Robbie Burns remembered

Nancy MacPhee
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Fundraising gala to honour Burns while raising money for the College of Piping

SUMMERSIDE — It’s a night that would have made the late Robbie Burns proud.

This Saturday, the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts is hosting its second annual Robbie Burns Fundraising Gala at Credit Union Place.

The event is being dubbed a celebration of the life and works of Robbie Burns and is touted as being one of the college’s biggest fundraisers.

All money raised through the event will go towards operating expenses at the college, said its executive director Karen Hatcher.

“We have a very exciting evening planned in celebration of Robbie Burns. All three of our pipe bands will be performing,” said Hatcher. “This will be a debut performance for our new Grade 4 band. As well, it is the debut of our newly-formed dance company, a combination of our highland dancers and step dancers under the leadership of Kearsney Smith and Brittany Banks.”

Andrew Campbell will address the haggis while Jim Smith will share stories and songs written by the famous writer.

Burns, the eldest of seven children, was born in Alloway, Ayrshire, in 1759, to William Burness, a poor tenant farmer, and Agnes Broun.

He spent his youth working his father’s farm and, despite his poverty, developed a love of books and was extremely well read.

At age 15, Burns became the principal worker on the farm, which prompted him to start writing to find “some kind of counterpoise for his circumstances.” It was at that age he penned his first verse, “My Handsome Nell,” an ode to scotch and women.

Burns contributed songs to the likes of James Johnston’s “Scot’s Musical Museum” and George Thomson’s “Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs.”

More than 400 songs penned by Burns are still in existence.

But it was in his last years of life that Burns devoted his time to writing some of his greatest works, including “The Lea Rig”, “Tam O’Shanter” and “A Red, Red Rose”.

Burns died at age 37 of heart disease. On the day he was buried more than 10,000 people came to pay their respects.

It has become Scottish tradition, on the anniversary of his birth, for Scots everywhere to celebrate Burns with a supper where they address the haggis, enjoy music, dance and even some whiskey.

Currently, more than 250 students attend classes at the college each week, taking step dancing, highland dancing, piping and drumming classed as after-school programming. There are also summer programs, weekend workshops, ceilidhs, concerts and recitals that are offered at the Summerside location and at its satellite location in Cornwall.

The second annual gala begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and features a Scottish ceilidh with many of the college’s students and faculty performing traditional and contemporary choreographies, with piping, drumming, fiddling and dancing along with a three-course roast beef dinner and, of course, haggis.

“Last year we had 182 people attend. As of this (Wednesday) morning, we have 209 confirmed for this year,” said Hatcher. “As it is a fundraiser for the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada, we hope to raise approximately $15,000.”

Tickets are $100 per person with a $75 tax receipt.

Many businesses have come on board to support the event.

A complimentary shuttle, courtesy of Prince Edward Tours, is being offered from Charlottetown to Summerside and return for the event; Prestige Floral Studio is providing table centrepieces; Summerside Butcher Shop is preparing and providing the haggis and Colours printed the programs. 

“It promises to be an evening full of great food, entertainment and outstanding company,” said Hatcher, “a great way to spend a cold winter night on Prince Edward Island.”

For more information, call 436-5377 or 1-877-BAG-PIPE.



Organizations: College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada, Union Place, Brittany Banks Red Rose Summerside Butcher Shop

Geographic location: Alloway, Ayrshire, Summerside Cornwall Charlottetown Prince Edward Island

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