The Banff and Buchan Collection

close window to return to index

Tape 1994.002 transcription

Word Search page:
      PC Control+F
Mac Command+F

Enjoyed your meal, and em, ?? [Laughs.] We'll now carry on with our evening, and I'd like to introduce to you for the immortal memory tonight, Mr Bill Peat.


[BP] Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen. First I would thank you Mr Chairman for your very kind invitation. I have enjoyed very warm and generous hospitality, and I'm honoured that eh, I've been allowed to speak to and to propose this very important toast. When this morning, and it was only this morning, I was mulling over what I might say to you, I got to thinking of the similarities in the character of Burns and the character of the folk of the North East and I was particularly thinking of the trait whereby both Burns and we love to put poser's gas at a peep. Don't we? Ye canna get away with murder up here, you've got to have substance to back up what you are saying. A man's a man for a' that. The outward veneer doesn't matter at all, does it? And folk are like that in the North East too. A friend of mine, indeed a native of this very village, some years ago told me that a man's reputation in this area, he was perhaps speaking of just a few years back, but he said that a man's reputation depended on the number o tackits in his beets, and the volume of the report when he passed wind.

Now my friend, no doubt he was being partially jocular, there's no doubt about that, but I think there was a wee bit o seriousness in the story as well. And I'm sure too that Burns would very much be in tune with the dry whimsical humour that is characteristic of our corner. I think he would like the story of the village loon who set off to work on the neighbouring farm, his first, his very first morning starting as an orra loon. And before he left the house, his mother made up a piece til him, she cut twa slices o loaf, larded it wi butter and a fair dad o moose-trap cheese in atween. And off he went for his day's work. And when he came back at the end o the day his mither said 'well, son, foo did ye get on the day than?'. He says 'Oh, mither', he says, 'the work' he says, 'it's affa affa hard'. He says, 'but it warna that', he says, 'I wis affa hungry', he says, 'could ye nae gie me a bigger piece the morn?'. So this was duly done, the following morning she cut four slices of bread, buttered them and put cheese in between. When he came home at the end of the second day, the usual question was asked, foo did ye get on the day then? He says, 'well', he says, 'the day wisnae quite sae bad as yesterday', he says, ' but I'm still hungry mither, can ye mebbe gie me a bittie mair the morn?'. So the following morning she cut no less than eight slices of bread, spread them with butter, cheese in between and sent him off for his day's work at the farm. Well at the end of that day, yes, the work was just getting a bit better, 'but mother' he said, 'I was still jist a mite hungry ye ken, I jist wisnae full up a the gither. And the mannie's he's a course kinda mannie, he says, ye dinna get a lot o meat fae him, so mebbe the morn could ye jist gie me a wee bittie mair tae ate'. So the following morning she took the loaf of bread, and a bread knife, she cut it lengthways, she clarted on the butter, put a hale pun o cheese in atween and off he went to his work. And when he came home at the end of the day, she asked him 'Well ma loon, how did you get on the day at your work'. He says, 'well mother, ye ken is, he says, I think I'm going to manage is, come time I'm going to manage. he says, but there's jist ay think, I wis jist winderin why ye put me back on to twa slices. [Laughs.]

And, my musings this morning as I say, I got to thinking, you know there's a gey lot of myths associated with Scots and Burns evenings and I thought well, just by way of change, lets just kill off some of these myths. The first myth is that Scots people read and understand the work of Robert Burns. Absolute nonsense. Absolute nonsense. You know I can just imagine BBC Scotland's Christine Jardine just outside the door, in the square there, with a roving microphone in her hand. And she stops, the 25th January and she stops Jimmy and she says, 'excuse me sir, you do know whose birthday it is today? He says, aye aye, it's Robbie Burns'. She says, can you recite any of Burns poetry? He says, aye, aye, I'll gie ye 'To a Mouse'. She says, oh that's excellent, and away he goes, and he says 'Wee sleekit cowerin, timorous beastie, o what a panic's in they breastie', eh, eh, I canna min the rest o it'. [Laughs.] So she wanders round the square and she stops a middle age lady, and she asks the same question, you know whose birthday this is, oh aye, it's Rabbie Burns birthday. Can you remember any of the poetry that you learned as a girl at school. She said, aye, I can min 'To a Haggis'. Christine says, that's absolutely wonderful, could you recite a little bit of it for us? She says aye, She said, it gings like is, 'Fair fire on a sonsie face, great chieftain o the puddin race, aboon them a ye tak yer place, eh, eh, I canna min the rest o it.

I rest my case. And just to hammer that point home, you know the Scots are anything but good at singing Auld Lang Syne. Correct? Now am I just being a pernickity aul grumpy mannie, a retired dominie? Or you know have I got something. Is it not just as easy to sing the words correctly as it is to sing them ??? Or am I being pernickity. I don't know, I'll let you be the judge, but I hate when it's sung wrongly, because it's just as easy to sing it correctly. But we Scots are dreadful, we are the world's worst at singing not just our own song of parting, an international song of parting, the one song, if Burn had written nothing else, if he'd written nothing but Auld Lang Syne his place would have been assured, he'd a been immortal. And I'm saying, you know please get it right, can we please sing it correctly.

Myth two. Scots people in their thousands attend celebrations like this every year. Absolute rubbish. I did a wee calculation, give and take a few here and there, it's something like 3% of the population of Scotland will attend a function like this, three out of every hundred, it's not more. And, furthermore, haggis is not our national dish. You know that, our national dish, the elevated position is held by! THE FISH SUPPER! Or, I'm an old fogey, I say it's a fish supper, but my son would say dad at's rubbish, it's lasagne, or pizza, or goulash, or chicken kiev. [Laughs.] Then I got to thinking, this happens in our house when we are entertaining too, and I'm sure it happens in your house. So this remark is addressed to the ladies, when we are entertaining or having folk now for a meal or going out with friends for a meal, it is no longer acceptable to serve mince and mealie and tatties. [Laughs.] No, no, no, no, you've got to drown the mince in a sauce, you've got to disguise the taste completely! And you can't serve Scotch Broth as a first course when you are entertaining anymore, no, no! It's celery and Stilton, carrot and coriander, (Laughs), and yon French Onion soup, no I love French Onion soup, I love making it, boastingly he said. I love making soups. But when I go to a hotel and you get French Onion soup and you get that great slice of sappy loaf floatin on the top wi cheese on, like a plate o saps! [Laughs.] Fit's wrang wi hae'in broth? What is wrang wi Scotch Broth!! And Scotch trifle to finish. And the sweets are just as bad aren't they? You canna serve Scotch trifle, it's got to be fancy this and fancy that, and fancy yon, and ye dinna get away wi servin one sweet now when you're entertaining. It's got to be five cold sweets out on the table! [Laughs.] How on earth this happened to us? Have I not hit a chord there, am I not speakin a wee bit o truth, I mean my home can't be an exception.

Okay, let's think about the kilt. Yes, we have to admit that the kilt is worn by a few citizens of Edinburgh, a few more in Perthshire, and a few ex-patriots from your country, New Zealand and Canada. And as for tartan, it's most readily seen around the rugby supporters scarves around their necks and on their heads as tammies, and on their beer cans that ?? in their carryouts. So at this point ladies and gentlemen, will all the gentlemen who are wearing the kilt please stand, I'm not going to ask you to do anything but stand, (chairs moving). Will you please give these very well dressed gentlemen a round of applause. Applause.

I think at's a kilt I'm wearing.

As for our national dances the majority of Scots will be quite happy to go to their grave without ever getting involved in a reel, be it foursome, eightsome, or otherwise. Indeed, the only foursome that a Scot is interested in Charlie, is that which is played on a golf course. [Laughs.]

And finally, let's kill this myth about whisky. Scots and whisky. Whisky is not the national drink that it was. And contrary to what many foreign people think we Scots do not drink it neat. In fact there are countless thousands who absolutely drown it with lemonade. You know anybody who does that, to me in my mind, they don't like the taste of whisky! They can't ! If they want to absolutely drown it and fill the glass with lemonade. To hammer that one home, I have a friend who used to be a ?? barman, many years ago, and he said that sometimes people would come into the pub, and not ask for a whisky and coke, can you imagine anything more revolting, coca cola mixed with whisky, they didn't come in and ask for whisky and coke, they come in and ask for their whisky by name. So it was 'Bells and coke', 'Grouse and a coke'. I ask you! [Laughs.] What a pallette, they can discern between
Bells or Grouse or Dewars when they pour a can of coke into the glass.

So much for some of the Scottish myths. Where are we going? What are we doing? Let's hold on to the good bits. And then I thought, what on earth would Burns think of it all, what would he make of it. And firstly I thought of the long winded speakers, of which I am not one! [Laughs.] Ye'll no be saying at at ten o'clock. Well I thought of the long-winded speakers, and Charlie and I have been at an awful lot of Burns suppers over the last thirty years, aye, more, but I've been with Charlie at Burns suppers for thirty years or more. And we've suffered you know, these long winded speakers, who absolutely drown their audience with a history lecture, a history lecture is what you get from them. You know them well, you've been to Burns suppers and suffered. In a most serious vein they start off 'Robert Burns was born in the midst of a storm on the 25 January 1759 in the town of Alloway'. And every detail of the man's life is meticulously chronicled, culminating with his untimely death at the age of 37 on the 21 July 1796 in the town of Dumfries. Oh my God, what a bore it is. It's almost at the level, isn't it, you get it almost at the level of 'and on Tuesday 13 March 1784 he hid kale broth for his denner'. [Laughs.] 'And three weeks later he changed his nightshirt'. It's almost at that level. You know, do you honestly believe that a man with a passion for life that Burns had would have meekly sat through such a boring ordeal. I suspect not ladies and gentlemen, he'd a been out the door lang afore the mannie was finished. And equally, what do you think he would make of those erudite academics, you know the Professor of English who comes to the immortal memory of your club. Well what did Burns think of these erudite academics, who presume to pontificate on, and analyse the content of his work to a depth which certainly Burns never intended! I put it to you that speakers in these two categories I've mentioned miss the most important point of this supper, namely that it should be celebration, and just like a ither good heidmaisters, I'm great at delegating some work, and at this bittie, I'm going to ask either Vera or Fred to sing one song, because I think that celebration for me is either through music or singing, and I was introduced to Burns suppers so, just as a wee change, could either Fred or one or the other, sing. And can you maybe lead us and can we mebbe get to sing a bit as well? Will you let us sing a verse. Well we'll take it from you.

Is there for honest Poverty
That hangs his head, and a' that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, and a' that.
???? an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

For though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, and a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, and a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, and a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man of independent mind
He looks an' (Laughs) at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and a' that;
But an honest man's aboon his might,
Guid faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, and a' that,
Their dignities and a' that;
The pith o' sense, and pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That sense and worth, o'er a' the earth,
May bear the gree, and a' that.
For a' that, and a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.


[BP] Thanks very much indeed for helping there. Audience participation is an essential ingredient in any Burns annual ??? If I can move on to another facet of Burns personality, his character. I think you know that he could socialise and be completely at ease at a very formal dinner party with an ability, and eh, be called upon to give an extemporary grace, as he did so in the Earl of Selkirk's company, and although he could more than hold his own with the academics of his time, and in particular the so called literati of Edinburgh, my contention is that with all these people he was only putting on an act for the occasion. So from that, it seems reasonable to deduce that a Burns supper shouldn't be exclusive. There's no place for elitisim at a Burns evening, absolutely none. I like to think he would
enjoy an evening here in our company. I think he would approve of an occasion where there is plenty to eat, and there has been, and plenty to drink, and there is if we wish. And another point which I think needs to be made is that Burns would certainly approve of suppers which are characterised by good humoured fun, and I think that will be evident as the evening wears on. He didn't take himself too seriously you know, and he certainly doesn't want us to do so. As I said right at the beginning, he just loves putting a poser's gas at a peep.

[BP] Charlie Kelman's address to the haggis, what Burns really thought of the food and wine snobs of his day, and in this case they just happened to be French. He was having a go at the French and the wine snobs. But I think we would have to admit wouldn't we, there are plenty of food and wine snobs around Scotland right now. I think we'd have to admit that. So, we address the haggis as a piece of fun, because you can't really think that a man of Burns wit and intellect is seriously suggesting that a nation fed on the contents of a butcher's dustbin can defeat all-comers, no matter where they come from, can defeat all-comers in battle, provided you shovel this stuff called haggis down your throat. It's a great piece of fun isn't it, Burns was much, much too clever for us to take this poem seriously.

Of Burns and religion and Burns and morality, I'll simply say this, briefly say this. To suggest that he was deeply religious is an obvious nonsense. The man was not, oh, he did respect those who eh, showed sincere religion. And of his moral lapses in respect of alcohol and womanising, I think that the point, and it's been made so often, it's not new, you can't say anything new about Burns. But, of his alcohol intake and his womanising, I think we have to say this, you've got to judge him according to the standards of 18th century Scotland, not according to the standards of 1994 Great Britain! It's important then to judge him according to his own time, and the standards that were prevalent in his own time, not according to our standards, or far worse the standards of last century, Victorian standards. Certainly he makes all the amorous conservatives down in Whitehall appear to be whiter
than Persil! [Laughs.] When it comes to fathering of illegitimate bairns! [Laughs.]

All I'm saying is, give him a break, judge him according to the standards of the day, and if I can make a wee bit of a comparison here, though I wonder if this applies to anyone in this room, but let us hypothetically think it does. Noo if you hid eight million quid just to throw awa like, on a Van Gogh painting, it might cost you eight million to get it, I think at least one Van Gogh has fetched eight million. Well you know, we don't first subject Van Gogh to moral scrutiny? And when we sing Dark Lochnagar, we don't think of the excesses of Lord Byron, so do exactly the same for Burns. You know, don't move the goalposts for Burns, no cheating. If we don't do it for Van Gogh, and we don't do it for Byron, then we don't do it for Burns. Got to be consistent.

And finally lets think of Burns as the man for deep nationalist sentiment. Now let me try and put that into perspective. And certainly he was never romantic, unrealistic, political nationalist. In all his work there's never, there's never a mention, there's never a line about separatist Scotland. Yes I know he wrote 'The Parcel of Rogue's Nation', but he never said let's separate from that lot down south in London, so there's no separatism from Burns. He simply had a very deep and proud sense of being Scottish and a genuine appreciation of his cultural and historical roots. And I think that's a great trial with your aims, your objects, your ideals in this particular society. Surely he meant it to be much more than a sweet over-romanticised view of a Scotland full of lochs and glens and tartan. It's got to be much more than that. Because Burns was much too interested and conscious of the worth of the common man to hold such a view. And it seems to me that since the Scots themselves have so debased Hogmanay as to make it absolutely meaningless, at least that's my view now, and since so few bother to pay even lip service to St Andrew's day, then I think it behoves us, societies like yours, if we've any regard at all for our national heritage and culture, then it's up to us to do what we can to preserve our country's traditions, of which a gathering like this is such an important integral part. So ladies and gentlemen, I'm always deeply touched, and I get very emotional when I'm asked to do this toast, and I feel deep pride at being a Scot and asking my fellow Scots to stand and drink this toast. So it's a great honour for me to ask you to be upstanding and we'll drink a wee toast, everyone get their glass. And the toast is 'Robert Burns'.

All Robert Burns.


Well em, I've some more comments to make when I do the vote of thanks. We'll continue this part with Lesley Wheeler, who'll give us the 'Toast to the Lasses'.

[LW] I would say first of a, that I'm here under false pretences, because I wis walkin through Kirriemuir last summer, and is twa wifies stoppit me and ??? (background noise). Would you come and toast the lassies at wir Burns supper. And I said aye, afore I realised they'd said toast and nae roast. [Laughs.] Because this is the most dangerous thing on this earth to toast wimmen. They're nae like men at a. [Laughs.] We nivver quite understand fit they mean. Here's ay wifie says tae her man, 'I've been through the holiday brochures and I think we'll ging here'. He says, 'Far's at?'. She said, 'A nudist camp'. He says, 'And abody walkin aboot nyakid!'. She says 'Aye'. He said, 'I'm nae ga'n'. She says, 'I'll ging masel'. He said, 'Ye can ging far ye like!'.

Fan she come back efter her twa wiks. He said 'Well, ye'd enjoyed yersel'. 'I did at', she said. And he said, 'and did naebody mention yer big bum', and she said, 'no your name wis nivver mentioned'. [Laughs.]

They dinna aye understand aboot physics and science. Here's a man who'd been doon tae the pub and hid twa three drams wi his freens and sit doon at the gutter And he wis sittin there quite happy when the wife thocht far the hell is he the nicht! So she gings oot and here's him sittin there quite happily. 'Fit are ye daein there ye big fiel?', she says. He says, 'look ye ken the world gings roon', she says, 'yes'. 'Well I'm jist waitin for the hoose tae come by'. She never understood at an a! [Laughs.]

Aye, hae the last laugh. Here's a man sittin in bed wi his wife, reading the Press and Journal and he turns roon tae her and says, 'fen ye die fit wid ye like me tae put on yer gravesteen?' And she just said, 'put widow of the above'. [Laughs.] At's gey course at now! And when I thought aboot this I thought I'd be better shutting up and daen a wee verse. So I decided to do this, is is done and fit's known as a ???? Is is the verse.

Fan asked tae mak the Lassie's toast a chiel man think aboot the cost
For men are nae the kind to boast or cause a stier
Oor modesty could nae be lost ???
Bit lassies are a different case, would never telt until their face
That fan it comes tae human race they're nae like men.

They say that ??? wis jist the base and course ye ken.

Noo Burns compared ye tae a rose, fitever else ye might suppose
At sweetness seen will fill yer nose, for mony a mile
And ???? jist like a dose o caster ile.
We ken that Burns adored ye weel, tae disagree wis jist be fiel
Or else we might hae lumps tae heal or wipe a tear
Or sip and swalla on a ??? peel, and shak wi fear
But cast awa the consternation and lay aside a adjitation
Leave cantrups, course and confrontation to ither folk
Oh lassies, you in your indignation, it's jist a jolk
In spite o a we love you still and we can say wi oot ill will
Oor road is nearly a doonhill, as lang as you're hear
And we can nivver get a fill o your guid care
Laddies noo we will agree, the like o them we'll never see.

Up on your feet. Raise your glasses. A hearty toast, the love of thee, the lassies.

The lassies.


Well thank you very much Lesley. Now to reply to that we'll have Miss Shiela Gerrie.

[SG] Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Noo it's fan tae me to ??? reply to the words o that mannie,
I'm glad that the men think we're a richt ye ken
and I'd like to say thanks but ca cannie
For men are that crude and wish that they could
run the world and they're nae supposed to say it
But we lassies ken fine, without needin a sign
That that's nae jist a that they're saying
They'll stand and they'll speak and they spend the hale week
For at clekin they're a very fine
And a I can say is they'll stand there a day
Withoot a bit shove fae a quine
So I thocht it jist richt tae gie em this nicht
A reminder tae loons and tae men
Though it's well kent, forby, that we're affa shy
Ye jist canna dae wi oot us ye ken
So oor thanks for the toast and we'll have a wee boast
Jist a sma een tae reply tae yer ither
Ye'd have nivver caught sight o this Burns nicht
If it hadn't been for your mither. [Laughs. Applause.]

[JS] Now, we have come to another interval, but before we have that interval, I'd like to take this opportunity to do two votes of thanks. It was with great pleasure that Charlie Kelman agreed to come here tonight. I have to say he's actually been quite ill, they let him oot tae come here, and they let him oot on Friday tae ging tae Huntly is't? But they are gan away just now, he, as I say he's been quite ill, it is with our great thanks that he managed to come here tonight. So please put your hands together… [Applause.]

I wis telt tae say he's been let oot o the hospital. Laughs. At's anither swearin when I ging hame. Winna be the first and winna be the last. Now, we're always saying on the nicht o our Burns supper that it's the best immortal memory we've hid. Well tonight, once again, is no exception. We ayways seem to pick a good speaker and the speaker aye ways seems tae better than the een before. I dinna ken how we manage tae dae it, but again, tonight, again, a totally different view of Burns, of Burns Suppers and I think a better comparison of how Scotland wis then, to how Scotland is now. It's mebbe jist a gone doon sooth with the Tories I dinna ken. Laughs. Ladies and gentlemen please put your hands together for again most excellent speaker of our immortal memory, Bill Peat. [Applause.]

The rest of the thanks we will give at the end of our evening, but as I say we'll let these two gentlemen away home. We'll have another very short break, and I think we'll start again with the pipes at ten o'clock and we'll have a short session's entertainment. An eight minute break to let you stretch your legs and we'll start again at ten o'clock.

[JS] Now eh, for a long time the Heritage have prided themselves that folk like to travel a lang distance to hear fit they put on. Well I think we've beat the record so far the night, because we've got a couple and their son a the way fae New Zealand. Applause. Probably didnae come here especially for this, but we'd like to think they did. And nae so far travelled, we also have Duncan Simpson here tonight. Now it was muttered in my lug, that Duncan would like to do a poem. Would ye?

[DS] Oh dear. Yer wantin me up there.

[JS] Or ye can just stand far ye ar, cause ye're fair doon the hall.

[DS] Ye want me to come near, and face a'body.

[JS] Jist come fair up here.

[DS] Evelyn, ye're nae lookin are ye? Laughs. Sandy Ritchie, [Laughs.] It's nae fit Ian Middleton said, he envies my locks. One of these days I'm gan tae send him some seed. Ian hasnae been affa weel, so I think for a moment we'll just think of Ian and Jean, a wonderful couple who have done such a lot for the preservation for the Doric. Ian of course, confined to a wheelchair, but soldiers on bravely. That comb should have been a small tooth comb, because I can remember when I went off to the Royal Blind school of Edinburgh, a puckle year back now, it was routine that ilka Setterday nicht, before we hid a bath, we were lined up, a the bairns were lined up and eh, small tooth comb was brought oot, and it's a wonder I've got a scalp ava! On the search for vermin! Of course vermin has nae respect for onybody, they tell me that even the Royal bairns hid vermin. But eh, followin that of course, it wis intae the tub, and we hid oor hair washed wi whit they called ??? soap, it wis black. Anybody min o that stuff, it wis mair like bloody sheep dip! Laughs. And of course the following day we were a paraded aff tae the kirk, but of course two hundred years ago when Burns was sittin at the kirk it was very obvious that the 'lady' sitting in front of him had never heard of a small tooth comb, never mind ??? soap.


back to top