Burns, Robert Celebration of His Birthday in Nebraska

The 150th anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns (on January 25, 1759) was widely celebrated in 1909 by Americans of Scottish descent. An Omaha celebration was sponsored by the fraternal Order of Scottish Clans (OSC). In conjunction with its annual concert and ball, members of Clan Gordon No. 63, Omaha, sponsored additional activities reflecting the literary heritage of Robert Burns and Scottish culture in general.

The February 20, 1909, issue of The Western Scot, published in Omaha by the OSC, reported that the January 25 celebration included musical solos, dancing, piping, and the awarding of a prize to the winner of a poetry contest held in honor of Burns. “The pupils of Pipe Major Geo. W. McDougall danced the Reel and Highland Fling. Martha Britton danced the sword dance. Clansman Wm. H. Wallace, the gold medalist, played some stirring highland airs on the pipes. He is always sought after for a rendition of ‘The Cock o’ the North,’ which he played to piano accompaniment. As an encore he played a few American airs.

“The $10 prize poem, competed for by students of the Omaha High school, was then read by Past Chief Wm. Kennedy. It was won by Miss Fredericka Swartzlander, who came upon the stage, and received an ovasion [sic] of which any one might be proud. The entire assembly rose to its feet and cheered the maiden, the author of such an excellent poem on ‘The Mission of Burns.'”

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln) on January 26, 1909, noted of a Lincoln celebration that “125 representatives of the land of Bobbie Burns sat down to a Scotch banquet, in which a genuine Scotch meal constituted the bill of fare.” The banquet, held at the Palace Hotel, included Scotch barley broth, haggis, oatmeal cakes, wheat scones, currant buns, and Scotch shortbread as well as such American favorites as ice cream. “By each plate lay a sprig of heather received only a few days ago direct from the hills of the County of Ayr, where Bobbie Burns was born. . . .

“After the toasts, and the tables had been cleared away, both Scottish and American dances followed, and the grand finale was the singing by the entire company, with hands clasped, ‘Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot?'” 


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