LONACONING — “Auld Lang Syne” is sung worldwide at New Year’s, but few recall that its author, Robert Burns, who lived from 1759 to 1796, is Scotland’s national poet.

His poems, stories and songs, written in the Scottish dialect, have been translated into most of world’s languages, a distinction shared only by William Shakespeare. In Scotland and elsewhere, the birthday of “Bobbie” Burns, Jan. 25, is commemorated with feasts, drink, reading of his works and celebration of Scottish heritage.

Bobbie Burns Day was a traditional celebration in the town of Lonaconing, founded largely by Scots who came to America for opportunities in iron and coal mining. Residents gathered in the town armory for all manner of food, a “wee drap” of spirits (often much more), songs and Robert Burns readings. William C. Abbott, born in Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1872, was the favored reader because of his authentic Scottish accent. A small man, he had a powerful speaking voice and great pride in his native land and poet.

Abbott, who came to Lonaconing as a young man, served for many years as a judge of the Orphan’s Court in Allegany County. His family donated his two-volume, first-edition collection of the “Works of Robert Burns” to the George’s Creek Regional Library in Lonaconing where they are on display in the history room.

In her little 1983 book, “A Wee Bit O’ Scotland: Growing Up in Lonaconing, Maryland at the Turn of the (19th) Century,” (1983) Ruth Baer Levy describes Bobbie Burns Day celebrations in 1910. She sat all dressed up between her parents, prominent Jewish merchants in town, as great platters of “the haggis” (steamed sheep entrails, onions, and oatmeal) and “tremlin’tam” (a gelatinous mass made from boiled head of steer) were ceremoniously brought into the hall.

She had no interest in those Scottish delicacies, but favored the buttery shortbread dusted with powdered sugar. Years later she recalled the word of the songs and stories and related that she “felt warm and happy ... and then fell asleep to the words of old Scotch songs rising to the rafters in sweet melody.”

More sedate celebrations of Bobbie Burns Day were also held in Lonaconing. A program from the history room indicates that in a Silver Tea was held at the First Presbyterian Church on Jan. 23, 1947. It featured readings, a Scottish quiz, the singing of “Annie Laurie,” “Flow Gently Sweet Afton” and “Loch Lomond” and concluded with a prayer and the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” in the Scottish dialect.

Come celebrate Bobbie Burns Day, Saturday, Jan. 24. Revive a Lonaconing tradition honoring Scotland’s famous poet, Robert Burns, by attending a Scottish heritage program in Georges Creek Regional Library from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and a Scottish luncheon (hearty stew, crusty bread, tea/coffee, and shortbread for dessert) from noon to 1 p.m., followed by bagpiper Wayne Skidmore, with songs and stories from 1 to 2 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall in Lonaconing.

Advance tickets for the luncheon and entertainment are available at a discount over the cost at the door. Scottish shortbread will be on sale. Tickets are available at George’s Creek Pharmacy, 9 Main St. in Lonaconing and The Book Center, 15 North Centre St. in Cumberland or by calling Kathy Miller at (301) 463-5784 or Sandy Grandstaff at (301) 463-2289.

For program details e-mail Andrea Bowden at abowden@bcps.k12.md.us.

The event is sponsored by the George’s Creek Promotion Council to benefit the Lonaconing Heritage House. All contributions are tax deductible.

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