On January 19, Andover will celebrate its 10th annual Burns Supper, but for the Walker Family, the tradition can be said to go back to the 1930s, and for the worldwide community of Scots heritage, it can be traced to 1801.
Robert Burns was an 18th-Century poet, generally writing in the Scots dialect. His work is pervasive, between New Year song 'Auld Lang Syne,' reflections on mice and men, and an entire poem addressed to a haggis (a Scottish mutton-and-oats-based sausage). A few years after Burns's death, a dinner held in his honor by friends eventually sparked similar gatherings and social clubs and local communities in Scotland and around the world.
While Burns's work and his 'immortal memory' remain a focus of Burns Suppers, the tradition in many cases transcends the poetry itself as diasporic Scots take the opportunity to celebrate their heritage as a whole.
It is to be noted that while some Burns Suppers have historically been organized as exclusively male, the Andover supper has always been more inclusive, as were the suppers held by Stephen Walker's immigrant grandfather, William Watt, in Syracuse in the 20th century.
Stephen Walker never had the opportunity to attend these suppers -- for which the imported haggis was once confiscated by U.S. customs as unfit for human consumption, based on lurid sheep-organ descriptions -- but Walker Metalsmiths has been a sponsor of Andover's Burns Supper since shortly after its inception in 2008, and the family is proud to be involved in organizing the door prizes and other entertainment.
Musician Pat Kane Piper Chet Norton
Celtic musician Pat Kane will be leading the entertainment this year, accompanied by keyboardist Kathy Snediker. The Andover Burns Supper has been lucky to have a selection of world-class bagpipers at some of its events, and this year local piper Chet Norton will be 'piping in the haggis.' Premiere local caterer Chelsea Wallace Burdick will be returning to provide the meal.
The dinners were founded partially at the instigation of Burns scholar Dr. John Hunter, who was Andover's first to deliver the 'Immortal Memory' portion of the supper, seriously discussing Burns and his work. This year Terry Morgan will be the latest of Andover's retired English professors to give the talk. Both Burns's poetry and original poetic toasts will be featured.