With pomp and ceremony, the haggis was carried into the ballroom of the Corinthia Hotel to the soundtrack of live bagpipes and drums. The conversation was cut short by the music as all stood to
attention and paid their respect to the Scottish delicacy.
Outfitted in a kilt and full Scottish garb, Rab Tait recited the “Address to a Haggis” by Robert Burns with comic energy and in full Scots. The haggis had been brought over from Inverness, and everyone raised a toast with a glass of fine whisky. On first impressions, its introduction may have seemed over the top, but upon tasting the dish it became instantly clear why it merited such a ceremonious welcome.
A Burns Supper is often held on the birthday of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Traditionally, these formal dinners come served with haggis, Scotch whisky and a recitation of Robert Burns’ poetry as mandatory factors in its celebration.
However, Burns Night is more than just honouring Scotland’s most famous poet, it’s about celebrating Scotland’s unique culture and sharing it with others. Scotland might be over 1000 km away from the banks of the Danube, but instead, Scotland came to Budapest this past week, with three events commemorating the country’s most beloved poet.
At Budapest’s local Scottish pub in District VI, The Caledonia, 140 guests turned out for a low-key affair on Saturday featuring live music from Greenfields, whereas Church of Scotland on Vörösmarty utca also held Burns Night celebrations on Tuesday night.
However, the Annual Budapest Burns Supper held at the Corinthia Hotel on Saturday night was undoubtedly the largest of the lot, and hosted by the Robert Burns International Foundation (RBIF), a charitable organisation that raises money for sick and underprivileged children and which has been running the Burns Supper for 17 years.
On Saturday night, the traditional black-tie dinner offered a program with speeches, music and a five-course meal, complete with wine pairing and whisky tasting.
To mark the occasion, Douglas Arnott, the Organising Committee chairman of the RBIF, welcomed guests with his opening speech, followed by the Selkirk Grace given by Rev. Aaron Stevens from the Scottish Church in Budapest and a live performance by the Pipe Band.
The entertainment of the evening became an eclectic mix of recitals of Robert Burns’ poetry and Scottish country dancing through to a performance by the children representing the 2nd department of paediatrics set to rap music.
The event managed to capture a balance between black-tie formality, with toasts to the Queen and the Hungarian prime minister, and Scottish light-hearted spirit and humour. Whisky flew liberally and the energy flared up as the Scottish dancing, led by Debbie Moss to the music of Dagda, got started.
The Corinthia Hotel was awarded the Ferenc Puskás-Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year by the RBIF for its support of the dinners, with the widow of Hungarian footballer Ferenc Puskás handing over a replica of the award to hotel manager Thomas Fischer. Fischer will receive the actual trophy on his visit to Old Trafford next month from former Manchester United manager and Honorary President of the Foundation, Sir Alex Ferguson, who was unable to make the Budapest event this year.
The RBIF relies on company sponsorship and charity donations. At present, the foundation has launched an appeal to raise HUF 29 million to completely refurbish the intensive-care unit at the 2nd Children’s Clinic at the SOTE Hospital in Budapest. The foundation acts as go-between for companies looking to give money to charity, where the RBIF is a non-profit organisation established to helping sick and underprivileged children in Hungary with different charitable campaigns running each year.
A night of sumptuous food, good company and dancing sets the Burns Night apart from other formal charity dinners, and it’s easy to see why it continues to enjoy success every year.
The Robert Burns International Foundation website: robert-burns-foundation.org