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Extraordinary in every way: Aberdeen University’s Extraordinary Burns Supper

by Georgia-May Drennan

On Monday 25th January 2021, University of Aberdeen global alumni united for a wonderful evening to celebrate Scotland’s National Bard: Robert Burns.

The ‘Extraordinary Burns Supper’ was filled with wonderful performances of Burns’ poetry, music and songs. It began with music, firstly Norman Fiddes on bagpipes, followed by an arrangement of ‘Charlie is my Darling’, arranged by alumna Sarah Rimkus, performed by The University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir and conducted by Paul Mealor.

photo credit: Steve Baxter

The evening featured marvellous guest appearances, ranging from current students and recent graduates to Aberdeen alumni such as ‘Game of Thrones’ actor Iain Glen and ‘Call the Midwife’ actress Laura Main.

BBC Radio Presenter Mark Stephen gave an entertaining ‘Address to the Haggis’ and Craig Wilson, ‘The Kilted Chef’, created a Burns Supper in a glass. Every contribution was amusing and enjoyable, and paid tribute to Burns in an extraordinary way.

The unique event was produced and organised by singer Fiona Kennedy, Professor Paul Mealor and the University’s Alumni and Development Team. It was organised in aid of the University’s COVID-19 525 Bursary Fund, which launched in April 2020 to support students who are facing financial difficulties as a result of the ongoing global pandemic; a very worthy cause. Even if donations are still being processed, it’s estimated that the event has brought in more than £20,000 for the Covid-19 525 Bursary Fund.

Speaking about the memorable online event, Fiona Kennedy said: “It was brilliant to bring together students, alumni and global stars to highlight the phenomenal work of Robert Burns. His song of international friendship, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, speaks volumes in our troubled world. I’m especially delighted that Peter MacPherson, Matthew Kilner and Iona Rae took part. They all graduated last year and are all hugely talented so it’s wonderful that they were involved”.

With the lack of on-campus teaching right now due to COVID-19, this free event was a fun way to engage with the university’s international community as well as celebrating an integral part of Scottish culture.

4th year Geography student David Aitken said:

“I’m really glad I attended Monday night’s Burns Supper. It was a great way to start off our second semester; it created the feeling of unity within the university despite the difficult times we are all facing right now”.

Guest of honour, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Rothesay, Chancellor of the University, pre-recorded her favourite Burns poem, which perfectly drew the evening to a close. Before the recital of ‘My Heart’s in the Highlands’, all those involved received her praise for making the celebratory event possible: “I am quite sure, therefore, that the great Bard would have heartily approved of this evening: of its fun and light-heartedness; and also of its compassionate aim of supporting The Development Trust’s work in extremely challenging days.”

“Please keep going, stay strong, stay safe – and carry the inspiring spirit of Burns Night with you throughout the year.”

The words of Robert Burns are as relevant today as they were in the late 1700s. It doesn’t need to be Burns night to celebrate his work – if you’d like to watch the ‘Extraordinary Burns Supper’, click here.


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