Uncommon Mischief at SFU – No Burns ceremony for Scottish and scholastic tradition

250th Anniversary of the birth of
Scottish poet Robert Burns celebrated January 25th, 2009, at the Burns statue in Vancouver's
Stanley Park.  The ceremony was organized by Todd Wong, creator of Gung
Haggis Fat Choy, and Dr. Leith Davis, director of Centre for Scottish
Studies SFU. 

Dr. Davis created a virtual wreath laying with cities around the world
that also had Burns statues. She had just arrived from a week in
Scotland, and her first destination from the airport was the Burns
statue.  My role was inviting pipers, and Burns Club members to recite
poetry and sing Burns songs.  Three national tv news cameras attended the ceremony.

Also attending were members of the Burns Club of Vancouver,
bagpipers were Allan & Trish McMordie from the J.P. Fell Pipe Band
of North Vancouver. Ron Macleod, author of the article below stands in
front of bagpiper Allan McMordie on the right of the statue. – photo T.Wong collection – photo T.Wong collection


By Ron
MacLeod (by special permission)

It has been the custom for many years at Simon Fraser
University to celebrate the birth of Scotland’s Bard, Robert Burns, in a
way. The chosen way was to bring the Bard to the SFU community of
faculty and
students. A couple of staff members, volunteer students and a guest or
would move about the Burnaby campus, stopping here and there along the
way to
enlighten faculty and students about a Scottish love affair with a Poet,
less. An SFU student would lead the way with his pipes, and as they
stopped at
suitable sites where people could congregate, a cafeteria or a hallway
niche, for example, a Burns poem or a short address on some
aspect of the Poet’s genius would entertain and enrich. A feature of
each stop
would be a recitation of Burns’ comical poem, Address to the Haggis. A
taste of
haggis would be passed to the unwary and thus entrap them in a life-long
craving for this Scottish soul food. In more recent years this ‘parading
of the
haggis’ was extended to the Vancouver and Surrey campuses.

After so many years that few, if any, can recall the onset
of this unique celebration, in 2011 it came to a sudden stop. Not by choice but
by edict. What was the rational? Cost? It couldn’t be cost since the only real
outlay was the cost of two or three haggis and the time of a couple of staff

On the face of it, the edict runs counter to the founding
spirit as cast in the following words, “Simon
Fraser University reflects, in many respects, the Scottish heritage implicit in
its name. Its symbol is a claymore donated by Lord Lovat, Chief of Clan Fraser.
The name of the University has been proudly carried by the SFU Pipe Band to the
homeland of the Frasers on many occasions, to the extent that almost anyone in
Scotland will know of Simon Fraser University. Finally, of central importance
is the existence at SFU of a strong core of faculty from several disciplines
who engage with Scottish studies in their research. There is an ‘elective
affinity’, then, between this university and Scotland”.

The edict also challenges the vision expressed by the new
President, Andrew Petter, that SFU should be “student centred, research driven
and community engaged.” Community engagement and student enlightenment for long
have been a purpose of the mobile celebration of Burns. Too few students and
faculty are aware of the ‘elective affinity’ noted above.

One can only hope that once settled into his new
responsibilities, President Petter might reflect on this matter and, wisely,
correct what appears to be a decision out of step with the spirit of Simon
Fraser University. However, in taking up his new responsibilities, President
Petter may be in overload status; issues such as terminating the University’s
mobile  Burn celebration could well
pass under his radar.

The issue may be more important than one might normally
assume. A question remains. Is this a first step in eroding the ‘elective
affinity’ of which all Scots are so proud? Who knows? It is important to get an
answer to the question. The best answer will be the rebirth of the celebration
in 2012.

If your internal warning signals are buzzing, send an email to ScottishExpress@businesscentresolutions.com

or Ron MacLeod jrmacleod@telus.net to compile your responses for delivery to President Petter.


It was in 1993, that SFU student Todd Wong was asked to help carry the haggis for the Burns ceremony.  It was a simple ceremony. There was a student bagpiper, a history student to carry the haggis, which she was glad to do because her grandmother made her own haggis.  I carried the claymore, a scottish broadsword that had seen battle on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec, and also at the Battle of Culloden in Scotland.  First we walked to a private room, where incoming president John Stubbs met with outgoing president Bill Saywell.  Mr. Stubbs remarked that on his plane trip, he had read a story in the media about SFU student Toddish McWong participating in his first Burns ceremony. We walked to the main cafeteria to present the haggis.  I can't remember if anybody recited the Address to the Haggis, it would have been my first time hearing it.  And that was it.  Simple.  Price of the haggis – $5.  Cost or the event: Priceless.

Here is my blog stories about No Haggis at SFU:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

− three = 2