English Roast Beef for Burns night


Haggis is the usual star on the menu for Burns’ night but for those, who like me – in spite of tartan genes – haven’t acquired a taste for it here’s a recipe which might be more to your liking.

It’s from the Elliot clan and I found it in Clans Cook Book, favourite family recipes of Scotland’s clan chiefs  compiled by Wendy Jones, published Macdonald Publishers, Edinburgh 1981.

English Roast Beef

On a braw, bricht moonlit nicht, send several clansmen on hourseback over the border into Cumberland to select a suitable beast. It is more economical and saves wear and tear on both horses and clansmen if several beasts are collected on the same sortie.

Prepare as usual and invite to dinner any neighbouring Chief with whom you are not currently having a feud.

Only if it’s really dark do you see the light


When city visitors stay with us they always comment on how dark it is at night.

I didn’t understand what they meant until staying in Auckland. When I woke up I couldn’t find my watch but could see through a gap in the curtains what looked like the half-light we get before sunrise so presumed it was nearly time to get up.

Some time later when it hadn’t got any lighter I found my watch and discovered it was only 3am and the half-light I’d thought was the prelude to dawn was the half-dark you always get in the city because of street lights.

It’s only in the country where there’s little or no light pollution that it gets really dark which enables you to see and appreciate the lights in the night sky.

The bigger the area and the sparser the population the better it is and the best place in New Zealand for the darkness that highlights the stars and planets is around the Mt John observatory beside Lake Tekapo.

The observatory already attracts visitors from around the world and locals are hoping to build on that with a bid to make the area the world’s first night sky reserve.

Celebrating the Scottish bard’s 250th birthday


Burns night this year has special significance because today is the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns’ birthday.

The BBC has a website  dedicated to the man and his works, including readings of some of his poems.

My father was a Scot and although he immigrated to New Zealand as a young man and lived here for nearly 60 years he never lost his accent so was often called on to address the haggis.

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,

Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!

Aboon them a’ ye 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 wad 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 belyve

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 feckless as wither’d rash ,

His spindle shank , a guid whip-lash;

His nieve a nit ;

Thro’ bloody 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’ heads will sned ,

Like taps o’ thrissle .


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 !


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