The anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns on January 25, 1759, was once widely celebrated by Americans of Scottish descent in memory not only of Burns, but of their Scottish heritage. The Omaha Daily Bee of January 26, 1876, reported: “The 117th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns was celebrated last evening by the Burns club of Omaha, and the St. Andrews’ society, of Council Bluffs, the celebration taking place at the latter city. From the Council Bluffs Nonpareil we learn that it was a brilliant affair: 107 gentlemen and ladies were present.
“The chair was taken by J. T. Oliver and to the inspiring strains of the Highland bagpipes, played by Wm. Kennedy of Omaha, in full Highland costume, the party took their seats. After grace in true Scotch style by Mr. McKenzie of Omaha, the next thing in order was eating and drinking. The supper was a magnificent success-the tables were laden with the weight of the endless variety of meats and sweets, the pyramids and fanciful arches in confectionery, with the name of Robert Burns artistically festooned among them.
“After the substantials had been got away with, to the utmost capacity of the company, the glasses were filled up and the first toast, the toast of the evening, was called by the chairman-‘The memory of Burns.’ This was drank by the entire company standing. It was responded to by Mr. George McKenzie, of Omaha. . . . He was followed by Blanche Oliver singing in a clear, beautiful and powerful voice, ‘O, Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad.’ The second toast, The Queen of England and the President of the United States, was eloquently responded to by Dr. Macrae.
“The band then played, ‘God save the Queen,’ and a song was sung by Mr. Gregory McGregor in fine style. The third toast was ‘The land we left and the land we live in,’ and was responded to by Mr. D. Knox, of Omaha. He paid a glowing tribute to American character, and eloquently described the country every inch of which was classical, from which they had come. Thos. Liddell sung the song in connection with this toast in a fine clear voice which was well taken.
“The fourth toast, the press, was responded to by J. W. Chapman, in his usual happy style. . . The fifth toast, ‘Our Invited Guests,’ was drunk very heartily, but had no response except by a few brief remarks by Mr. J. T. Oliver. The sixth toast was responded to by Mr. C. Brown, in a short, pithy and effective speech, the finale of which was a quotation from Burns, ‘The happiest hours that ere I spent were spent among the lasses.’ ‘Within a Mile of Edinboro Town’ was then sung by Miss Rose Oliver in fine style. The company then rose, and the tables were cleared, when dancing was next in order.”