Mote Ranch's Dick Thompson can’t remember how many Burns Suppers he’s attended over the years, but he remembered the first one clearly from four decades ago.
“I was in Michigan, and my sister took me to Ontario,” he said. “I hated the food, and it stormed all the way home.”
Things have changed.
This year, he gladly attended the Burns Supper Jan. 25 at the Palm Aire Country Club with about 100 others. The Saint Andrew Society of Sarasota hosted the event.
The more than 200-year-old tradition recreates the supper that friends of Scottish poet Robert Burns served five years after his death in 1801.
Burns wrote the lyrics to “Auld Lang Syne.”
While Thompson didn’t like his original Burns Supper meal of cock-a-leekie soup and haggis the first time he tried it, he returned each year to similar events for the friendships. The suppers also inspired him to take three trips to Scotland and eventually to take a deep dive into his Scottish roots.
“My wife and I traced our ancestors back several centuries,” Thompson said. “My wife is more Scottish than I am.”
The most Scottish man in the room at the Palm Aire event had to be Burns’ fourth great-grandnephew David Shaddock. He’s the fifth great-grandson of Burns’ older brother Gilbert Burns.
However, Burns Suppers are not only for the Scottish.
“Everybody around the world does it,” Palm Aire resident and emcee Carl Morris said. “I was in the Navy for 25 years. They do it on ships at sea. The British do it, too, and Burns was a Scotsman.”