Recommended Robert Burns poems for Celtic Fest “Battle of the Bards”


Modeled after the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, but with a “Vancouver Twist”… Battle of the Bards is a unique Steve Duncan creation for the Vancouver Celtic Fest.  Three actors will play poets W.B. Yeats, Dylan Thomas and Robert Burns (with me – Toddish McWong as Burns). 

We will go on a pub crawl reciting poetry to (un)suspecting patrons starting at Doolin's Irish Pub at 5:30pm.  Then we will go to Atlantic Trap and Gill for 6:05.  Johnny Fox's Irish Snug at 6:45.  Then the finale at Ceili's Irish Pub and Restaurant for 8pm, where we will be accompanied by a DJ and a celtic fiddler.

The judging will be done by Audience members holding up numbers, and I hope an applause meter.

Robert Burns
Last week on Wednesday, I went to visit the Robert Burns statue in Stanley Park.  It was my first visit since visiting as a child, when my father used to take me and my younger brother for regular outings to Stanley Park.  This stature is located near the park entrance, across from the Vancouver Rowing Club.

Not being a complete expert or scholar on Robert Burns, I asked my friends in the Burns Club of Vancouver, as well as Ron MacLeod, Chair of the Scottish Cultural Studies program at Simon Fraser University for advice.  They readily obliged:

The mind boggles at the thought of this event. Celtic poets could cause
a fight on the moon. Watch out for Celtic passions. Burns had many
poems of a nature pertinent to this event . If you wish to concentrate
on wine and women, then  give consideration to “Ae fond kiss”, “The
Belles of Mauchline”, “O’ a’ the airts the wind can blaw” “Mary
Morrison”, “Willie Wastle”( completely NPC), “Scotch drink”

Good Crawlin”


From Dr. Ian Mason

brewed a peck of maut” would be one of the more famous of his drinking songs but
it so replete with Lalland words (i.e. the old language of the Scottish borders)
that it might be nigh near impenetrable to your average

 “John Barleycorn. A Ballad” a fifteen
verse parable of the invention of Scotch would be much more accessible but
might be a bit long.

As a compromise I have attached the peroration from
his cantata “Love and Liberty” as being both brief, stirring and to your
point.  'Budgets, Bags and Wallets' are all alternate
names for purses or cases. “Brats' are offspring while 'Callets' and
'doxies' can both be read as wenches.  Those, I think, are the only
unusual words

From Ron MacLeod:

Todd, my hope and expectation is that you will be in good 
singing voice, well lubricated with the precious dew.
Here are three songs that you might consider:
The Deil's Awa' W' Th' Excise Man (first choice)
Rantin' Rovin' Robin
Guide Ale Keeps the Heart Aboon
or perhaps, 

There’s cauld kail in Aberdeen

An’ custocks in Stra’bogie

Where ilka lad main hae his lass,

But I main hae my coggie.

For I main hae my coggie, sirs,

I canna want my coggie;

I wadna gie my three-girred cog

For a’ the wives in Bogie.

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