IT’S THE weekend that Burns suppers would normally have been rampaging across Scotland – indeed the world – but it will be strangely quiet on ‘the circuit’ this year.

But, it’s quite poignant that our national bard died from a ‘malignant rheumatic fever’ at a time when so many families are being afflicted by Covid-19. Farming communities in the South-west of Scotland and in Aberdeenshire are being particularly hard hit.

Looking on the positive side, it’s maybe a time for seasoned (and also not so ingrained) Burnsians to bring their talents into their own homes. This would be a perfect time to turn the celebration into a family affair and let everyone have a chance to play their part in the joy of Burns.

It might also breathe a bit of fresh air into what can be a ritualistic affair, smacking too much of orderly regimentation and not in the true spirit of Burns. Would he have enjoyed a rigidly adhered to celebration of his birthday? – we think not.

There’s also the opportunity in this to support your local meat counter and put on a fare that is intrinsic to the supper – Cock-a-leekie soup; haggis, neeps and tatties; and a good old steak pie. There isn’t much in there that cannot be provided for by your own industry – not forgetting the barley bree!

In ‘To A Mouse’, he summed up our current situation well, if metaphorically:

... But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,

In proving foresight may be vain;

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men

Gang aft agley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me

The present only toucheth thee:

But, och! I backward cast my e’e.

On prospects drear!

An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,

I guess an’ fear!


In these dismal times it is great to report some positivity. And if your want to have your spirits lifted, then turn to pages 39 and 40 to read about a Herculean effort made by one young couple to turn a hill farm into a productive dairy.

From having Jersey cows wintered outside on heather, to building up to 300 cows is a story that would have Robert Burns waxing eloquent about the feats of Robert and Rhona Gray.

And the bard would also have appreciated the work put in by Neil Sandilands and Lorraine in creating their busy hill farming enterprise, near Jedburgh (pages 30-32) and third generation farmer, Adrian Connell, at Minsca, near Lockerbie (pages 34-36), in making a success of his hill sheep enterprise.

All these stories show there’s no need to ‘guess and fear.’ This industry has hope ...