by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA
This is the "real" Burns bowl. Picture from
Zella Hilton of the University of South Carolina
have always been impressed at how people pay tribute to Robert Burns. Some
write books, others put on seminars or sponsor speaking engagements. January
25th is always a big night for our Bard as suppers around the world honor
him. This is the story of one village and one person and the outreach to
honor Burns. A few months back, Linda Jolly contacted me about the Robert
Burns bowl donated to the University of South Carolina by Professor G. Ross
Roy. In a previous article, I wrote of Dr. and Mrs. Roy’s gift of several
Burns manuscripts to the university. Also included among their gifts was a
bowl owned by Burns. It is stories like this one that fosters my premise
that Robert Burns Lives! and will never die. It is not just the authors and
the professors who keep the story of Burns alive but ordinary people like
you and me, as well as the Linda Jollys of this world. Linda lives in
Carrbridge, a wee village in the Highlands of Scotland. My wife and I have
visited Carrbridge many times as it is near Rothiemurchus and runs parallel
to the A-9 toward Inverness. The old bridge draws us there each time we
visit Rothiemurchus, the old home place of Shaws dating back centuries ago.
Carrbridge is a lovely village you need to put on your list of “Things to
Do” on your next trip to the auld country.
Here is a part of the email she wrote:
To: Frank Shaw
The last gift was Burns’s wooden porridge bowl as displayed at the Glasgow
Burns Centenary Exhibition in 1896. It was photographed in the Memorial
Catalogue Exhibition, a copy of which is in my own personal Burns library.
Dr. Roy was with his grandfather when he purchased it in 1932, during their
trip to Britain together. At a reception following the event, the Burns bowl
was lined with tin foil, filled with peanuts, and served to guests so
everyone could say they had eaten from Burns’s porridge bowl. I helped
Dear Mr. Shaw,
I came across your name while doing some research on porridge and was very
interested to find out a little bit more information about the Burns Bowl. I
am the co-coordinator of the annual World Porridge Making Championship held
in the small Scottish Highland village of Carrbridge. This year is the
Scottish Government's Year of Scotland's Homecoming and our championship is
one of the Homecoming events.
Having an interest in all things to do for porridge, we are considering the
possibility of getting made, by a local wood turner, a replica of the Burns
Bowl to mark this year's championship. It would be very exciting to have
such an item on display especially with the link to Burns and his
declaration of porridge as...'The halesome parritch, chief o' Scotia's
It would be very much appreciated if you might be able to help us with our
quest to find out more information or point us in the right direction.
Many thanks for your
World Porridge Making Championship
put her in contact with Dr. Patrick Scott at the University of South
Carolina and last week I received the following delightful email from Linda,
as did Professor Scott:
Hi Frank & Patrick
Well, our replica Burns Bowl has been made. The photograph of the finished
replica is attached and below is a draft copy of our story...We are also
establishing a World Porridge Day - an international celebration of
Scotland's traditional national dish whereby porridge ambassadors across the
world are invited to join in the World's Biggest Porridge Breakfast to help
raise money for Carrbridge village projects. More info at
Many thanks for all your help.
World Porridge Making Championship
Tel: 01479 841211
The Auction of a
Robert Burns Bowl Replica
wood turner, Peter Tyler with the replica of the Burns Bowl which is to
be auctioned to the highest bidder at the 2009 World Porridge Making
Championship. Photograph by Fergus Thom
The auctioning of a replica of a porridge bowl owned by Scotland's most
famous poet is set to be among the hilights of this year's World Porridge
Making Championship to be held in the small Scottish Highland village of
Carrbridge on Sunday October 11.
Carrbridge Bridge by Flickr Photos
The annual championship, which is one of the best known events on the
Scottish food calendar, is followed by connoisseurs of the traditional
national dish across the world.
This year's entries see a strong line up of contenders including a
combination of professional chefs and individuals who believe they have the
secret of making a winning bowl of porridge.
With the event being one of the main hilights of the Homecoming Scotland
celebrations, the organisers have decided to mark the occasion with a
special tribute to Burns to tie in with the 250th anniversary of the poet's
"There are many traditions and myths surrounding the making of porridge and
with Burns himself having made many a mention of it and even declaring it as
the "Chief of Scotia's Food" it was felt it would make an appropriate
Homecoming theme," said Carrbridge Community Council chairman, Scott Bruce.
With this in mind, the guest list includes Edinburgh based actor,
Christopher Tait who has performed the work of Scotland's most famous poet
across the globe and is the official Robert Burns for Homecoming 2009.
Dressed in period costume, the Burns look alike will be out and about during
the day providing snippets of some of the poet's best known verse. He will
also be helping stir up interest in the auctioning of a replica of a wooden
porridge bowl which once belonged to Robert Burns himself.
The original Burns Bowl, dated 1770 and inscribed with the initials R.B., is
among an extensive collection of Burns work including rare manuscripts and
other memorabilia housed in the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of
South Carolina. The one-off replica has been hand-made by local woodturner
Peter Tyler at his workshop in Farr near Inverness.
"We first came across the Burns Bowl whilst trawling through the website to
see how many mentions we could find of porridge in the poet's work. It was a
really exciting find and we thought the commissioning of a replica would add
a unique twist to the porridge making championship," said event
co-coordinator, Linda Jolly. "It was quite a challenge but Peter has done a
fantastic job and the finished version which has been distressed to
replicate the years of ageing looks very much like it does in the photograph
of the actual bowl."
The replica is to be sold to the highest bidder with email bids being
invited in advance of the final auction which is to be held during the World
Porridge Making Championship.
Bids can be submitted by email to
firstname.lastname@example.org up until 12noon on Friday October 9.
The championship, sponsored by Scotland's leading oatmill producers, Hamlyns
of Scotland, starts off with a pipe band parade of competitors and judges
along the main street followed by the traditional official 'Toast to the
Porridge'. This year's competitors come from across the UK and further
afield including Sweden, Canada and the USA.
As well as the traditional porridge which will see the contenders battling
it out for the world title and prestigious Golden Spurtle, there is also a
Speciality Section for porridge to which other ingredients can be added. The
judges are George McIvor and Colin Bussey of the Master Chefs of Great
Britain along with TV presenter and cookery book writer, Nell Nelson who is
well known for her TV series, The Woman Who Ate Scotland.
Other events during the day include produce and craft stalls, product
tastings, street entertainment and live music as well as the Carrbridge
Challenge 5km and 3km Forest Run and minis fun run sponsored by RE/MAX
Cairngorm with fund raising in aid of Maggie's Highlands.
More information can be found on the championship website at
www.goldenspurtle.com where there
is also a new international recipe section inviting everyone from amateur
cooks to professional chefs across the world to submit their own porridge
making and other favourite oatmeal recipes. These can be voted on by other
internet users with the mostly highly rated recipe being awarded a specially
inscribed World Porridge Making Championship spurtle.
Maybe some of you would be interested in placing a bid on the replica of the
Burns bowl. I know I am. It is a handsome piece of work and would grace any
Burns collection with a wee bit of history that many are not familiar with
regarding our Bard. As any good Scot worth his salt can understand, we can
honor Burns with our bids and we can assist a very worthy cause for Carrbridge
village projects. The Bard himself would be pleased. Yes, Robert Burns Lives! (FRS: