Quaich to celebrate Burns Night – Acrylic in a Watercolour Moleskine

A quaich is a two-handled drinking cup which is passed around people meeting each other. Traditionally whisky fills it as a Scottish form of greeting. It is thought the early Celts used scallop shells as drinking vessels and the shape developed from there. Modern quaichs are are usually made from silver or pewter but early ones were fashioned from bone, leather or wood. Quaichs come in different sizes. Some will hold a small measure of whisky – this one, which was a gift some years ago, holds 1/4 pint which guarantees a few smiles. The vessel has two handles and these are used to pass it round the group signifying closeness and friendship. January 25th is the date Scots celebrate the birth of our National Bard, Robert Burns who was born in 1796. Many a full quaich will be passed round the many “Burns Suppers” as he is held in high regard as a man of principle, protecting the rights of all men. A typical Burn’s Supper follows the following pattern:

Guests are welcomed by a piper “playing them into the company. The master of ceremonies greets everyone, usually with a wee dram of whisky.

The meal is served following the “Selkirk Grace” which reads:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
and some wad eat that want it,
but we hae meat and we can eat,
and sae the Lord be thankit.

The starter course, “Cock a leekie Soup” is the norm, begins the meal. (Recipe link for Susan)


Its time for the haggis to arrive:


Now guests stand and clap in time as the haggis is piped to the top table and “addressed” by the master of ceremonies who reads from Burns then drives his knife through the skin. The piper is given a full quaich as a reward but must down it in one before departing. Toasts of whisky accompany the proceedings and some may even be added to the “Great Chieftain o’ the Pudding Race” before it is portioned among the guests. More whisky is drunk – in friendship of course, as this takes place. Burns said, “whisky and freedom gang (go) the gither” (together) and this is taken seriously.

The haggis is served with its traditional accompaniment of mashed potatoes and turnip. Whisky helps to wash this down.

The final course is a sweet dessert (if you can stomach it after all the whisky). My favourite is “Cranachan” which has raspberries, cream, honey – and whisky.


After the meal there are many (depending on how sober folks are) speeches and anecdotes attributed to the bard. Much singing and story telling takes place – accompanied by some more whisky. A highlight is the “Address to the lassies” where Burns’ fondness for the fair sex is described. Although the meals used to be all male affairs everyone attends now and “The Lassies” are given the opportunity to reply to their address. (ie get their own back). Toasts of whisky are despatched in all directions.

The evening ends with the traditional singing of Auld Lang Syne. Words and pronunciation from this link in case you are one of these folks who annoyingly sing “For the sake of ..”


A final wee dram follows as some participants swear eternal friendship while others forget where they are and wonder how they get home.

Many folks phone the boss, the next day, as a ‘flu epidemic strikes.