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A guide to Burns Night: Address to a Haggis

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13 Dec 2017
A Robert Burns statue pictured at night

The Address to the Haggis is the most important part of Burns Night and traditionally the first item on the order of proceedings. The host of the party carries the haggis into the room on a silver salver with a knife at the ready. They then invite the party to pay respect to the haggis by reciting Burns’ famous poem about the famous foodstuff.

Filled with imagery and metaphor, the poem is a passionate ode to a unique and symbolic part of Scottish culture, so don’t hold back – channel your inner Rabbie and deliver the address with gusto!

A cut is made to the haggis during the third verse on reading the line ‘an’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight’ (marked with an asterisk below).

Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns, 1787

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o’need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight*,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin’, rich!
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes believe
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.
Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit! But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ hands will sned,
Like taps o’ trissle. Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!


Before bringing the haggis out, carefully make a small cut into it to relieve the pressure. You don’t want your guests to be hit with flying bits of haggis in the excitement of the ceremony!

After finishing the address, the host leads a toast by raising a glass and declaring “to the haggis!” before serving the prized dish to the guests.

We’ve created exclusive content comprising everything you need to host a memorable Burns Night: party invites, recipes for a number of traditional dishes, a quiz all about the man himself and much more.

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