If you heard the bagpipes Saturday night, they were at Newberry Hall, where the Aiken chapter of the St. Andrews Society held its 13th annual Burns Night Supper.
The event honored the life of Robert Burns, a famous 18th century poet from Dumfries, Scotland.
“There was a group of about 10 people that had strong Scottish heritage and they wanted to promote that,” chapter president Sue Jones Ellis said of the chapter’s first event. Now, the dinner annually boasts an attendance of more than 100 people, according to Ellis.
Saturday’s event began with a social hour, where the room filled with kilts, scarves, sashes and cummerbunds in a variety of patterns to symbolize each person’s “clan,” Ellis said.
The evening’s festivities officially began with the Parade of Tartans, during which the bagpipes were played as the flags representing each tartan were marched into the room and placed on stage.
“We carry a flag around the room and honor it, and then we have the haggis, which is the poor man’s steak,” Ellis said, adding that it’s like “Scottish chitlins.”
Burns penned a poem to show his appreciation of the dish called “Ode to a Haggis.”
In addition to the dinner, there is a silent auction of multiple items including books on Scotland, a bottle of malt whiskey, a cummerbund, a Scottish bear and a bouquet of heather.
There were also performances by singers, bagpipers and a dulcimer group, Ellis said.
“We always finish with ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in a big circle around the room, holding hands,” she said. “It’s always been a very pleasant event. The music has always been outstanding.”
Every year, people all over the world celebrate Burns’ birthday and his life. Ellis said it’s so widely celebrated because Burns “was a spokesperson for the common man.”
“He was very poor, he grew up on a farm and he related to the people of the earth,” she said. “That’s what has grown his reputation around the world – people identify with him. He could speak the common man’s language.”
Ellis attributed the growth of the society and the event to an increase in people learning about their genealogy.
“We do a lot of genealogy,” she said. “People like to know where they came from, just to keep the action of the Scottish ideal of freedom. We have grown quite a bit – people are excited about their heritage.”
The Aiken chapter of the society was formed in 2000 “by people whose desire it is to preserve and perpetuate the traditions and heritage of Americans of Scottish ancestry,” according to the chapter’s website.
Lewis and Lorna Fierke moved to Aiken six years ago, but this was their first time at the Burns dinner.
“We’ve just joined the St. Andrews Society and this is the first event we’re going to,” Lorna said. “I’ve been looking forward to it because I’m British and enjoy these types of events on the history of Scotland.”
Lewis said he recently started studying the bagpipes.
“If you’re going to do something, you ought to get involved all the way,” he said. “We go to the Celtics games and see the pipers there, and we enjoy it.”
Lewis said the first “Bobby Burns” dinner he went to was in Gambia, Africa.
“That tells you, it’s everywhere,” he said with a laugh.
Staff photo by Teddy Kulmala Bruce Francis marches a flag into the room while bagpipes play as part of the Parade of Tartans.×
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