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Recalling Robbie Burns @ St. John’s

As St. John’s gears up for a revival of Robbie Burns Night tonight, it is of interest to recall that a tradition of Robbie Burns Suppers at St. John’s first started on January 25, 2003. The annual Suppers began to encourage fellowship and soon grew into fundraiser events. They were spearheaded by Evelyn Butler and Bill Dunford, with assistance from many others over the next 13 years, until the last Robbie Burns Supper was held in 2016.

The first 5 Robbie Burns Suppers took place in the church, and specifically in the basement, set up amidst the Day Care space. I seem to recall at least one of the Suppers taking place upstairs in the main church, before the event moved in 2008 to the Banquet Room at the Grenadier Senior’s Home on Bloor St. and Clendenan Ave.

The move to the banquet space enabled the food to be catered and simplified the event, with St. John’s members and special guests providing much of the entertainment. The Robbie Burns Suppers in 2013 and 2014 were held at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall on Dundas St. and Jane. The last two of the original series of Suppers, in 2015 and 2016, took place back in the main church space with less of an emphasis on fundraising and more on fellowship and fun.

Alie Rutty, who is spearheading tonight’s Robbie Burns revival effort, attended the first Robbie Burns Supper at age 5, was among the vocalists at several of the Suppers, and will be singing tonight.

The second Robbie Burns Supper in 2004 was promoted as “A fun community dinner, roast beef with all the traditional trappings - haggis actually is delicious, and worthy of bagpipes and a toast! Poetry, fruit cake, sample a taste of the warm reekin' rich, a basement-to-ballroom Scottish decorating transformation.”

In 2013, St. John’s newsletter promoted the event by saying, “Each year, St. John’s hosts a Burns Night in honour of the 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns, a rowdy boisterous man of the people who composed beautiful poetry and songs. Our traditional supper, at the cost of $40.00 per person, includes haggis enhanced with a dram of whiskey, cock-a-leekie soup, roast beef, neeps (turnip), tatties (potatoes) and a whiskey-laden dessert and non- alcoholic desserts. The evening is steeped in ritual and includes a tribute to the immortal memory of Burns, poetry, singing and lots of fun.”

Much has happened at St. John’s since the last Robbie Burns event, but now the time seemed right for its revival, but with a more cozy and casual potluck approach.

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Wonderful memories! Chris presenting the haggis was truly a highlight...

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