Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Burns Night + Scottish Martyrs at Woolwich

It's Burns Night on Saturday, something I always try and celebrate with some Islay whisky (I got a bottle of Laphroaig for Christmas), a vegetarian haggis and my dad's old bagpipe chanter from when he played in a band on Islay in the early 1950s. Plus my dad's collected poems of Robert Burns that I read from at his funeral. So yes, for me it's personal.

There's a couple of Burns Suppers that I am aware of locally. At Broca Food Market on Mantle Road SE4 they are having an event a night early on Friday 24th. £10 gets you a two course meal (including vegetarian option) and a classic Scottish film. I will overlook the crime of putting an 'e' in whisky on their poster!

On Saturday 25th, there's a Burns Night Banquet at the Hill Station, Kitto Road, SE14 - though I gather this has already sold out.

Robert Burns did actually once write a poem that mentioned part of South London. His 'Epistle From Esopus To Maria' (1794) includes the lines:

'The shrinking Bard adown the alley skulks,
And dreads a meeting worse than Woolwich hulks:
Though there, his heresies in Church and State
Might well award him Muir and Palmer's fate':

The reference here is to Thomas Fyshe Palmer and Thomas Muir, two of the members of the Scottish 'Friends of the People' who were transported to Australia for sedition in that period. They spent several months in irons doing forced labour on prison ships (hulks) in the Thames at Woolwich before being shipped to Botany Bayl - Palmer on the Stanislaus and Muir on the Prudentia. Burns was sympathetic to these Scottish radicals, as were many others. William Godwin, philosophical pioneer of anarchism and father of Mary Shelley, was among those who visited Palmer and Muir at Woolwich.

The Scottish Martyrs Memorial in Nunhead Cemetery was raised in honour of Palmer, Muir and others in the 1851.

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