A Review of RDYC Robbie Burns’ Evening, Saturday 20th January,

by Jude Brooks

This time, it was the call of the bagpipes to dinner a few Saturdays ago for the annual Burns’ Night. 

Kilted and booted (with a few artfully arranged tartan travel rugs), many of the magnificent MacRDYC clans assembled for an evening of food and entertainment to celebrate the birthday of the Romantic Scottish Bard, Robbie Burns. 

We Highland Flung after pied piper, David Macdonald up to the Quarter Deck; before Alison Banford set the tone for the proceedings with the Selkirk Grace: “Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it.” Amen.

To the untrained ear, it might sound vaguely distasteful, but the Cullen Skink starter was slinky subtle delicious.

As salty as the sea, this soup of smoked haddock aplenty was the best of sensual slow cooking. As rousing as a stormy sea and as soothing as a moderate. The watercress dressing added a verdant vividness. The hope of green shoots in the midst of winter and the accompanying rye bread was sturdy satisfying substantial.

A pleasing opening stanza.

Up next, was the traditional Address to a Haggis led by David, our piper, with spectacular aplomb. Many a Romantic poet has contemplated a thing of beauty. Take John Keats with the nightingale and my favourite, the Grecian Urn, and autumn, of course. But perhaps Robbie Burns’ ode to the haggis stands out for different reasons.

With gusty glee, David bore the cooked beastie aloft, and at times, given the slight language barrier, it was not entirely clear if he was honouring it or hating it. “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin’ race.” In fact, this tantalising timbale on our plate was not to be confused with a portion of not-quite-forgotten Christmas pudding in appearance. But if you closed your mind to the gory details of a haggis, the light, peppery, oatmeal savoury dish was very moreish. Besides, I think food should relish a bit of mystery from time to time.

Partnered with the traditionally humble neeps and tatties, beautifully silky and earthy, they complemented the rich star of the show. Perfect for a wintry January evening. Then with typical RDYC generosity, there was a flourish of further veg, bringing brightness to the meal. Spring-inspired mangetout, green beans and chunks of luminous orange carrot nestled with cauliflower. I could have penned a few poetic lines about this perfect poem of veg.

It was the Mini Scottish Trio pudding that was poetry in motion for me. I like a trio. It tells of the chef’s imagination and playfulness and I like to think, culinary enthusiasm. Especially when there is foodie tradition to be played with. Served in a cup, the first of the trinity, was Cranachan. Textured and tasty: cream, raspberries, honey, whisky and more hardy Scottish oatmeal. From the Gaelic for churn, Cranachan is traditionally a celebration of the harvest in Scotland of the first crop of raspberries (albeit in June).

Secondly, the whisky sour sorbet was served in a bijou pot. Refreshing after the richness of the meal with the tell-tale whisky winking at the bottom of the pot. A joyous kick of naughtiness. To complete the trio, the salted caramel shortbread was pure genius. Two slender circles of buttery shortbread sandwiched with a generous dash of salted caramel. Closing my eyes, I was transported to Brittany and those utterly-butterly luxuriously rich biscuits that you need to eat slowly.

Magic on the plate and in my mouth.

Accompanied by a dram of warmed whisky and marshmallow liqueur (a début for me) for the toasts. Hic!

If you have ever heard Richard Rawlins speak, whether way back in his early days as a medical student or latterly at a show or event, you will know that he is a true performer. It was Richard’s role with all the mischievousness of Robbie Burns himself, to lead the Toast tae the Lassies.

Related to the great Scottish Bard no less, through his Scottish maternal grandfather, Richard bears the middle name of Duddingston after the Loch outside Edinburgh. Even if you will probably know that Robbie Burns hailed from Ayrshire. But you might also probably know that he got around a lot – if perhaps not always in the geographical sense, as Richard was about to inform us. Regaling us with tales of Mr Burns’ appreciation of women, Richard reminded us that as well as writing lots of poems, he also fathered 12 (confirmed) children with at least five different women before his untimely death in 1796 at the age of 37.

For all that Scotland’s top poet Robbie Burns was a rascal, or perhaps because of it, he still leaves some of the lingeringly loveliest lines of poetry for us to enjoy and celebrate;

To see her is to love her,

And love but her for ever;

For Nature made her what she is

And never made anither.”

Rosemary Tomison led the Toast tae the Laddies with an amusing rendition of “The Twa Sailors.” A celebration of the Ladies Afloat and Boys in Boats having fun on the water. Read with her best Miss Jean Brodie accent (and certainly not affected for the evening’s entertainment), it added to the authentic flavour of the evening. In rhyming couplets, the poem told how Jeannie joined Bert and Rob with tales of adventure on the water:

“They had both tried tae win oor Jeannie’s heart

As she really is a work of art

And although their charm she did adore

Alas in future she was stay ashore.”

With a wise finale and in remembering the purpose of the evening’s celebration with a nod to the Scottish Bard:

“Now tae all the lassies

Let’s join Jean and raise our glasses

And in the words of our most famous bard

Tis really not very hard

Tae forget men’s foibles and remember that

A Man’s a Man for all that

We love them dearly – Rob, Bert and all the laddies.”

It was a bonny wee evening of entertainment and fine food hosted by our Commodore, Colin MacBower and we thank Mark for his superlatively scrumptious dinner and Victoria and the team for looking after us. Thank you also of course to the evening’s entertainers, David, Alison, Richard and Rosemary.

The elegiac vibe continued down in the bar with a cheering buzz celebrating all that is graceful about good company and food on an evening well spent. I was even inspired to pen a poem. But I will hope instead to satisfy your poetic appetites with this lyrical review.

By Jude Brooks

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