Friday, February 12, 2010
I recently attended a book club meeting with some friends where we learned about Robert Burns, the Scottish poet. We enjoyed a nice evening where we read and discussed several of his poems, sang a few of his songs, and dined on authentic Scottish food. We came to the conclusion that Burns' most famous work is "Auld Lang Syne." "Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to min'? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And days of o' lang syne? For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne, We'll tak' a cup of kindness yet, For auld lang syne." One of my dearest friends of more than thirty years lived in the area around Edinburgh, Scotland, until she was nearly fifteen years old. After coming to the United States, she tried to lose her Scottish accent, but she still has more than a touch of it. Her accent really came out when she was reading some of Burns' poetry. The Scottish food was interesting and sort of bland. My friend made some dishes that she learned from her mother. I found a recipe on the Internet for Scotch Eggs (boiled eggs, shelled, incased in ground pork or ground turkey with spices, and baked. Other dishes were clapshot (a dish made by boiling and mashing together potatoes and turnips - probably my favorite of the evening), individual meat pies (ground beef enclosed and baked inside a shell, and shortbread. The evening was very enjoyable with good friends, good food, and Robert Burns. I'm not too much into poetry, but I am one-quarter Scottish. This evening gave me a desire to know a little more about Scotland and my Scottish grandfather who died before I was born. As soon as I returned home, I turned to my encyclopedia and read about Scotland. Then I pulled out my family history books to read again about my grandfather. I learned that he attended public schools in Scotland until he passed the sixth grade at age 12. My great-grandparents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before my grandfather was born. They wanted to gather with other members of the Church in America and left their native Scotland in 1883 when my grandfather was 13 years old. On the day they sailed from Cowdenbeath, Fife, Scotland, the schools and the mines were closed so that the people could tell them goodbye. They sailed with 1700 other members of the Church and took 13 days to reach America. In America, my grandfather cut wood, worked in a copper mine, and worked for the United States government with the Indians. He loved to tell stories, had a hearty laugh, and was "a prince of a man" according to my father. I haven't spent much time thinking about my grandfather and what his childhood in Scotland was like, but now I have questions. How did he feel about moving to America? Did he speak with a Scottish accent? What foods did he eat as a boy? What did he do for fun? Why did my mother not include more Scottish food in our diets? Maybe she fixed other Scottish food, but her shortbread is the only one I recognize as being Scottish. I am also wondering if I got my love for plaids from my Scottish ancestry. Maybe this evening with Robert Burns will propel me into family history! At the very least, I need to ask my older siblings to tell me about our Scottish grandfather.