TOAST TO THE LASSIES
I suspect that if Robbie Burns were somewhere here today, he would either be fancying himself with the lassies or checking your gst and pst receipts, being that he was a great poet and ladies man, but clearly our most famous tax collector.
I was honored to be asked to offer a toast to the lassies. However, being a curious type and the scholar from Blue Collar & Scholar, I wanted to know more about what I was getting myself into.
Like every good academic, my research started on Google and moved effortlessly to YouTube. I have now watched just about every toast to the lasses that’s ever been recorded. I am not sure whether the old line that – education makes you smarter – applies though. My wife Wendy still believes a 2×4 to the back of the head works much better.
For those who may not have had the opportunity to travel through Scotland, Scotland is a world full of mystery, whose economy is driven by drink; whose history and culture is wrapped in myth and legend; whose language is Gaelic that makes no sense at all trying to pronounce it; and who curiously enough has a thistle as their national flower and the unicorn for their national animal. Lassies, like whisky, represent the link between these two national symbols – beautiful but prickly for some and unbelievably magical and ethereal for others.
Unquestionably, Burns was fond of the lasses. He was enchanted by Clarinda, Jean, Anna, Kate, and the numerous unnamed “Bonnie Lasses” mentioned in his poetry. Although he was a bit of a philanderer who had 12 children by 4 women, including 9 by his wife Jean Armour, he was a great poet whose work transcends time. I know we consider his philandering controversial by today’s standards, but we celebrate his work not his lifestyle. We are here tonight to honor the Bard, praise the haggis and toast the lasses which are key features at every Burns dinner.
Although the first Robbie Burns gathering began in 1801, five years after his death (1796), this was still 22 years before Whisky distilling became legal in the Highlands. So, in those days, Burns dinners had to smuggle their whisky into the event out of view of the gaugers, another term for government tax collector. That’s back in time when the Burns gathering, included a spare haggis or two that hid more than entrails. Back then Highlanders knew that no self-respecting tax collector was going to stick his hands in a haggis to check.
The early Burns gatherings were men only events, but even though that changed in the late 1800s, men’s reputation as being a misogynist, even today, is frozen in time.
For instance, a Scotsman who was heading out to the pub turned to his wee wife before leaving and said, ‘Jackie – put your hat and coat on lassie.’
She replied, ‘Awe Iain that’s nice – are you taking me to the pub with you?’
‘Nah, just switching the central heating off while I’m oot.’
So, you see our laddie ways still have a way to go. One might argue that reasoning and speaking from the heart are not our strong suits. If my wife wants me to listen to reason, that’s code for she wants me to listen to her. And…I get it. As for speaking from the heart, there are still lessons to learn.
The first lesson, remember the 2×4 I mentioned earlier? You need to teach your lassie how to use them to make shelves, rather than have them use it as a training tool. Showing her how to screw a couple of boards together saves on having to remove any splinters that you might get.
A second lesson, talking to her works…but talk with her rather than talk at her and forget the selective listening bit. Remember, our reputation is still frozen in time.
A wee kid from Glasgow comes home from school and tells his Ma that he’s been given a part in the school play.
“Wonderful. Whit part is it?”
“I play the part of a Scottish husband!”
“Ach, go back an’ tell that teacher that you want a speakin’ part!!”
So, my fellow laddies – Lassies are the very reason why we are here. Whether it is our grandmothers, our mothers, sisters or wives, without their love and affection, we would not be here.
It is a huge honour for both Blue Collar and Scholar to raise a glass to our mom/wife and to all the other lassies for being the better half of who we are. Please join me in raising a dram to all the wonderful, brilliant and remarkably beautiful lassies and to the Bard, in whose honor we have gathered here this day. Slainte