Toddish McWong's “Robert Burns” wins Battle of the Bards at Celtic Fest

The Battle of the Bards was the birth of a new Celtic Fest tradition.

Slam poetry face-off with Robert Burns, Dylan Thomas and William Butler Yeats!

Three actors playing W.B. Yeats, Dylan Thomas and Robert Burns traveled from Irish pub to Irish pub reading poetry, in a Poetry Slam styled contest.  It was the Battle of the Bards literary pub crawl on Thursday March 13th.  Four Irish pubs. Three Celtic poets.  One winner.

Robert Burns was played by Todd Wong aka Toddish McWong, known for hosting Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year events.

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William Butler Yeats was played by actor/musician Mark Downey.

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Dylan Thomas was played by actor Damon Calderwood, who has actually played the Welsh poet in a one person play titled “Dylan.”

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The event was hosted by Ravishing Rhonda and produced by Steve Duncan.

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Robert Burns/Todd Wong took an early lead at Doolin's

but fell into 3rd and last place at The Atlantic Trap and Gill, where Yeats took the lead.

At Johnny Fox's Irish Snug…  the score was Yeats 76.5

with Dylan Thomas and Robert Burns tied at 75.5

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For the Finale at Ceili's Irish Bar,
we pulled out the stops as we were accompanied by a DJ and a celtic fiddler

Dylan Thomas went first – but the DJ and fiddler didn't seem to know what to do with “the barking poet.” They finally found their way, as Thomas recanted quotes to the audience and read Thomas' most famous poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

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Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

WB Yeats went second and sang a song about the
The Fiddler of Dooney, and closed with a poem about the fairies of Ireland: The Man Who Dreamed of Faeryland

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HE stood among a crowd at Dromahair;
His heart hung all upon a silken dress,
And he had known at last some tenderness,
Before earth took him to her stony care;
But when a man poured fish into a pile,
It Seemed they raised their little silver heads,
And sang what gold morning or evening sheds
Upon a woven world-forgotten isle
Where people love beside the ravelled seas;
That Time can never mar a lover's vows
Under that woven changeless roof of boughs:
The singing shook him out of his new ease.

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I opened with chatting about waking up this morning, and finding myself
in the body of a Chinese….  but quickly learned that I was blessed as
Toddish McWong organizes one of the largest Burns Suppers in North
America… in my honour!

I talked about the Robert Burns Statue in Stanley Park, and how it was
dedicated by the Burns Society for all peoples, race and creed.  and
read a few verses from For A' That and A'That, and that the very words
on the statue are inscribed:

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
hat sense and worth, o'er a' the earth…
It's coming yet, for a' that,
That man to man, the warld o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

I read a poem about a bottle being a guid friend….

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Then I invited the DJ to give me some beats, and the fiddler to play a lovely tune.
then said in rapping rhyme…
My luv, My luv, I luv my luvly lady luv” (to the tune of the Black Eyed Peas song, My Humps.  The audience “got it” and so, I rapped…

O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June;
O my Luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry:

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Then I invited some lovely lassies to come and be my back up singers…. Georgia is one of our Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat paddlers.  Masifa is a journalism student at Langara, that I had just met at the reading we gave at Jonny Fox's Irish Snug, and we included Ravishing Rhonda.

We rapped “Address to a Haggis” with the crowd participating as I repeated the last word of each verse, twice:

“As langs my arm”

“Like Amber Bead”

“Warm reekin' rich….”

“Give her a haggis.”

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For my finale…

I told them that I was going to read a poem, that I was sure they had
all heard in their lifetimes… as surely as it has survived my
own lifetime.  I would read the verses first, then  and invite them all to
sing the chorus with me.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stoup,
And surely I'll be mine;
And we'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit,
Sin' auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,

Frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar'd.

Sin' auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!

And gie's a hand o' thine!

And we'll tak' a right gud-wellie waught,

For auld lang syne.

Then I started to sing… and invited the audience to join in with me.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

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And when the voting was tallied… the scores were still… ever so close.

Dylan Thomas was third.

W.B. Yeats was second.

And by a single point….

Robert Burns was first.

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It was a lovely evening.  All the performers were outstanding.  Mark
Downey as Yeats.  Damon Calderwood as Thomas.  Ravishing Rhonda as our
host.  Michael Louw our DJ and Elise Boer our celtic fiddler.  Special
thanks to Steven Duncan who produced and created this event –
The Battle of the Bards

A video for Novus television was shot, and it should be up on You Tube shortly…. stay tuned for some photographs from the event.

More pictures taken by Deb Martin can be seen at

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