How I once I faced poetic justice for not knowing about Burns' Day

TOMORROW the people of Scotland – and indeed lots of people all around the world – will celebrate the life and works of our National Bard, Robert Burns.

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He's a man who spent only 37 years on this earth but is widely regarded today as the Greatest Scot who ever lived and whose song, Auld Lang Syne, despite being written in the old Scots language, is still sung globally on New Year's Eve.

We all know that he was a exceptionally well educated farmer who became something of a celebrity after his poems were published in Kilmarnock.

He was also a bit of a ladies man, rumoured to have fathered no less than 12 children to four different women - although if you were to sit down and watch 10 minutes of the Jeremy Kyle show today this would seem perfectly conventional.

I need to be honest and say that I really didn't know very much about Rabbie until I reached my 20's as it wasn't something we covered well in school.

My first realisation of the importance man was when I was working at a top hotel in Glasgow at the age of 16.

I was a banqueting waitress serving on the breakfast shift which meant my taxi picked me up at home at 4.15am. On this particular cold winter's morning I had completely slept through my alarm and was awoken by my mother shaking me to death and shouting that my cab was outside.

Great start to the day as you can imagine, and I looked like death warmed up in that wee white banqueting coat.

The breakfast party was a coach group of American tourists on a sightseeing tour of Scotland and seemed totally bowled over that I could speak English, asking me questions like: "What was my favourite kind of haggis" and "was the River Clyde a freshwater river"

Then, from nowhere, a little old lady dressed head to toe in tartan with a Boston accent came over to me and said: "Well dear y ou must be very, very excited?" to which I replied: "Emmm, because I'm nearly finished work?"

"No no dear" she said "because today is a very special day."

I stood staring at her for a few seconds racking my brains as to what she could possibly be talking about until she jumped back in again saying: "Why dear don't you know what day it is? It's Rabbie Burns Day."

I then made the error of saying: "Who?"

Fast forward 30 minutes, and I was being hauled in front of the banqueting supervisor.

HE went through me like a dose of salts for working in a 4-star hotel in Scotland and not knowing who Burns was.

Then, as punishment, he made me stand at the hotel entrance for the rest of the day wearing a tartan sash reading a book of the Bard's poems to the guests as they came and went.

Needless to say after that I was slightly put off old Rabbie, until 2003, when I was given a copy of, The Songs of Robert Burns, by Eddi Reader.

I can honestly say I have never before or since heard anything as beautiful as Burns' words combined with Eddi's heaven-sent voice. It left such a mark on me, I went straight to the library and spent almost a week learning about the life and times of the man.

Tomorrow would have been Rabbie's 254th Birthday and, although he only lived a short while, the impact he made on world of literature cannot be measured.

So it is fitting that we celebrate his works each year in the manner that we do with drams, toasts to the lads and lassies and of the course the famous Address to the Haggis.

Incidentally, I had to break the news to another American tourist years later that unfortunately he wouldn't be able to book a trip up the mountains to go haggis hunting.

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