The Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown was alive with bagpipe music on Saturday night as the Scottish Society of Martha’s Vineyard held its 31st annual Burns Nicht (Night) Supper.
Guests mingled during the cocktail hour, and placed their bids on silent auction items, with the proceeds benefiting the Scottish Society High School Scholarship Fund.
The Edgartown Room, where large round tables were set with white linens and tartan candle centerpieces, was bursting with fun and passionate folks dressed in their colorful clan and family tartans. There are a little over 70 members of the Scottish Society of Martha’s Vineyard; more than 100 tickets were sold for this supper.
The supper began with welcoming remarks from Christopher Scott, the master of ceremonies, after which the heads of each clan were asked to organize for the Procession of the Haggis in the outer room. Jamie M. Douglas piped the Haggis and Procession into the dining room.
Authentic haggis, the national dish of Scotland, is a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (the heart, liver, and lungs) minced with onions, spices, and oatmeal. The mixture is packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled.
David Rhoderick next did a most entertaining performance of the “Ode Tae a Haggis,” part of the ceremonial traditions of the evening.
Ed Pierce currently holds the position of vice president for the society. He described living conditions during Burn’s day in Scotland. “They lived day-to-day, hand-to-mouth, and had to make use of every part of the animal to feed their families, right down to the hoof.”
Mr. Pierce enjoyed his role as president for five years. He stepped down this year to make room for new blood. “I kept saying yes for five years; they kept saying, ‘Aw, you’re doing a good job.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but you have to let someone else come in, some new blood,’” said Pierce.
After the toast to the Haggis, the Internationally Acclaimed Scottish Society Singers sang the “Selkirk Grace.”
Traditional Scottish fare was served for dinner, which included Cock-a-Leekie Soup, Chicken in Heather, Haggis, Chappit Tatties, and Bashed Neeps. After dinner, a toast to the president of the United States was given by Warren Hartwell, and a toast to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was given by Donna Blackburn.
At this point in the evening, the Musical Tribute to the Bard by the Internationally Acclaimed Scottish Society Singers, directed by Philip Dietterich, commenced. Many of Burns’ poems were recited and sung, including “Auld Lang Syne.’
Heidi Dietterich of West Tisbury has been coming to the Burns Nicht Supper for nine years. Dietterich said, “My parents got so involved in the Scottish Society when they retired here about 25 years ago. Dad does the choir, so I sing in it.”
Pierce said, “A big part of our celebration tonight is our group of wonderful singers; many are in the Island Chorus. For us, we’re called the Internationally Acclaimed Scottish Society Singers. A fellow by the name of Bud France, who has since passed on, gave the singers their name. They get together four or five times before the dinner to rehearse for the evening. The Rev. Phil Dietterich is our music man, well known across the Island for his music.”
As the evening drew to a close, a Ghàidhlig Farewell was given by the Rev. Dr. Leo D. Christian, and then Douglas piped “Amazing Grace” as the evening concluded.
I asked Pierce what the night meant to him. He said, “The society has been 31 years on the Island. It’s a wonderful coming together of Scottish heritages in the middle of winter, when little is going on. It’s a rebirth of everyone’s Scottish heritage.”