February 1, 2010
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Victoria
Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 257 days
While Queen Mary 2 made her maiden call to the Venice of India, Cochin, Queen Victoria arrived for her first call to the Hawaiian Island of Maui and the port of La Haina. I’ll try and not make you too envious with some pictures next week! In this Blog we decided to highlight two very special occasions that were celebrated on Queen Victoria on her way to San Francisco last week.
We always acknowledge important days on our ships, but when we found out that Burns Day was on Queen Victoria’s last formal evening of her second leg of the 2010 World Voyage, we decided to make it a gala event with a special Burn’s Night Ball. For those of you not familiar with Scotland’s most famous poet, I’ll try and give you a very brief history!
Born near Ayr in Scotland on 25 January 1759, Robert Burns is also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland’s favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as simply The Bard. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a “light” Scots dialect.
It was to his father, William Burns and to his own reading, that he owed the more important part of his education. In 1786 he published “Kilmarnock” a volume of the poems which he had been composing for some years. Following the volume’s success, he went to Edinburgh, and that winter became the chief literary celebrity of the season.
For many, the real national importance of Burns is his songs. From an early age he had been interested in collecting the fragments he had heard sung or found printed, and was committed to rescuing this almost lost national inheritance. In spite of the fact that he was constantly in severe financial straits, he refused to accept any recompense for much of his work, preferring to regard it as a patriotic service. As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) Auld Lang Syne is often sung at Hogmanay (the last day of the year), and “Scots Wha Hae” served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country. Robert Burns became a cultural icon in Scotland during the 19th and 20th centuries and in 2009 he was voted by the Scottish public as being the Greatest Scot, through a vote run by Scottish television.
The celebrations on Queen Victoria started a few days before with Scottish dancing lessons and sash making classes, all of which paid off on the night itself. Burns Night began at dinner with a special dish created by our on board culinary team, led by Executive Chef, Nicholas Oldroyd. The dish featured traditional Scottish Haggis served with the equally traditional Tatties (mashed potato) and Neeps (mashed turnip), with a special Drambuie sauce. Our guests certainly got in to the spirit of the evening; Nick told me over half our guests enjoyed the specially prepared dish.
The Burns Night Ball began with some traditional Scottish music and the first of the dances, “The Gay Gordons”, and it was a fantastic sight to see so many guests dressed in kilts and many others in tartan. The highlight of the evening was when fellow guest Jim Gardiner was invited to “Address The Haggis”
Here Mr Gardiner is addressing the haggis as our Scottish Chef, Derek Wilson, presents the Haggis and cuts it open as part of the ceremony. This is an abbreviated section of the address, in Scottish and in English.
“To a Haggis” by Robert Burns
Fair fa; your honest, stonie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place
Painch, trip, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.
All hail your honest rounded face,
Great chieftain of the pudding race,
Above them all you take your place,
Beef, Tripe or Lamb:
You’re worthy of a grace,
As long as my arm.
The end of the ceremony is marked by a toast with, what else, but whisky, and here Derek and Jim are joined by (left to right), Ed Moffatt, Assistant Entertainment Director, Jim’s wife Muriel and Social Hostess, Jennifer Schaper.
After that Derek joined all the guests who had dressed in their Scottish Attire for the evening, for a group photo.
Then it was time for more traditional Scottish dances such as “Strip the Willow” and “Dashing White Seargent”. And yes I did join in though I’m not going to embarrass myself by showing you the pictures!
The following day was another important day for our guests and crew as many of our crew celebrated India Republic Day and our 49 Australian guests marked Australia day with a special party in the Winter Garden filled with green and yellow balloons and Australian Flags.
Previously known as Anniversary Day, Foundation Day and ANA Day, Australia Day is the official national day and commemorates the arrival of the first fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788, the hoisting of the British flag there, and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia. Although it was not known as Australia Day until over a century later, records of celebrations on 26 January date back to 1808, with Governor Lachlan Macquarie having held the first official celebration of the formation of New South Wales in 1818.
There are only seven Australian crew members on board, so Lisa Fanning (top right in the photo below), from Melbourne, and the Entertainment Department’s only Australian, led the singing of the Australian National Anthem, “Advance Australia Fair”, as well as songs like Peter Allen’s “I Still Call Australia Home” and the ever popular “Waltzing Matilda”. After that it was time for a group photo.
I’ll be back on Thursday with the regular weekly Blog and I have some great ones coming up, including a post featuring a special guest lecturer, Roger McGuinn, founding member of The Byrds. We also hope to post a video of our maiden call into San Francisco, with some fascinating statistics as Queen Victoria passes a key milestone in her career. There’ll also be some more news from Queen Elizabeth coming soon, so I look forward to keeping you fully updated with what’s going on in the Cunard World. Cheers for now, Alastair