Members of the Ormskirk and Bootle Group of Lodges and Chapters together with wives and friends enjoyed a magnificent Burns Night Supper at the Ormskirk Masonic Hall in celebration of the life and poetry of Scotland’s favourite son Robbie Burns.
Burns, born in 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire is generally acknowledged as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated for his work around the world. Robbie Burns was a Freemason, initiated into Lodge St David, Tarbolton on 4 July 1781, at the age of 23; incidentally his initiation fee was 12s 6d; how times have changed.
The supper is traditionally held to celebrate the poet’s birthday, which falls on 25 January. The format for Burns Suppers has changed little over the past 215 years since the first was held in The Mother Club in Greenock in 1802.
The guests enjoyed a warm mulled wine as a pre-dinner drink, following which they took their places in the dining room to be welcomed by Stewart Cranage, Ormskirk and Bootle Group Treasurer, who had organised the evening with the help of his wife Wendy. This was immediately followed by stirring pipe music played by Phil McConnell.
Phil has played the bagpipes for over 50 years; and as a member of the Royal Artillery army pipe band in Liverpool, has played the pipes on Horse Guards Parade in the presence of the Royal Family.
Once everyone was seated, the ‘Selkirk Grace’ was given by Stewart and the starter of cock-a-leekie soup was served. Once these bowls were cleared away, the drone of the pipes could once again be heard and the guests stood to receive the ‘Chieftain of the Pudding Race’.
In the age old tradition the haggis was ceremoniously piped into the room by Phil followed by Mike Dutton; with Alex and Helen two of the hall’s excellent waitresses. They had the honour of carrying the beast suitably prepared to the table on a silver tray; whilst the guests clapped in tune with the piper. Mike in fine voice then gave the traditional ‘address to the haggis’. Mike, a member of Lathom Abbey Lodge No 6286, was resplendent in full Scottish regalia, proudly displaying the square and compass on his sporran.
The address written in 1786 consists of eight verses and starts with “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race! Aboon them a’ yet tak your place, Painch, tripe or thairm: Weel are ye wordy o’a grace, As lang’s my arm.” During the address Mike took out his dirk and cut and slashed into the haggis, then the beast was toasted with a single malt whisky with much applause and a rousing cheer from everyone.
Following this, the haggis, neeps and tatties were enjoyed as a separate course. There was then a main course of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and panache of vegetables and to finish, the traditional Scottish dessert of Cranachan. This delicious meal was rounded off with coffee, tea and mints.
The evening which was full of fun, laughter and camaraderie continued with a recital of two of the bards poems performed by Chris Lock and Ian Tupling (a member of Aughton Lodge No 7996) followed by a song entitled ‘Burns, a song composed in August’ better known as ‘Westlin Winds’ beautifully performed by the couple in the style of a cappella. This talented duo sing under the name of ‘LocTup Together’ and are regularly invited to sing at folk concerts and festivals all over the UK and in Europe.
The evening’s entertainment continued in the very capable hands of versatile vocalist Richie Craig whose warm dulcet tones filled the room to everyone’s delight. Richie is a member of Fermor Hesketh Lodge No 1350 and he regularly performs under the stage name Richie Gale; a very well respected entertainer throughout the North West.
A raffle with prizes donated by guests raised £215 for the MCF 2021 Festival and was the first group event in support of the Tercentenary. Frank Umbers Ormskirk and Bootle Group Chairman took the opportunity of thanking everyone for their generosity and support. Stewart in turn gave thanks to Gary O’Brien and his staff for an excellent meal and professional service.
The evening continued with dancing once again to the lilting voice of Richie; concluding a superb evening with everyone dancing to his traditional last song ‘Best of Friends.’
Article and photographs by Barry Hewitt.