Written by Sara Hook // Photo by Balazs Balassa
The English Department hosted its eighth annual Burns supper Jan. 28, celebrating the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns with bagpipe music, toasts, poetry and haggis.
“It’s one of the social events of the year for the English Department, but everybody’s welcome to it,” professor of English Michael Claxton said. “You don’t have to be an English major, so a lot of people bring their friends.”
Senior English major Hannah Ireland has attended the event three times and said the supper was an opportunity for those interested in Robert Burns or poetry to celebrate something they admire and enjoy.
“It’s a chance to just hang out with professors outside of class and our classmates and students from all over campus,” Ireland said.
Burns’ birthday has been celebrated by kings, presidents and celebrities of all types, Claxton said. It usually involves a tribute to Burns, reading his poems, singing his songs and eating traditional Scottish food.
“I just love the fact that in 2023 we’re going to pause as people do all over the world to remember somebody who’s been dead for hundreds of years, and just to celebrate the arts and a significant contribution to those arts,” Claxton said.
The live bagpipe music was provided by Finance Department Chair David Johnson, and English Department Chair Jon Singleton played the guitar. Other attending professors provided a variety of Scottish foods: bangers and mash, turnips, shortbread cookies and haggis.
“It’s not your traditional Scottish haggis, because the United States Department of Agriculture won’t allow people to, I guess, sell sheep stomach and some of the things that go into the real haggis,” professor of English Terry Engel said. “We have a vegetarian haggis and then a regular haggis, and I think the regular haggis has liver and some other kinds of meat in it, but it’s all fully cooked and well-processed.”
The tradition started at Harding in 2015 and has continued every year since then, barring 2021. Engel said the supper has been very popular, with a record attendance of around 60 students and guests. However, the event’s popularity isn’t just because of the food and poetry. Ireland said she also goes to support her professors.
“More than anything I really enjoy seeing them sharing something they’re so passionate about,” Ireland said. “Some of them, they got their Ph.D. in this area — in poetry, or Scottish poetry, and they just love putting on a show of sorts for the students.”