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We have received repeated requests over recent years for an example of this traditional part of a Burns Supper. We are endebted to Maureen McGregor <maureen_mcgregor@unvienna.un.or.at> for generously agreeing to share this fine example...Thanks!

A Toast to the Lassies - the Reply
(to the Toast to the Lassies)

When Angus asked me - a few days ago only - if I would be prepared to,give the reply to the toast to the lassies tonight, it wasn't so much the lack of time left to me to prepare my reply, but the fact that the reply, while illustrating the vices and lack of morality of the members of the `unfairer' sex, is to end on a complementary note?!!

Robert Burns represented the aspirations of the "common man". He put into song many of our better ideas and ideals and verbalized our higher instincts. He also had a hawkish sense of bawdy humour, and in that vein then, let me make a sincere effort to begin this reply on a complementary note - by beginning with a look at the "size" of Scottish manhood. (Raise hand to indicate "height")

Some years ago, whilst still living in Scotland, a television commercial for "Scots Porridge Oats" showed two tall, strapping men in kilts and string vests tossing the caber and strutting their stuff, after having consumed a hearty breakfast of hot porridge. The commercial however had to be filmed using English actors as no Scottish actors of the right build (i.e., tall and strapping) could be found to play the parts. A 5'2" Glaswegian man to whom I repeated the T.V. commercial story, theorized that all la creme-de-la-creme of Scottish manhood had been used as cannon fodder by the English in two world wars... leaving the runts at home to breed.

And what about the Scotsman's sense of style and dress? There is a theory that our ancestral Pict men painted themselves indigo so their wives could not see what they were up to in the heather with the woman next door. Nowadays though, Scotland is possessed of a tartan obsession. According to one historian, prior to Robert Burns the average clan gathering looked like a parade of tattie bags. A chief purpose of the original tartans was camouflage. Dressed in modern tartans the only way you men could hide would be to fight your battles on a ludo board.

Do we agree ladies with the statement that the kilt is an aphrodisiac? I once heard someone say that your man could hawk himself about in tight jeans or Italian suits and there's nothing doing. But should he (and I quote) "hap his hurdies with the passion pleats" it doesn't seem to matter what kind of women they are - rich, poor, old, young, black, white, yellow - they just melt, go shoogly in the legs, and submit. A social anthropologist who was asked why the kilt should be the world's greatest knee-trembler, just laughed and said "Accessibility old chap, that's what fascinates them, accessibility". Ladies take care - I am not speaking from experience here when I suggest, though, the answer to what a Scotsman wears under his kilt.... is best left to the imagination.

However, Scots men have acquired a few social graces over the past hundred years - they don't belch in the faces of women they are married to, and some of them (so I'm told) even take their socks off before having sex. Nowadays, alibis for bad behaviour based on a deprived Scottish childhood are so commonplace that they're ignored unless you can prove that you were breastfed by your father.

Robert Burns did not tolerate fools easily. In his epigram addressed to a gentleman at table who kept boasting of the company he kept, he wrote:

"What of lords with whom you've supped, And of dukes that you dined with yestreen! A louse, sir, is still but a louse Though it crawl on the locks of a queen"

Robert Burns - who died at age 37 - united music, realism, comedy and humanity in a manner seldom seen. He was a true champion of the common man. But would he still have been today, when the "common man" is as common as Rab C. Nesbitt? What he would have made of contemporary Glasgow - where one definition of an atheist is: "A bloke who goes to a Rangers-Celtic match to watch the football". What would he have thought had he overheard this remark in a local tavern: Q. "What shall we drink to ?" A. "What about to 3 in the morning?"

Still, ladies - and you should know this - according to the result of a British Gas Energy Centre's ''HouseHusbands Day'' quiz - which was a light hearted quiz designed to test men's knowledge of traditionally female tasks - Scottish men outperformed their English and Welsh counterparts when it came to their knowledge of household chores. (I stress the word knowledge - knowing how to do something, and actually doing it are very different things!)

More than 2,000 men all over the UK took part in the quiz. They were asked revealing questions about jobs such as ironing, baking cakes and the best way to remove a red wine stain. Thirty-five percent of Scots answered all of the questions correctly - far more than any other region - proving they really are modern men of the 90's. 99.7% of them claimed they were capable of baking a sponge cake! They were only beaten - percentage wise - on the best way to remove red wine stains - but who bothers to remove alcohol stains in Scotland? (May I make mention here of a banner seen at a Scotland v Soviet Union football game in 1982, which read: ALCOHOLISM v COMMUNISM).

Ladies - I received a chain letter recently, but unlike most chain letters, this one, despite being postmarked Auchtermuchtie, did not cost anything. It read "This letter was started by a woman like yourself in the hope of bringing relief to other tired and discontented women. Just bundle up your husband or boyfriend and send him to the woman whose name appears at the top of the list. Then add your name to the bottom of the list and send a copy of this letter to five of your friends who are equally tired and discontented. When your name comes to the top of the list, you will receive 3,125 men -- and some of them are bound to be better than the one you gave up...."

There are three rings in marriage. The engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering. Of wedding rings, Burns wrote:

"She asked why wedding rings are made of gold;
I ventured this to instruct her;
Why, madam, love and lightning are the same,
On earth they glance, from Heaven they came.
Love is the soul's electric flame,
And gold its best conductor."

You men may not be great believers in the institution of marriage, but let me remind you of something. There is only one thing worse than being a batchelor - and that is being a batchelor's son!

Robbie Burns was a great believer in the rights of women and held us, rightly so, socially and intellectually as equals. From our present day point of view - but not his - he abused women when he fell in love with them - but a point in his favour, he never deserted any of his misbegotten weans! I ask myself what has really changed in men's behaviour toward the fairer sex from Robert Burns' time to ours? Not a lot... But, despite all their vices - their immorality - and all the troubles they may heap upon us, we continue to love them - those men. We love them for all the little things a man can be loved for (and let's face it girls, some of us can love very little things). Two rugby world cups ago in Italy at the Scotland-Brazil match, as the camera panned into the crowd it picked out a bunch of tartan-clad Scotsmen holding a banner which read "Elvis is alive and living in Partick". You can't help but love them.

So lassies - for those of you who are still looking for Mr. Right - girls, the message is clear - head NORTH of the border.