Lassies, laddies honor Robert Burns with Scottish dinner

  • Shelburne resident Barbara Goodchild carries a platter of haggis while her husband, Eric Goodchild, plays the bagpipes during the Robert Burns dinner at the Deerfield Inn Saturday. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • Eric Goodchild, of Shelburne, plays the bagpipes during the commemorative Robert Burns dinner held at the Deerfield Inn on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • (From left to right) Jeff and Peggy Brown, along with their neighbors Maureen and Jonathan DelVecchio, all of Trumbull, Conn., dine together at the commemorative Robert Burns dinner held at the Deerfield Inn on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • People dine and socialize during the commemorative Robert Burns dinner held at the Deerfield Inn on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Michael Walsh, at left, delivers the toast to the lassies during the commemorative Robert Burns dinner held at the Deerfield Inn on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

For the Gazette
Published: 2/1/2018 12:00:17 AM

DEERFIELD — Diners’ faces lit up at the Deerfield Inn Saturday evening when the abrupt sound of bagpipes broke their chatter.

Holding an important white platter, Barbara Goodchild circled the long dining tables followed by her husband, Eric, the source of the bagpipe music. Both dressed in red tartan, the two stopped at the front of the room, where Barbara placed the haggis tray on a tall table.

Great applause erupted from the laddies and lassies who ringed the dining tables after Eric recited the traditional “Address to a Haggis.”

The 53 guests, local residents and travelers, had come out for the annual dinner commemorating Robert Burns. Burns, an 18th-century Scottish poet, left such an impact that he’s designated as the national poet of Scotland and is remembered around the globe near his birthday, Jan. 25.

“That’s sort of like being a rock star now,” Alicia Graves, assistant innkeeper and events manager at the Deerfield Inn, said of Burns being deemed poet laureate of Lodge Cannongate Kilwinning.

Graves, the primary organizer of the annual dinner, said the Deerfield Inn tradition dates back over 30 years, having been started by former innkeepers Karl Sabo and Jane Howard. In her four years as organizer, Graves said word of mouth has helped grow the event’s popularity.

“This year I had a waiting list with, like, 15 people on it,” she said. “There’s a lot of the same people that come, but it’s something different. It’s not just going out to eat.”

The combination of bagpipes, haggis, kilts and other traditional Scottish features makes the dinner a unique experience, Graves said. The whisky with every course doesn’t hurt either, joked Jeff Brown, of Trumbull, Conn.

Brown attended the dinner with his wife, Peggy, and his longtime neighbors Maureen and Jonathan DelVecchio. All were dressed in matching Black Watch plaid, with Jeff, a “rookie kilt-wearer” trying out his kilt and slouchy beret for the first time.

“It was fun putting the outfits together,” Peggy Brown said, noting that most of her shopping was done on after she read up on what to wear and how to wear it.

Having visited the Deerfield Inn before for their anniversary, the DelVecchios received an email about the Robert Burns dinner and thought “Oh, my God, we have to go!”

The two couples said they love the television show “Outlander,” which is filmed in Scotland, as well as Robert Burns’ poetry, making the dinner a great fit for them. Plus, the quartet had a few birthdays to celebrate.

“We said, ‘Why not go to the Deerfield Inn and celebrate right?’” Maureen DelVecchio said.

Seeing the men in kilts, Peggy said, was an added bonus.

“As many kilts as there are here, there are different ways of wearing them,” she said. “And the men overshadow the women, they’re so dashing!”

“Finally they know what it’s like to wear a skirt!” Maureen chimed in.

Throughout the evening, guests read Burns poems, some emotional and some lighthearted, and dined on continual courses including a helping of haggis. Though not to everyone’s liking — with Jonathan DelVecchio describing the dish as “an acquired taste” — others, like Steve Bathory-Peeler, of Gill, found it “delicious.”

“A lot of us here have some Scottish heritage,” Bathory-Peeler said. “There’s something really neat about eating what your ancestors ate.”

“To know Scots all over the world are doing this, though not necessarily on the same day, I think that’s something special,” added Jarad Weeks, of Montague, who was seated next to Bathory-Peeler and the Goodchilds.

Eric Goodchild, who described himself as being “a wee bit Scottish,” took up playing bagpipes after hearing them as a 12-year-old. Now, he and Barbara make up a team: he as bagpiper and dinner emcee, and she as “haggis hauler.”

“It gives you a boost after things slow down from Christmas,” he said of the event, having attended for about 20 years.

While not every diner arrives knowing the person seated next to them, Graves said, the long tables foster intimacy and an appreciated sense of camaraderie. By the time everyone rounds out the night by dancing in a circle to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne,” she said, “they’ve made new friends.”

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