January 25th is celebrated in Scotland in honour of Robert Burns the national poet, and this year was the 250th anniversary of The Bard’s birth.
Dumfries, home of Rabbie for the last 5 years or so of his life, decided on a major celebration in the town and announced the Burns Light Festival, which would include thousands of people carrying lanterns through the town, live bands, an address from the First Minister and the burning of a giant willow figure of Tam O’Shanter (the man in the Burn’s tale, not the hat).
For several months, lantern making workshops have been going on across the region. In fact Maggie has run about ½ a dozen of them.
Here are Maggie & Meg about to set off on the procession with the lanterns they made
Now for a candle-lit lantern procession, you need 2 things to make your lanterns light up – candles and darkness.
Yet someone, in fact many people, as there were countless committee meetings and, I guess, no decent leadership, decided in their infinite wisdom to have the lantern procession shortly after 3pm.
Even in Scotland at this time of year, the sun doesn’t set before 4.30pm.
Rumour has it they wanted the festivities over early because all the high heid yins had a fancy Burns Supper to go to later in the evening.
Also, about 10 days before the festival, someone (or several committees) decided candles in glass jars in the lanterns was a health and safety risk so thousands of glow-sticks were ordered and distributed. Unfortunately it required about 30 of these pathetic little things to equal the lighting power of one nightlight.
But hell, it was bright daylight so it made no difference anyway.
However, the burning of the willow sculpture on the River Nith, was spectacular, and at least the sun had gone down before it was set alight.
I’ve been following the progress of the sculpture, from the welding of the metal frame, through the layers being built up and the transporting it to the river, so I needed to try and find a decent spot to photograph the final burning.
I did find one, but had to stay there for a good 1½ hours to keep the spot.
For those unfamiliar with the tale of Tam O’Shanter, the sculpture depicts a moment when Tam, on his horse, Meg, is trying to escape the witch who has just grabbed hold of the horse’s tail.
Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the key-stane o' the brig;
There at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross.
But ere the key-stane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake!
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie's mettle -
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain gray tail;
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.
For the full story, click here: http://www.robertburns.org.uk/Assets/Poems_Songs/tamoshanter.htm where there’s also a translation for you non-Scots speakers.
Anyway, here are a couple of pics. For anyone linked to me on Facebook, there are a few more in the Tam O’Shanter album.
The willow sculpture of Tam, his horse and the witch on the River Nith
Close up of the sculpture
Flares go off as it starts
Up in flames