Celebrating Burns Night

Sam Turner and Charles Smith
Sam Turner (left) and Charles Smith (right) enjoy Burns Night while Smith is in traditional Highland dress. (photo by Sam Turner)

By Sam Turner |
Staff Writer


The sound of Great Highland bagpipes filled the air as St. Andrews Society members welcomed guests inside Newberry Hall in downtown Aiken for the 20th annual Burns Supper on Saturday, Jan. 25.

Members of the St. Andrews Society of Aiken (SASA) gathered with friends and special guests for a formal evening of traditional Scottish music, fare and, of course, lots of whisky. After a three-course dinner was served, the evening continued with many festivities honoring the eighteenth-century Scottish poet, Robert Burns. The night included toasts to the Queen, military and most notably, a toast to the immortal memory of Burns.

The Piper Jones Band provided tunes in both English and Scottish Gaelic along with a  special Scottish dance set performed by Brynn Brown accompanied by EJ Jones on the pipes. The St. Andrews Society also welcomed guest musicians from the Augusta University Music Department to perform the national anthems of Great Britain, Canada and the United States. The de facto anthem of Scotland, Flower of Scotland, concluded the national honors.

Charles Smith, society member, remembered Burns by giving a toast to his immortal memory. The toast to the immortal memory was started by the friends of Burns, who started this tradition after his death in 1796. The immortal memory toast usually gives a brief history of Robert Burns’ life and a toast to his accomplishments.

“An immortal memory toast is typically a brief biography of Burns, such as what he contributed to literature and music, peppered with quotes from his poetry, allusions to drinking whisky and mild chauvinism,” Smith explained.

“I’ve been with the Society for about six months, and while this is my first time giving the immortal memory for SASA, it’s not my first time giving the immortal memory toast. I’ve also given a toast to the lassies on a couple of occasions with the Aiken Single Malt Society.”

A Burns Supper is nothing short of Scottish pageantry. Traditionally, Burns Night is celebrated on or near Jan. 25, the birth date of Robert Burns. There is a parade of Tartans, fabric representing each clan in the Society, a procession of the haggis and even a special address to the haggis following the procession of the national honors.

Throughout the dinner portion of the evening, there are several toasts that are traditionally proposed. A toast to the Lassies and a toast to the Laddies, usually one responding to the other, are exchanged between the couple giving the toasts, and are responded to by both lady and gentlemen guests respectively as a token of love and appreciation.

The night concluded with a silent auction, a sword raffle and the singing of “Auld Lang Syne.” No matter the heritage of a guest, everyone is Scottish for one night.

“Here’s a bottle and an honest friend!  

What wad ye wish for mair, man?  

Wha kens, before his life may end,  

what his share may be o’ care man? 

Then catch the moments as they fly, 

And use them as ye ought, man: 

Believe me, happiness is shy, 

And comes not aye when sought, man.”  

-Robert Burns


Contact Sam Turner at SATURNER@augusta.edu