On The Avenue

Haggis Ain’t Chopped Liver

by Michael Gross Photographed by Annie Watt and Matt Gillis
Friday, March 31, 2017
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Ghillie Brogues and Sporrans–not threats of Scottish secession from the British Commonwealth–were the fashionable statements on Wednesday night March 29 at The Metropolitan Club, where the National Trust for Scotland USA held its Tenth Anniversary gala. Scottish traditions abounded. Alasdair Nichol, Vice Chair of Freeman’s auction house and an appraiser on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow, recited Robert Burns’s Ode to a Haggis in its original form, not the English translation, and cut the traditional haggis (a pudding made of oats and sheep’s offal) with a ceremonial knife. “But enough talking, time for drinking,” said Charlie Whitfield, Manager of Brand Education and Prestige Whiskies for The Macallan at Edrington, signalling it was time for a fragrant sip of 18-year-old Scotch and dinner at an event that raised nearly $400,000 to support the work of Scotland’s largest conservation and preservation charity.

The Foundation honored Ken Burns with its Great Scot Award. Mr. Burns, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, was presented with the award by D. Brenton Simons, noted historian and President and CEO of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Simons shared recollections of working with Mr. Burns on his genealogical research and his relations to Abraham Lincoln, the Roosevelts and Robert Burns. He lauded Mr. Burns as an artist who “challenges us to value our legacies and preserve them” and pointed to the poignant fact that Scotland’s famous bard and “America’s bard are branches from the trunk of the same great family tree.” Accepting the award, Mr. Burns charmed the audience with stories of his grandmother telling him they were related to the great Scottish poet, considered family folklore until a recent DNA test proved it to be true, and his visit to Ayrshire with his daughter where he saw a portrait of Burns for the first time, noting the undeniable resemblance. Of discovering this relation, he said it was “one of the greatest moments in my entire life.”

The décor honored the many conservation and restoration projects supported by the Foundation. Guests were welcomed by a bagpiper and a cocktail hour featuring a silent auction. There was a special playing of the Gregg violin, a recently restored 18th-century violin from the Trust’s collection that once belonged to Robert Burns’ tutor William Gregg and was used to accompany Burns’ dance lessons at the Bachelors’ Club in Ayrshire around 1779. A live auction run conducted by the droll Nichol followed the dinner of crab cakes and filet mignon, and after dancing in the club’s grand hall, the evening ended in true Scottish fashion with all joining in singing Burns’ Auld Lang Syne.

The gala was co-chaired by Paula Kirby and Peter McWhinnie, Elizabeth Owens, Michael Scott-Morton, and Naoma Tate. Jill Joyce was the evening’s honorary chair.


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