Beaver hats and other fashion trends of the Scots


DSCN0776

Our version of the tartan

Leon and I do like to dress up for an occasion.  For our Robbie Burns dinner at the Army Officers’ Mess, we thought it would be appropriate for Leon to get a great kilt, even though he is Danish, not Scottish.  He found just the thing, a black sports kilt, complete with black knee socks and a black leather sporran.  Unfortunately, the order didn’t arrive on time, so I was left to find just the right accessories for our outfits.  I had planned to wear a plaid skirt but couldn’t get used to the silhouette of the long, a-line wool plaid skirt I bought at the second hand shop.  I decided to wear my designer black dress from the Australian Red Cross OpShop in Tasmania (seems fitting on the eve of Aussie Day) along with a wrap of my making.  The wrap is actually a 2 metre piece of cotton with tassel fringe I sewed in.  Total cost of this outfit, not counting my lovely Artillery pin, about $18.00.  I completed the look with dark tights and tall black dress boots.  I was comfortable and stylish.  As for Leon, he wore his charcoal pinstripe with a red shirt and this lovely tie I purchased for him.  He even wore snazzy grey striped socks for a bit of added flair (a big departure from the standard black socks he usually orders from the military.)  Very debonair!

So, what does one do at a Robbie Burns dinner?  It was my first time attending such an affair.  We had a drink in the front rooms of the beautiful old building that houses the Army Officers’ Mess.  The fireplaces were lit, the crystal and silver were shining and the piper piped us in to the dining room.  Our friends Dan and Fran were quite regal in their traditional garb, he wearing Harris tweed with his family tartan, she in the long kilt, velvet vest and tartan scarf of her husband’s clan.

haggis

Haggis

Dinner began with the piping in of the Haggis, that Scottish delicacy (oddity?) that most people won’t taste once they find out what it’s made with (kidney, hearts and other assorted offal in a sheep’s stomach).  At any rate, the MC made a big show of addressing the Haggis, a traditional ceremony, before each of us were served a small portion.  I had been staying away from eating meat this month, so I was less than enthusiastic to try this delicacy.  But I did anyway.  It was reminiscent of French Canadian tourtiere, all spicy with clove and pepper, but without the pie crust.  I managed to eat about a tablespoon full.  Of course, the scotch whiskey that was provided for the toasts helped it all go down smoothly. Dinner was Scotch broth, roast beef with tatties and neeps and a dessert that tasted like white chocolate mousse with raspberries.

robbie burns

Robbie Burns

After dinner there were some speeches and toasts to Robbie Burns, the great Scottish poet and scalliwag. One fun activity was for some of us to read a poem that had been provided on our tables.  My place setting had the following poem that I read aloud for everyone’s entertainment:

Johnie Lad, Cock Up Your Beaver

1791
Type: Poem

When first my brave Johnie lad came to this town,
He had a blue bonnet that wanted the crown;
But now he has gotten a hat and a feather,
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up your beaver!

Cock up your beaver, and cock it fu’ sprush,
We’ll over the border, and gie them a brush;
There’s somebody there we’ll teach better behaviour,
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up your beaver!

If you read it over, you realize it’s no more than a fashion statement.  A good Canadian knows that a beaver is a beaver hat, made from nice imported Canadian beaver skins.  So Johnie was being instructed to care for it properly.  Being a teacher of International Business, I thought this might be just the poem to read to my students when we learn about early trade in North America.  Well…maybe not!

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