Burns Supper 2010 in Bangkok

January 25, 2010

Water taxi on San Saep Khlong

We took the water taxi on the San Saep Khlong at the end of Thonglor in order to join the 255 million people worldwide who were celebrating the life of the great bard of the Scots, Robert Burns. In fact his birthday is today on 25th January.

We felt great knowing that we would be among his followers again, drinking, eating the haggis, and listening to the various addresses and speeches, and at the end singing together ‘Auld lang syne’. The Bangkok St. Andrew Society Burns Supper is a wonderful event. We had been there last year, therefore, the 2010 celebration was ‘a must not miss’ on our social schedule for the year.

Crossing the road near Amari Watergate Hotel

Amari Watergate Hotel, Bangkok

About 90 to 100 faithful, Scots and their friends from all walks of life, had gathered at the Amari Watergate Hotel. We arrived an hour early (we had missed an e-mail) but spend the time enjoying a glass of white wine and talking to some of the other members of the Society.

The welcome by the Chieftain

After the Chieftains’ welcome and the toast to the King of Thailand, the Selkirk Grace, a prayer was said by Caroline Elliot. After that the haggis was piped in by Mike Brooks and toasted by us, the guests. The address to the haggis was delivered by Chieftain Willie Christie.

The address to the haggis

We enjoyed the haggis, neeps and latties, and had a jolly good time meeting old friends and making news ones. The highlights were ‘The Toast to the Lassies’ delivered by our good old friend Rab Thomas and the reply, ‘The Lassies response’ by Kirsty Hastie Smith. Both excellent speeches which delighted the audience.

Rab Thomas and Basjia

All kind of entertainment followed, songs and poems performed by Dan Fagan, Kirsty Hastie Smith and Mike Brooks. I do not remember all the details any more, because the bottle of Ballantine’s Whisky on our table found its way into my glass. I only took a photo of the Scottish cheeses but the food was delicious overall and I liked the sea-bass entree, the broth and the haggis as well as the dessert.

The cheese platter

Way after the official end of the event, we somehow made our way home successfully, utterly satisfied, we had had good food, plenty of drink and great company. As every year my pledge is to read some more of Robert Burns’ poems. Also German Celts from the Mosel can enjoy and appreciate Scotland’s favorite son, the Ploughman Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire.

If you have the chance to somehow somewhere be invited to a Burns Supper, accept the kind offer and engulf in Scottish tradition.

PS: My first Burns Supper was in the early 1990ies in the Palace Hotel in Beijing. During my recent visit, I passed by reminiscing about golden days gone bye. The hotel is renamed now but the large flower pot near the entrance which was generously nourished by my old friend, the late David McGrath, when we took our bodies home at 4 in the freezing winter’s morning, was still there.


The Poet’s Birthday – Burn’s Supper in Bangkok

January 26, 2009

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Robert Burns, the portrait at the entrance of the hall

About 100 diners, mostly Scots and their friends, had gathered in the Amari Watergate Hotel in Bangkok to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotlands national bard and its most famous poet. Every year thousands of Scots people worldwide celebrate the life of this great man. This year’s 250th celebration was of course very special.

That was also true in Thailand. The Bangkok St. Andrew’s Society and its chieftain, John McTaggert, had invited to an evening of celebration, and a celebration it was. Our friend Rab Thomas had gathered a group of friends and we were the lucky ones to join in.

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“250 years in ice”

The members of the Bangkok St. Andrew’s Society had ample opportunity to show their talents. At past Burn’s Suppers in Jakarta, a Robert Burns impersonator was invited. Though his presentation of the poems and hymns was very professional, it somehow deterred the members of the local society to take the recitations on to themselves.

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Mike Brooks did the piping

There is obviously no shortage of talent in Bangkok. The Selkirk Grace was spoken by Willie Christie. When the haggis was presented and stirred, Mike Brooks spoke the address to the haggis. Duncan Niven gave ‘the Immortal Memory’, John McTaggert the ‘toast to the Lassies’, and Louise Blackwood ‘the Lassies Response’. All the speeches were presented in a very witty, pithy, funny, sardonic and enthusiastic way. It was such a pleasure to listen to them.

Also the haggis with tatties and neeps was very good. I enjoyed again the wonderful Scottish cheeses. The wine came from Australia and was quite decent. It belonged to the, what I call, “industrial wine” category. There is no harm in drinking it, just the brand name never sticks.

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After dinner we went all outside to bid farewell to the British Ambassador, made a circle, held hands and sang together “Auld Lang Syne” („old long since“). I recognized the song immediately, because its German version (“Nehmt Abschied Brueder”/ farewell brothers) is very well known in my native lands.

I vividly remember when as a boy I first heard the song from our kitchen window. A group of pilgrims had gathered in front of our house in a circle and sang “farewell brothers”, before boarding their buses to take them home.

When we held hands in Bangkok and sang Burn’s song, the magic also worked on us. It is a powerful song, even in German, though the German text is quite different from the English or the Scottish version. What I did not know is that the song was written by Robert Burns. In life learning never ends.

When Robert Burns died at the tender age of 37 in 1796 he left behind 13 children from 5 women. That’s quite an achievement. Obviously Burns loved women and ‘love’ was one of his favourite themes. This is why I present to you Eddie Reader and her version of “My love is like a red red rose”.

Cheers to Robert Burns. See you next year at the Burn’s Supper.


Burns Supper – Java St. Andrews Society

February 10, 2007

I will write more about Celts and Celtic traditions today. Friends of ours got flooded out and could not attend this year’s Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) Supper and the related celebrations of the Java St. Andrews Society (www.javastandrewsociety.com). They kindly passed the ticket on to us and we were welcomed as replacements by the Scots. Thanks again Liz and Walter for your generosity.

Burns Supper 2007

We sat at the “Holy Willie’s Prayer” table together with four Americans. Most men at the supper were in kilts and every time I see this, I want to buy a traditional Bavarian outfit (with leather trousers and so on) which would at least come a bit closer to this formidable dress for the Scottish men. We used to be members of the society many years ago but when our Scots friends at the time had left Jakarta we did not renew our membership. We had also attended quite a few Burns Suppers so that we knew what we were in for. A very memorable one was the first ever held on Chinese soil in Beijing in 1992.

Robert Burns is the beloved poet and lyricist of the Scots (the national poet). He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement and his poems and writings became a source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism. Burns loved women and drink. Statues of Robert Burns can also be found in Australia (Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide). The celebration of his birthday (25th January) follows a fixed ritual.

The program in Jakarta looked as follows:

● The Selkirk Grace (by Sandy Duncan)

● Address to the Haggis (by Chieftain Scott Thompson)

● The Loyal Toast (by Tony McEwan)

● Songs of Burns (by Barbara and Alastair Speirs)

● The Immortal Memory (Robert Burns Live by Chris Tait)

● The Land we Live in and Absent Friends (by Ross Scholes)

● The Land we Hail From (by Brian Scott)

● To the Lassies (by Tony Milne)

● Holy Willie’s Prayer (by Jim Tait)

● The Reply from the Lassies (by Alex Faulds)

● Poems of Burns (Robert Burns Live by Christ Tait)

As customary at this occasion, the haggis (filled sheep’s stomach) is served. It is brought into the hall accompanied by pipe music and usually a guard of honour sometimes holding bottles of whiskey crossed in front of their chests like swords. The pipers were the Edinburgh Chevaliers flown in for the occasion and they entertained us very well. The speeches were well presented too. In addition a Robert Burns look alike (Chris Tait) gave quite a performance. For non-Scots it is at times difficult to follow but its great fun. I always enjoy listening to these old almost forgotten Celtic languages.

The dinner consisted of green pea soup followed by the customary haggis with neeps and tatties. As the main course, we had angus steak pie with new Ayrshire Potatoes, baby carrots and Iona parsley. The desert, McEwan’s Apple Tart and ice cream, we spiced with the whisky which was generously deposited on each table. This year it consisted of bottles of Johnny Walker (12 years old).

The Scots do not grow vines as we all know. We drank a 2004 Timber Ridge Shiraz, a wine from Western Australia. It showed a very lively, fruity character of black fruit, raspberry mainly. My palate detected cherries but I might have gotten it all wrong. The wine was clean and well balanced and surprised us. I had never heard of the vineyard. The next day I searched it on the internet. Unfortunately, the website of the Timber Ridge Vineyard is not yet operational. There is a vineyard of the same name in the USA but I could not find out more about the Western Australian venture, except tasting notes for the 2004 vintage.

For the Whiskey

The Whisky “Taster”