Singing Burns’ praises
Bernardston celebrates Scottish poet’s birthday
Scotsman Ray MacIntire plays his tenor banjo with members of the Falltown String Band Jack Nelson on double bass Marvin Shedd on Guitar and Jason Burbank on fiddle during the celebration of Robert Burns birthday held at the Unitarian Church in Bernardston Sunday
Kathy Hale reads humorous Scottish anecdotes on the celebration of Robert Burns birthday at the Unitarian Church in Bernardston
BERNARDSTON — Robert Burns in particular — and Scottish culture in general — were celebrated Sunday in food and music, stories, “thrifty” jokes and poetry at the fifth annual Robert Burns Birthday Bash “Celidh.”
“He was a farmer, a plowman and a genius,” Ray MacIntire said of Scotland’s favorite poet. “He may have been the first person to write poems about the common man,” said MacIntire, as he put away his tenor banjo.
“We had chieftains (in Scotland), and they always had bards, to compose ballads about them extempo,” he said. “But these poems were always about the big shots.”
Robert Burns, he said, “wrote poems about the common person and their plight.”
MacIntire, who lives in Wendell, is a musician with the Falltown String Band, which played some of the songs written by Burns for roughly 20 people who attended the party at the Bernardston Unitarian Universalist Church.
“The first year we did this was 2008,” said Annette Mackin. “Ray was a (church) member and we originally did this as a treat for him.”
Munching on scones, beef barley soup and shortbread cookies, participants read aloud some of their favorite Burns poems. Kathy Hale researched Scottish humor and the origin of the “thrifty Scots,” while Annette Mackin spoke about how Scottish values influenced American culture.
“The Scots believed in public education and public libraries,” said Mackin. “They thought every town had to have a school house and a teacher.”
She noted that the Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie’s contribution to establishing public libraries was very much in character with his heritage.
“In the 1700s — even though Robert Burns’ father was very poor — he made sure his children learned Latin, read the classics, and went to university,” she said.
“Even through it was never a wealthy nation, people were always well-educated,” said Mackin.
Even the Scots — the nobility — they were never rich,” MacIntire adds. “They were not cheap. They were frugal.”