Scottish Pottery and Robert Burns

I can hardly believe that it’s that time of the year again – Burns Night that is. I’ll spare you the sight of my dinner this year, we’ll be having the less traditional vegetarian haggis, neeps (turnip) and tatties tonight. Not because we’re vegetarian but because it’s tastier than the offal/awful! version.

I thought it would be nicer to let you see some very old Scottish pottery, the sort which would have been recognised by Robert Burns when he was around and imbibing a fair quantity of whisky, which he seems to have been quite fond of.

toddy bowls 1

As you can see, it’s fairly chunky stuff, the large bowls are called toddy bowls and they measure about 10 inches across the top of them so they can hold a lot of toddy in them. Toddy is of course a mixture of whisky, sugar and hot water, for me it’s the only possible way of enjoying whisky, but I haven’t had it since I was a child when my dad used to make it for me if I had a bad cold or toothache.

I took this photo to try to show you that they are also decorated inside. The jugs are actually two different designs but they’re quite similar as you can see. One design is for wine and it has vine leaves on it, whilst the beer jug is decorated with hop leaves and flowers. The pottery is at least 150 years old but this sort of pottery was made for a long time, it could be a lot older, and the bowls would originally have been sold in pairs, people used to have one at each end of a long table or sideboard. The small two handled pewter drinking vessel is a quaich, the ‘ch’ pronounced the same as in the word ‘loch’. It’s a reproduction one.

Scottish pottery toddy bowls 2

The top left hand toddy bowl has very large pine cones in it which make the bowl seem really small. My favourite bowl is the bottom left hand one, I love the design but it has been in the family since it was new which makes it more precious to me.

Have a listen if you want to hear David Rintoul reciting the Burns poem: –

Scotch Drink

Well, are you any the wiser? Burns didn’t write many short poems, I know that because I looked for one when I had to choose one to memorise for reciting at a Burns competition when I was at primary school. The town’s Burns Society held a competition every year and all schoolchildren had to take part in it. I ended up reciting this one.

“John Anderson my jo, John”
By Robert Burns

John Anderson my jo, John,
When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snaw,
but blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo!

John Anderson my jo, John,
We clamb the hill thegither,
And monie a cantie day, John,
We’ve had wi’ ane anither;
Now we maun totter down, John,
And hand in hand we’ll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo!

I didn’t win. Jack did win though, but he was in a different year from me and he recited To A Mouse. What did he win ? I hear you ask. A volume of the complete works of Robert Burns of course – he still has it.

4 thoughts on “Scottish Pottery and Robert Burns

  1. My late father grew up at the time when school children memorized lots of poems. I don’t think that’s a bad thing because seventy years later, he could still reel off wonderful long poems. To a Mouse was one of them.

    • Joan,
      Learning things by rote seems to be seen as the work of the devil nowadays, but it worked. I don’t think any schools make kids memorize poetry now and certainly not Burns here anyway, I think they still teach his poetry in Russia though! He’s very popular there.

  2. There’s a Burns night here – sponsored by the Caledonia Society. Vegie haggis is something I could probably enjoy. Regular haggis – not so much. I’ve tried it (I’m very polite) but was grateful to fill up on the neeps and tatties.

    Kids are missing out by not doing the rote memorization. Sticks with you and is oddly comforting. I memorized Shakespeare soliloquies and Sandburg poems…can still rattle off a few on command. (Husband can unload Chaucer at will – he and a couple of retired schoolteachers we met on one of our tours regaled us at lunch one afternoon in Prague.)

    • Pearl,
      I’m gobsmacked that your husband did Chaucer, I know that he is still part of the curriculum in England but not in Scotland. Laura (future d-i-l) did Chaucer in school in Lancashire and after seeing some of his tales dramatised on BBC I’m feeling that I should read them too. I’m not great on ‘foreign’ poets so thanks for mentioning Sandberg and educating me! I suppose kids now would say that they can recite song lyrics and raps, it doesn’t seem quite the same though.

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