Bruce County, as the name indicates, is an area filled with Scottish heritage and, here, as in other parts of the world, Robbie (Rabbie) Burns, Scotland’s favourite son is honoured each year on January 25th.
For more than 250 years, Scots the world over have celebrated his birth date (January 25, 1759) with dinners, the first of which was celebrated in Alloway, Scotland, in honour of the national poet of Scotland.
The dinner is steeped in heritage to the bard and, part of that heritage, is the long-standing menu with its classical Haggis (see recipe below), roast beef, bashed neeps (turnip), chappit tatties (potatoes) and acoutrements. As tradition holds, the famous, or infamous, Haggis is ceremonially carried in lead by a piper.
An eloquent ‘Address to the Haggis’ is performed along with the traditional Selkirk Grace (see below)and toasts including ‘The Loyal Toast’, ‘Toast tae th’ lassies’, ‘Response frae th’ lassies’ and ‘Th’ Immortal Memory’.
Burns is known for his lyrical, romanticist poems, with his most famous turned into song and sung the world over, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, and the other is the unofficial national anthem of Scotland, ‘Scots Wha Hae‘.
Some ha’e meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we ha’e meat and we can eat,
And tae the Lord be thankit.
Authentic haggis is a sheep’s stomach lining filled with minced organs (offal), seasonings and oatmeal and simmered for hours. It’s not permissible to use a sheep’s stomach lining in North America, so this is adapted.
Traditional ‘Bagless’ Haggis
1/2 lb. beef liver
2 lamb kidneys
3/4 lb. lamb shoulder
1/4 lb beef suet
2 onions, minced
1 c. oatmeal
1 c. stock
salt and pepper, nutmeg & thyme
Directions: Boil meats (offal) 2 hours. Save stock. Grind or mince meats. Add suet and onions, oatmeal and seasonings. Add enough stock to make a mixture look and feel like a meatloaf. Pour into a pan that has been well-greased. Cover with foil. Poke 2 holes in foil. Place pan in another pan filled halfway with water. Steam-bake for 2 hours at 325 degrees.
For many, it is also a time for returning to the roots of a long heritage, where the men wear their tartan kilts and ladies their sashes, not only in memory of their ancestors who settled the new land, but to honour that special ‘son of Scotland, Robert Burns.
In 1963, a movement began to adopt a tartan for Bruce County in Ontario and permission was sought from the Chief of Clan Bruce to use a colour variation of the Bruce sett.
With input from Lord Lyon, the present tartan was arrived at. Registered in the Lyon Court Books XVI on January 19th, 1965. Scottish Tartans Society notes that this tartan was developed for the centenary of Bruce county in 1967.
Blue guards were added to the ‘Bruce’ tartan by Lord Bruce in recognition of the long coast line of Bruce County.