Hundreds of our residents across our 21 care homes across the south savoured a taste of Scotland as they celebrated Burns Night in honour of 18th century bard Rabbie Burns.
Poetry recitals, songs, games, whisky tasting and dancing were the order of the day along with festive lunches and suppers featuring haggis, neeps and tatties.
Nowhere was the celebration more heartfelt than at Braemar Lodge Care Home in Salisbury.
Burns enthusiast Annie Miller, who was born and brought up in the same county, Ayrshire, as the world-famous poet, had the honour of saying the traditional pre-supper Selkirk Grace watched by fellow residents, team members and visiting guests.
Annie read out the words of the prayer: ‘Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be Thankit!’
Asked about the enduring importance of Burns Night, Annie said she had celebrated it here and overseas throughout her life, adding: “He was a young man who died in 1796, before he was 40, yet in every country of the world, more than 200 years later, his birth is celebrated.
“I am very fond of him and his poetry. He really understood people. Burns Night is a great excuse to get together.”
The ceremonial haggis was piped into Braemar Lodge by Pipe Sergeant Keith Turner of the Wiltshire Caledonian Pipes & Drums.
Wearing a kilt of Stewart Grey tartan, Keith played a rendition of Burns’ song ‘A Man’s A Man for A’ That’ and, clapped along by the assembled company, ‘Scotland The Brave’, often considered Scotland’s ‘unofficial national anthem’.
Keith said: “Burns Night is a very significant occasion, honouring one of Scotland’s best known people. It’s a unique Scottish tradition.”
He added that the Wiltshire Caledonian Pipes & Drums currently has members aged from twelve to 72 and is always on the lookout for new pipers and drummers to join.
“I’d say it generally takes a year to learn how to play the bagpipes,” Keith said.
The ceremonial address to the haggis was performed by Graham Ballard, Companionship Team Leader, who said afterwards: “It was a joy to get into the spirit of the occasion. Burns Night is a firm favourite with residents whether they are from north or south of the border.”
Among other Burns Night celebrations at Kingfishers Care Home in New Milton welcomed a performance by the New Forest Scottish Country Dancers while at Linden House Dementia Care Home in Lymington, party goers sampled the traditional Scottish dessert of Cranachan.
In Dorset meanwhile, residents at Brook View Care Home in West Moors tucked into cock-a-leekie soup and clootie dumplings along with other Scottish delicacies.
And at Whitecliffe House Care Home in Blandford, residents and team members turned a Burns poetry reading into the first meeting of a newly founded poetry club at the home.