The haggis was ceremoniously piped in for the thirteenth Burns Night celebrations at Harvey’s Point Hotel near Donegal Town. There was a welcome Drambuie for every guest at the door, as pipers warmed up in the background. The picture shows pipers from Adaghy Pipe Band, which included Vincent O’Donnell, lining up following the parade led by the haggis on a silver tray held by the chef. The Selkirk Grace recited, the company of almost 200 persons sat dawn to a fine banquet, opening with Haggis Neeps and Tatties (creamed onion, with whiskey cream sauce). Main courses followed which included Roast Angus Beef Bonnie Prince Charlie, chicken or fish. Local Scotsman Richard Hurst acted as MC and addressed the haggis, in the traditional manner, to rapturous applause, setting the tone for a wonderful night of merriment. This was followed by the Toast to the Lassies, delivered by a fellow Scot, Danniel Kelly in full tartan regalia. Bridghin McGarrigle graciously replied with two beautiful Scottish melodies. Frank Galligan, resplendent in blazer and tartan kilt, gave the Burns lecture, to the immortal memory of the poet, highlighting the fact that in his opinion Burns would have said YES to Scottish independence.
Afterwards, the Gary Blair Pipe Band from Glasgow lead the ceilidhe and put the dancers through their paces. After midnight, there was a ceilidhe supper with cock-a-leekie soup tea, coffee, sandwiches and scones. Peggy Stringer, celebrating in red, won the award for the Best Dressed Lady. Peggy is from Carndonagh and lives in Dublin. There was a large attendance of guests from Scotland, many dressed in traditional tartans and black jackets.
The Burns Night was established by the late Joe McGlone and his family hold the celebrations in his memory. He held Robbie Burns in high regard and his family continue to honour the great Scottish poet.
In an earlier post, I referred to a Culdaff connection with Robbie Burns in the nineteenth century. In the folklore of the district, a cousin of Robbie Burns taught at the old school at Cloncha, of which only the foundations now survive. He married a local woman and relatives still live near the school. One of them was the celebrated local poet, James Green, who was the proprietor of McGrorys until 1924. In the City of Derry, the Burns Night was the leading society event of the year attended by the gentry, politicians and the general public.
It was a night to remember and many thanks to the hotel owners and their staff.
Seán Beattie, January 25th, 2015