting Society, and drank Sumi, Quatchi and Miga under the table.  They refuse to allow any of the pictures from that night to be published.

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Sumi doesn't have as much as a hangover as the others, but still feels a bit green.  He does agree to take a picture beside his two favorite single malt scotches from the tastings. 

2009_Scotland4 034

Off to the Edinburgh Castle.  Sumi, Miga and Quatchi enjoy the view from the cafeteria.  It's a very cold day so Miga decides to stay indoors, especially since she is still suffering a hang-over from the night before.

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Sumi poses on a ancient cannon at Edinburgh Castle.

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Not to be outdone, Quatchi enjoys the view from a cannon at Edinburgh Castle too!

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After the castle visit, we go to the Scotch Whisky Experience and meet poet Robert Burns.  Quatchi and Sumi enjoy the poems of Burns, especially A Man's A Man For A' That, and To A Mouse.  Miga is feeling much better and can actually stand the sight of whisky again.  She excitedly seats herself on Robbie's shoulder.

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It's been a good day visiting Old Edinburgh.  Miga, Quatchi and Sumi enjoy the music and company at #1 High Street, at The Tass.

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Todd always seems to find accordions somewhere.  A whole bunch of local musicans meet at The Tass every Wednesday Night.  Todd and this fellow talked and talked about accordions and Robert Burns.

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Jennifer works at The Cafe Royal, the oldest and best Victoria pub in Edinburgh.  She is originally from Victoria BC, and was very happy to meet some fellow BCers.

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Sumi, Quatchi and Miga met some new friends including a Highland Cow, and a local named Teddy McBear.  They tried to help fit Quatchi with a kilt.  This was a great little shop at the Christmas fair at The Princes St. Park beside Waverly Train Station.

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Sarah is a student at University of Edinburgh.  She is originally from Singapore/Malaysia and spoke English the best of any other Asians that we met.  Probably because she grew up speaking English along with Malaysian and Chinese.

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We met Vicky at her father's hotel and restaurant in Ayr.  It's called the Glen Park Hotel with bar and restaurant.  Vicky actually lived in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighborhood for a year.

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We also went to the Two Dugs pub in Ayre.  Catherine was our bar server and she helped give us answers for that night's weekly Trivia Contest run by a fellow naed Pat.  Quatchi is emailing to Catherine.

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The Big Day!  We finally go visit Burns Cottage.  This is the birthplace of Robbie Burns just 250 years ago on January 25th 1759.  It is Burns' birth that is the inspiration for Homecoming Year Scotland.  The Alloway Post Office is in the background, across the street.

2009_Scotland6 082 click here for video
We were very lucky to have a short tour of the brand new renovated displays inside Burns Cottage with
Burns Heritage Park’s Manager Caroline Glenn.  The new displays at Burns Cottage opened to the public on Nov. 30th, St. Andrew's Day with a presentation by First Minister Alex Salmond (whom we saw at the This Is Who We Are reception).

Caroline Green says on the Burns Heritage Park website:
“The Living History school visits allow school children to get a real
sense of Robert Burns’ life and to hear expert commentary on his work.
It’s a pleasure to be able to continue to educate the public and Robert
Burns even 250 years after he was born and the new Robert Burns
Birthplace Museum will ensure that this tradition continues for many,
many years to come.”

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Inside the Burns Cottage gift shop, we made friends with “Rabbie Bearns” and his partner “Jean Armour”

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Sumi, Quatchi and Miga go to the Burns Monument Park and visit the Brig O'Doon – made famous in the Burns poem Tam O'Shanter.  It is on this bridge that Tam O'Shanter excapes the ghosts who can't catch him but only the tail of his grey mare.

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We discover a Chinese restaurant around the corner from the Burns statue in Ayr.  Todd immediately starts planning to create a future Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner for some time in the future.  The waiting staff is Caucasian – but the owner is Chinese from Northern China near Shanghai.  She tells Todd that for some reason, the Scots people don't seem to like eating seafood.  And they complain if you include the heads and tails of chicken, duck and fish on the plates.

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We hang out, while Todd speaks with the owner.  We can't stay for dinner because Todd forgot his passport in Edinburgh at the Cafe Royale, and we have to leave.

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On our last day of Scotland we have a traditional breakfast with marmalade. Todd remembers reading all about marmalade from books about Paddington the Bear.

Toddish McWong returns to Canada after 7 days in Scotland

Toddish McWong's inaugural 7 day visit to Scotland

I am now back in Canada.  It was an incredible learning experience for my first trip across the Atlantic to one of the most important cultural and historical ancestral homes for this country called Canada.  Canada is probably the most Scottish nations outside of Scotland.  Our first prime minister, many of our explorers, BC's first premier, Vancouver's first mayor – were all born in Scotland.

And yet… Scotland is a country that is learning from Canada.

My trip was initiated because a life-size picture and video-interview of me were used in the photo exhibit This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.  I have written about the exhibit here: Toddish McWong arrives in Scotland for inaugural visit and reception at Scottish Parliament for “This is Who We Are”

Here  are my pictures from the exhibit and the reception at the closing of the event on St. Andrew's Day

 Scotland - This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada

Scotland – This is Who We Are:…

Seven days were spent exploring the towns of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayr.  I attended the reception at Scottish Parliament for the exhibition This is Who We Are, and I explored Canada-Scottish historical connections at the National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle.

I also visited many exhibits about Scottish poet Robert Burns at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow's University of Glasgow, Burns Cottage in Alloway and the National Burns Historic Park, near Ayr.

Here are pictures from my 9 hour layover in Amsterdam, and my first two days exploring Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

Toddish McWong arrives in Scotland for inaugural visit and reception at Scottish Parliament for “This is Who We Are”

Toddish McWong goes to Scotland: attends reception at Scottish Parliament and does live radio interview back to CBC Radio Vancouver

2009_Scotland_ThisIsWhoWeAre 111 After hosting the annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner for 12 years to celebration Chinese-Canadian and Scottish-Canadian arts and culture, I finally made a visit to Scotland. 

This is my first ever trip to Scotland… and I almost didn't make it.

It's the year of Scotland Homecoming, celebrating the 250th Anniversary of poet Robert Burns, and the 2009 version of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner was one of the listed events of Burns Suppers around the world.  The Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner is the largest Burns Supper in Vancouver (550) and we were chosen as the only Burns Supper in Vancouver to auction off one of only 250 specially made bottles of 37 year old Famous Grouse whisky as part of the Scotland Homecoming celebrations.

Earlier this year, my photo was included in a web photo exhibit THIS IS WHO WE ARE, for Cultural Connect Scotland created by Harry McGrath – former director of the Centre for Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University.

2009_Scotland_ThisIsWhoWeAre 108Harry McGrath, Harry's brother-in-law and sister Gavin and Isabelle, Scottish minister of Justice Kenny MacAskill + Todd Wong – photo Todd Wong collection

On St. Andrew's Day, November 30th. There was a reception for a specially created version of photo and video THIS IS WHO WE ARE: Scots in Canada.  It is part of the finale events for Scotland Homecoming.  The event was co-hosted by First Minister Alex Salmond and Presiding Officers Alex Fergusson.

2009_Scotland_ThisIsWhoWeAre 077 Alex Salmond, Scottish First Minister quoting Scottish born John Buchan, Scottish writer and former Governor General:

“For Canada, in one sense is simply Scotland writ large. Since I came here a year ago, I have never suffered for one moment from homesickness.  I find pine forests and swift streams, and trout, and salmon, and mountains, which are Scotland on a grander scale; and I find in parts of the prairies, green rolling hills like my own Borders.” – John Buchan, the creator of the Governor Generals Literary Awards in 1937,
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In the exhibition, a lifesize picture of Todd Wong aka Toddish McWong is featured in the Culture section.

I think this photo is from the photo archives sessions we did for CBC television performance special “Gung Haggis Fat Choy”.  I was wearing the Royal Stuart tartan and holding the Chinese lion dance mask.

The reception at Scottish Parliament went well.  It was good to see
Harry McGrath – coordinator of the project again, along with his
photographer friend Graeme Murdoch.  They kept pulling me along to meet
their family members and some of the VIP dignataries such as:

  • Assistant High Commisioner of Canada, Claude Boucher – yes we spoke some french
  • Alex Fergussion MSP, Presiding Officer (Speaker of the House) – who co-hosted the event
  • Donald MacLeod of Victoria BC – who was a sponsor of the project

I met many other people such as:
a Canadian student in Edinburgh who's uncle in Coquitlam is proprietor of Roane's Top Quality Haggis
Calum Colvin – one of Edinburgh's top artists.
Linda Aberdeen, from Calgary, the organizer of Calgary Highland Games

I was introduced to the audience to good applause and as an example of cultural fusion, as an evolution and renewal of Scottish culture as it is shared and embraced by many people of different ethnicities.  It truly becomes an example of one of Robert Burns' most famous poems A Man's a Man for All That:

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

Hopefully, the exhibition can come tour
Canada and become a book with all the unused photos and video
interviews not used in the exhibition.

Stephen Quinn commented
on my “non-existant” Scottish accent. And to think I didna like or ken
Scots in Canada, when I was a wee bairn.

The reception finished at 8:30pm.

Pictures of the event are here on flickr:

Scotland - This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada

Scotland – This is Who We Are:…

After the reception, we next walked to Jenny Ha's Pub around the corner and up the street to celebrate and relax. 

But I had to go back to the Parliament building to do a radio interview back to CBC Radio One Vancouver for the ON THE COAST afternoon program with Stephen Quinn.  The phone reception was very good with no time delay.

Stephen asked me about my first visit to Scotland.  I replied it all feels somewhat familiar because I am finding street and place names that are the same such as Dundas St. or Buchanan St.  We talked a bit about the exhibition and how I had just met some Canadians here such as the organizer of the Calgary Highland Games and Chad – a student at the University of Edinburgh.  Chad wants to start a “Canadian Club” at the university and hopefully have a Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner event for his friends to help celebrated Canada's multicultural fusion and “Canadianess”

Stephen also asked me about my “sypathetic” Scottish accent.  Yes… I am trying my best to fit in.

I am wearing my kilt about town.  I am meeting other kilt wearers – two of whom are also on the “X Marks the Scot” web forum. 

I am meeting Asians in Scotland.  Mostly they are students at the universities.  But one woman is an teacher of architecture in Glasgow.  Other people run Chinese restaurants in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

More later….