The Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Bands, the largest pipe band in Canada and likely North America, has young to old playing bag pipes and beating drums in the finest Celtic tradition. Well dressed gentlemen and ladies gathered together to celebrate what all the world knows as the greatest culture, greatest music,greatest dance of the greatest people of all time. We are the humblest of people too. Robbie Burns is a fine e example of what one of us alone can do. So rather than keep all this goodness and genius in one place we have spread out the world over in the greatest of diasporas If we are not the ‘salt of the earth’ then at least we are it’s haggis.
Jim Gallagher was a wonderful MC. The crux of the evening is the recital of Robbie Burns, Address to the Haggis or Ode to the Haggis. Jim Gallagher did a fine job after the masterful piping in the glorious haggis. This is the sacred soul food of holy scottish sheep guts. A taste that’s unmatched the world over. Something between oysters, snails, mutton, guts and some sort of mash, made better some would argue with a cup or two of 12 year old Scotch. Some say it’s poured over the haggis while others argue it’s better as an appetizer. Apparently this lessens the squeezing of the eyes and pinching of the face that comes with first contact with the holy of holies, haggis. I had mine straight up with the finest of gravies.
Of course we toasted the queen too. The Chancellor of Simon Fraser spoke eloquently. Then Barbara Harris shared that she’d received her PhD at SFU and this SFU Pipe Band had piped her into convocation. She was overjoyed with all the fondest of memories.
Ever since my friend Anne Lindsay of the Highlands took me to my first Robbie Burns Dinner some 25 years ago it’s always been special for me. We especially like the SFU Pipe Band Robbie Burns Dinner but also have so enjoyed the dinner and dances at the Scottish Cultural Society and Robbie Burns Dinner with Blackthorn. I brought Dr. George Chalmers and Jane here 2 years ago and they loved it. I introduced Lorne to the SFU Pipe Band Burn Dinner before that. Lorne’s been a life long lover of bagpipe music. Years past he took me to a spectacular tattoo of the SFU pipe band. I knew he’d fall in love with their gala fund raising dinner if only because the affair is so intimate.
I was wearing the blue Hunting Hay kilt which my nephew Andrew and his wife Tanya had chosen for their wedding. I’d already expanded in girth beyond my red Royal Hay tartan. I can’t wear this blue Hunting Hay kilt without thinking fondly of my brother and I at that beautiful Ontario lake and lodge wedding dressed in our Scottish regalia celebrating the first of Ron and Adell’s children to marry.
Tonight however I’d not have been able to get mine belted up were it not for Laura’s strength and guidance.
“It must have shrunk at the cleaners, “ I cried, after struggling for hours, before admitting to Laura I needed help.
“Lie on your back. It’s how we girls as teen agers, got our skinny tight jeans done up.” she commanded.
I assumed the position of shame and let her yank and tug and groan and huff and putf
“Success, “ she finally cried, breathless, looking like she’d just had another hot flash.
The trouble came next with the belt for the sporam. It too had shrunk. I had to replace the existing strap with the much longer strap from my over the shoulder computer bag. That wasn’t too much trouble. The kilt was more the concern.
So I’ve already composed a letter to the HAy Clan Chief, Merlin Sereld Victor Gilbert Hay, the 24th Earl of Erroll, Lord Hay,
"Dear Lord Hay, Could you consider an ‘expandable’ kilt material in the coming years. It’s an idea beyond it’s time!"
Tonight’s haggis, a very fine meaty sweet local creation, came with it’s own very appealing gravy that smoothed out the flow of the haggis down the gullet. Some haggis, made too dry, gets caught in the craw. What follows is not a pleasant sight. But this was gray smooth haggis. I do like smooth haggis.
Barb, Laura and Lorne were great fun to be with. Lorne’s Glaswegian chess buddy Ian had come with his beautiful German wife, Christine. They’d left their 5 children at home. The impressive Stewarts were there with the delightful mother who dressed in magnificent ’Stewart Trews” for the evening. Fun companions as well.
Selkirk Grace was said by Wayne Longstaffe
“Some hae meat, that canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat an’ we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit”
The Executive Plaza Hotel’s roast beef and salmon dinner with the Haggis from Heaven was well prepared and served.The roast beef was delicious. The Haggis was simply succulently unsurpassed. Later the pastries and cakes were especially fine. While we ate, a kilted accordion player and singers wandered among the tables with wondrous renditions of traditional Scottish songs.
There was as well a beautiful ballerina dancer demonstrating the grace of the solo highland dancer. She had such elegance and her leaps had altitude.
Then the young high land dancers appeared , some so cute and tiny , it was amazing they had such skill so young. A great male bag piper played for all the Robert Malcolm Memorial Dancers.
Mean while between presentations we made trips to the silent auction to compete in our bids. Barbara had her heart set on a Harry Potter wand she actually won while I was lucky with Canuck’s tickets.
The Robert Malcolm Memorial Grade 2, 3, 4 and 5 Pipe Bands played stirring sets. I love the drums almost as much as the pipes. They’re a joy to watch. The 6x World Champion Simon Frazer University Pipe Band with P/M Alan Bevan ended the evening with truly amazing dexterity and complexity of sound. The evening built to this which helped one appreciate just why these pipers won world champions. They all have lightning fingers and could scuba dive without tanks.
Holding hands round our table we sang Auld Lang Syne then gathered our Silent Auction successes before heading home. It was a rainy Vancouver night made so much warmer by the music, dance, food and grand company.