Twenty-first annual Burns Nicht supper
The Scottish Society of Martha's Vineyard held its 21st annual Robert Burns dinner at the Oyster Bar Grill this past Saturday evening. The restaurant was comfortably filled with kilt-wearing men, plaid-wearing women and more conventionally Vineyard dressed celebrants. The dinner is a tribute to Scotland's undisputed chief bard on the occasion of his birthday. It is also a celebration of Scottish heritage and uses a traditional program that is followed by groups the world over.
This was the year of the 212th Burns Nicht. On the Island, it is the Society's primary fundraiser for its scholarship program for Regional High School graduates.
The evening was filled with toasts, music, toasts, a live auction, toasts, dinner, toasts, and the wonderfully diverse poems of Burns. After a brief welcome from Madeline Fisher, the group's new president, the festivities kicked in with the Procession of the Haggis led by bagpiper Jim Joyce. Chef Michael Gillespie had the honor of carrying the Scottish delicacy, essentially a large sausage, to a center table where after a splendid recitation of Burns' Ode Tae a Haggis, in Scottish by Alan Reekie, the haggis was sliced and served to the mostly grateful crowd.
Throughout the evening there was music. A spirited Phil Dietterich at the keyboard directed both the gathered assembly and a wonderful choir in song. Sandra Bittermann's harp and Ed Larkosh on harmonica as well as Jim Joyce's bagpipes and a song by Mark Lovewell with his concertina filled out the offerings.
The dinner, prepared by The Oyster Bar Grill's owner Michael Gillespie, who it was said relished the opportunity to dip into his own Scottish heritage, was loaded with Scottish delicacies. Roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, tatties and neeps, green bean auld alliance, Scottish buttermilk biscuits, and for dessert, Scots Trifle, based on his mother's recipe - all served by an efficient and obsequious staff.
There were toasts to the President of the United States, to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, to the Lassies, to the Laddies, and to Scots Around the World. "The Immortal Memory" and toast to Robert Burns was a moving keynote address by outgoing president Steve Ewing. Ewing is the son of the Vineyard Society's founder. His talk captured the spirit of the gathering and placed Burns's legacy firmly in the present. He thanked all those who contributed, making special note of the organizational work of Patty and Bob Wheeler.