Tuesday, 2 February 2016



24 JANUARY 2016
This document records the lunch organised in the Hunt Road Masonic Lodge by the Durban Caledonians on 24 January 2016, to honour the birthday of Scottish poet and intellectual Robbie Burns. It serves to show a South African interpretation of the ceremony, which is of course mounted each January in a great many countries across the world. This and other functions have been greatly enriched by participation of the Durban NMR Band.

The NMR band in action (Natal Mounted Rifles)

Burns was born in Ayreshire on 25 January 1759 and died at the age of thirty-seven in 1796. The Address to a haggis, a paean to the traditional Scottish dish that is central to the commemoration ceremony, was written in 1786 when he was just twenty-seven years of age.


The haggis lying in splendour.

Our ceremony began at 2 p.m., with the piping in by Pipe Major Gordon Capper of the ‘top table’, whose members processed in under the leadership of Chief Margaret Gardner.

Chief Margaret Gardner welcoming guests       

Following the seating of the seventy members in attendance, Margaret introduced the top table and the Master of Ceremonies outlined the programme. The haggis was brought into the hall on a silver trencher to the skirling of a lone piper.


Entry of the haggis

It was held aloft and borne around the inner stage and thereby put on clear display to the assembly, before being set down on a small table in view of all.  

Piping in the haggis on its trencher

The wages of the piper and trencher-bearer were paid with a shot of fine Scotch whisky and a toast of slanja var! (Slainte Mhath, or Good health!) 

A brief explanation of the Address was given for the benefit of newcomers and the Address was then delivered unabridged with some animation, flourish and humour to reinforce its meanings.  The haggis was piped out to be served for lunch.

Following delivery of the Selkirk Grace, lunch was served. Consistent with Scottish tradition, it included haggis, tatties and oatmeal cakes, with ‘neeps and butternut to provide further variety.



Past Chief Alistair Mackenzie delivers the ‘Toast to the Immortal Memory’.


Glasses were charged and a toast was proposed ‘to the Immortal Memory’. Dessert followed.

Entertainment was provided by a musical group called ‘Friends of note’. The artists were mainly youngsters performing with guitar, violin, cello and recorders of widely differing sizes. As is usual with these functions, their performance was warmly received.


The violinist in animated action.

Poetry readings followed, and the assembled pipers played a range of traditional Scottish medleys.

The ‘Toast to the lassies’ followed in complimentary vein, with a spirited reply. A Vote of Thanks followed, with final notices delivered by the chief.

The pipers and drummers then led the assembly through Auld Lang Syne.

Members enjoying themselves at the gathering.

The Durban Caledonians have functioned since 1882 (for 134 years). Each year the Association offers five or six ceremonial/social functions. These are open to the public by booking.

Membership is open to people of Scottish descent (mother or father Scottish). Details of activities and membership can be obtained from past Chief Molly Gould (phone 031 7014148). Applicants can be assured of a friendly welcome.

Alex Coutts