Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Celebrating Robbie Burns, Scotland and the Celts

I have to confess that I don't have a drop of Scottish blood in me, but I'm married to someone whose great great grandfather was the 14th Kingairloch of Gairloch and whose great grandmother was Beatrice Lachan Mcclachan of McClachan. So I almost qualify to write this piece, don't I?

Tonight is Robbie Burns night when all good Scots around the world gather to eat Haggis, drink whiskey and recite Burns' poetry. Actually I think you have to be born Scots to enjoy the first bit. I'm told Haggis is really tasty but I can't get over the words 'sheep's entrails in a sheeps stomach". I know it's silly. If I can eat one part of an animal, I can eat any part. But it doesn't sound exactly appetizing, does it.

But the other bits--the whisky and the poetry and toasts to a homeland some of them left two hundred years ago--I can agree with those. As a fellow Celt and Welshperson I'm always amazed how much influence our small Celtic countries have had on the rest of the world. Carnegie and John Knox and Wesley and Tom Jones and Sir Walter Scott and Bryn Terfel! And the bridges that Scottish engineers have built (it was a Scot who designed the Golden Gate, wasn't it?) and the mines that Welsh miners have dug in far corners of the globe.

Wales, with its population of less than a million people, a country one hundred miles by fifty, has left its mark everywhere. If you are called Jones or Roberts or Davis or Powell or Williams or Evans your ancestors came from Wales. Unless you are African American, that is. Then I'm afraid you were named for the ship's captain that transported your ancestor in one of the slave ships and signed for his cargo in the New World--and those ships sailed out of Bristol and the captains were Welshmen.

That's a less than honorable fact to be remembered for. But we Scots and Welsh have so many things to celebrate and so here's to Robbie Burns and Scots Way hay, whatever that means!

If you'd like to know more about Burns Night from a great Scottish writer then jump on over to Jungle Red Writers ( and read Val McDermid's post there today.


  1. I would probably be described as an Anglophile by most people, however as I have actually spent much time in England and Wales, I was once described by former flame(a Londoner) as an honorary Brit. I assimilated very easily and have never had any interest in the touristy bits more the history and the people. As someone of a "mutt" heritage with the only British roots being a couple ancestors born to Russian/Romanian emigrants living in unknown parts England, I feel it is my duty to tell you to taste the Haggis! If you dwell upon it and think about the origins of a good British sausage(yum, mouth is watering now!), you will realize, that you have pretty much eaten a modernized and slimmer version of Haggis all your life. Just make sure it freshly made, because the canned Haggis is really SCARY looking!

  2. Interesting comment about Welsh surnames....I wondered if Lloyd, Foulkes, and Llewlyn (sp?) are also Welsh names?

    A friend's grandfather was born in Wales, but he does not have a Welsh name. Were there immigrants to Wales around 1901? Perhaps Wales was a stopping place on their way over to America?

    I am Scottish myself and have always enjoyed celebrating Robert Burns' birthday. Can I say I am Scottish even though I was born in the USA and am a 4th generation American?

    Thank you for writing about Robert Burns Day!