This noted production was composed within a
fortnight after the poet's arrival in Edinburgh, and was printed in the pages of the
Caledonian Mercury, December 20th, 1786. Hogg assures us that it was produced almost
extempore, at dinner, within the house of Mr Andrew Bruce, merchant, Castlehill, there.
It is usual to have this Scotch dish at the anniversary celebrations
of the poet's birth, and a very savoury viand it is, although unsafe to eat much of. Allan
Cunningham treats of its component parts in the following way:-
"'Pray, sir' said a man from the south, 'why do you
boil it in a sheep's bag; and, above all, what is it made of?' - 'Sir,' answered a man of
the north, 'we boil it in a sheep's bag because such was the primitave way before linen
was invented; and as for what it is made of, I dare not trust myself to tell - I can never
name all the savoury items without tears; and truly you would not have me expose such
weakness in a public company.'"
Galt records in his autobiography, that he sat next to the
Duke of York at one of the poet's anniversary dinners, when his royal Highness was
attracted by the savoury steam issuing from a Scotch haggis. It was evidently ill-made -
of the bag dingy - altogether an ugly, flabby trencher full of fat things. "Pray what
dish is that?" inquired the Duke. "A boiled pair of bagpipes!" gravely
replied Galt, who dearly relished a joke in his own quiet way. The dish was soon ordered
off the board.
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