Haggis and Poetry? It must be Burns’ Night
The 254th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns will be celebrated on 25 January 2013
Burns’ Anniversary Dinner Programme, 24 January 1919 [LF21.7]
. The Birmingham and Midland Scottish Society has been celebrating Burns’ Night since its foundation in 1888, with haggis and poetry on the menu, and entertainment with pipe music and dancing. One of the early chairmen of the Birmingham and Midland Scottish Society in the 1890s was Alexander William Still (1859-1931), a journalist and editor of the Birmingham Gazette, who had trained in youth as a gun maker in London and Aberdeen.
Burns’ Night, Grand Hotel, 1898 [LF21.7]
Robert Burns’ personal connection with Birmingham goes back a further century to another Scottish gun maker. There is a letter at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, South Ayrshire from Robert Burns to David Blair (c.1755 -1814) dated 27 August 1789, about poetry, a magazine Blair had sent him and Burns’ appointment as excise officer. Blair had set up a gun making business as Blair & Lea in Navigation Street in 1783 and he was a founder member of the Birmingham Chamber of Manufactures and Commerce. Burns also sent a copy of his newly published volume of ‘Poems’ to Blair in 1793.*
There are programmes and menus of the Burns’ Night celebrations of the Birmingham and Midland Scottish Society and of the Birmingham Burns Club in the collections of Birmingham Archives & Heritage (L21.7 and LF 21.7).
Fiona Tait, Archivist
(* Letters of Robert Burns, ed. Ferguson, 2 vols. 1931)