Haggis shipped to Antarctica for Burns Night celebration

Workers at the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station marked the event.

Mairi Simms and Rob Kerr
Mairi Simms and Rob Kerr

Around 140 people have celebrated Scotland’s national bard at the biggest-ever Burns Supper held in Antarctica.

Haggis was specially transported to the continent aboard the UK’s exploration ship RRS Sir David Attenborough so workers at the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station could mark the event.

Fifty Scots were among those at the celebration, which was held on Saturday.

They included meteorologist Mairi Simms, 39, from Pitlochry in Perthshire, who is on her 11th deployment to Rothera as science co-ordinator and was chief organiser of the Burns Supper.

She said: “The haggis was shipped over a while ago on RRS Sir David Attenborough. Once we’d defrosted it, we had plenty for 140 guests.

“We had everything you’d expect from a Burns Supper, including the address to the haggis, the immortal memory, address to the lassies and reply to the laddies, and lots of people reciting poems and singing.

Mairi Simms and Rob Kerr
The event also featured traditional Scottish music (British Antarctic Survey/PA)

“There were a few Scottish people who hadn’t been to a Burns Supper before, never mind in Antarctica. The thought really tickles people.

“But these social events are so important when people are away from all their friends and family for such a long time.”

Rob Kerr, 33, from Newton Stewart in Dumfries and Galloway, also helped organise the event.

He said: “We might be in one of the remotest places on Earth, but nothing can stop Scots from celebrating Burns Night.

“There are about 50 Scots on site and 140 people here in total. You’d be hard pushed to find a busier Burns Supper.

“My father is accordionist at Newton Stewart Burns Club and I am sure he will be proud of the continued family involvement in celebrating Burns.”

Mr Kerr, a father-of-two, was deployed to Antarctica in November and said the Burns Supper was the perfect morale booster for those spending long periods away from loved ones.

Dining tables
About 140 people enjoyed the event (British Antarctic Survey/PA)

He said: “It’s been strange being away for Christmas and new year. It was a bitter-sweet experience because it’s amazing to get a chance to work in a place like this.

“Events like this are so important because they help break up the long season into wee milestones to look forward to.

“Rothera has a diverse culture, and it is nice to share these traditions with those who have not experienced it before.

“I was proud to be wearing my kilt, although I’ll be staying indoors as much as possible as it can be a bit nippy outside.”

Rothera Research Station is part of a UK Government polar infrastructure investment programme which aims to keep Britain at the forefront of climate change research in Antarctica and the Arctic.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “I’d like to toast Scots celebrating Burns Night across the world, even in Antarctica.

RRS Sir David Attenborough
The haggis was transported on board RSS Sir David Attenborough (British Antarctic Survey/PA)

“The UK Government is proud to support British scientists at the forefront of polar research, as we lead the world on getting to grips with climate change.

“Our ongoing investment in science demonstrates our determination to build on the legacy of Cop26 in Glasgow to drive forward a greener future to save our planet.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, which employs more than 16,000 staff in 179 countries and territories, said it is using Burns Night, traditionally celebrated on January 25, to promote Scotland internationally across the world.

Diplomats at posts including Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Ivory Coast, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Poland, South Sudan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela are all hosting Burns Suppers.

They include the British High Commission in Accra, Ghana, which will host the centenary Burns Supper of the Caledonian Society of Ghana on Saturday February 4.

The society, formed in 1920 by Scottish-Canadian architect and building contractor William Galloway, has been unable to celebrate its landmark 100th birthday Burns Supper until now because of Covid lockdown restrictions.

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