Fred MacAulay & the largest ever Burns Night

24 January 2020

Interview with 

Fred MacAulay

FESTIVAL

Music festival

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Comedian Fred MacAulay has just recently broken a Burns Night world record! Fred joined Phil Sansom and Chris Smith in the studio to tell us how he did it - and deliver the Address to a Haggis...

Fred - I was part of an attempt on Friday evening to set the world record for the biggest Burns Supper ever. And it was verified by the Guinness World Records people, so it will be in the next volume! 926 of us.

Chris - Goodness! Who made all the haggises?

Fred - I can't honestly tell you who the company were that were behind the scenes making it all, but a round of applause I think for the chefs that managed to do that, for 900 plus.

Chris - Have you ever done this before? Is this a sort of climax to something you've been building up to for a long time?

Fred - It was a company up here celebrating 160 years of existence, and they decided to mark it by doing this. And I just happened to be the guy that was hosting it so my name is going to be attached to it. Unverified though, in 2011, Chris, when we were climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in January, my late friend, the chef Andrew Fairlie, myself, and a number of other people had what we think might have been the highest ever Burns Supper - at nearly 17,000 feet.

Chris - Oh you mean in altitude rather than chemically assisted?

Fred - Yes. Ha ha, you know me!

Phil - And this recent one Fred, as the host, did you also give the famous Address to the Haggis?

Fred - No, we had a Burns specialist to do that, but the night before at another Burns Supper, I did the address to the haggis. And yesterday at a friend's lunch, there were about 20 of us for lunch and I addressed it again then.

Chris - So how much haggis have you had in the last three days? Have you beaten me? ‘Cause I'm on my second.

Fred - Can I just commend you Chris for having it with roast beef? Because I'm all for trying it with different foodstuffs and a favourite up here now, that I've heard some people enjoying, is pretty much the same. They have a little bit of haggis, neeps and tatties, but they have minced beef as the main part of the meat produce.

Chris - I'm so relieved Fred because I was terrified I had trespassed on tradition.

Fred - No, no, no. And did you dribble a wee bit of whisky over the haggis?

Chris - No, but should I have done?

Fred - Yeah, I would say maybe 50:50.

Chris - Really? 50%, as in I eat equivalent volume for volume? Whisky with haggis?

Fred - No, 50% of people that will eat haggis might drizzle a bit of whisky over the haggis!

Chris - Oh okay! I thought you meant I had to have 50% of what I ate…

Fred - “Two kilograms of whisky please!”

Chris - Well look, are you going to do us the honour of addressing our haggis that we've got? I've got it on a plate here in the studio.

Fred - Would you like me to?

Chris - I would love you to. Would you?

Fred - Alright, I’ll give it a go. Here we go...

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy 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 slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie 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;
The 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 mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a 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 make 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.

Phil - Wow. Fred, was that from memory?

Fred - Well pretty much. I'll be honest, I've got it here just in case, but having done it over the last few days... and I did wonder, there might be a few words in there that need a bit of translation. When he's describing the haggis he describes it, the "hurdies like a distant hill". Well "hurdies" is a Scottish word for buttocks.

Chris - Oh! And how does that creep in? But, you know, one other thing, because I was doing a bit of research before the programme and I came upon a story that you had a friend in Germany, and you did a Burns night in Germany. Is this true?

Fred - It's a story that was passed on to me about a late Burns specialist, and I told this on QI a number of years ago. As you've just heard, the language that Burns used, old Scots, there are a lot of words that are similar, a few that are very different. And this Burns Supper in Germany, they decided to take Burns' poem and they translated it into German. And then they had an afterthought that many of the people attending would actually be English. So they translated it back out of German and into English. And the second line of the address to the haggis, "Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!" was delivered that evening as "Mighty fuhrer of the sausage people!"

Chris - [laughs] How did that go down?

Fred - Well it gave me a laugh, it made Stephen Fry laugh, and it made it an awful lot of people watching laugh as well.

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