January is the winter month par excellence and this year January has come with a vengeance. As I write this on the 14th, there is still snow lying about the garden and pavements. It has been there continuously since the middle of December. Something unheard of up here in recent times. It has also been very, very cold. Indeed the coldest for three decades or more. Still everything looks very pretty. Just a pity I haven’t been well enough to get out and about and enjoy more of the snowy landscapes such as this one.
Still, now that I am retired, I have been able to spend my time stitching and catching up on my reading. The current book is the third novel in Siteg Larsson’s magnificent Millenium trilogy - The Girl who stirred the hornet’s nest. A riveting read.
January is of course the start of the present year. However I always associate this with December and the end of the previous year. After all, here in Scotland the main celebration is on Hogmanay. The 1st of January is a bit of a afterthought. Not too many important festivals or holidays in January. Unless you live in Spain, where they celebrate the Epiphany on 6th January. As with Hogmanay over here the main event is on the evening of the 5th when there is a spectacular cavalcade featuring the three kings who shower the onlooking children with sweets. This is one Spanish custom that I would welcome.
In Scotland of course the main event in January is Burns Night or Burns Supper. Held on the 25th January this commemorates and celebrates the anniversary of the birth of our national poet, Robert Burns. The origins of this distinctive party go back to 1801 just five after his early death. As author Clark McGinn puts it: “Nine men who knew him met for dinner in Burns Cottage in Alloway to celebrate his life and works. The Master of Ceremonies was a local minister – a liberal theologian and an equally liberal host. Hamilton Paul and his guests shared Masonic brotherhood with Rabbie and Paul devised an evening which looked a bit like a lodge ceremonial, centred on a fine fat haggis; with recitation and singing of Burns’s works and a toast (in verse) to the memory of their friend and hero.
It was such a jolly evening, all agreed to meet again the following January for a Birthday Dinner for the bard, little knowing that they had invented a global phenomenon that we know as the BURNS SUPPER – which still broadly follows the Reverend’s original plan.” Here is a painting of the great man.
An important part of any Burns Supper it the saying of grace. This uses the Selkirk Grace, a brief and simple example of Burns’ art.
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.
Burns Suppers are now held all over the world, as Burns was such a popular poet. Though some will be pretty grand and formal affairs with lots of dancing and speech making, the majority will be small scale home grown affairs. I have not been to many Burns Suppers. I vaguely recall attending some suppers while a schoolboy, but cannot remember any details. The last one I attended was when we lived in Spain. Some of the Scots staff at the school decided to organize a Burns Supper. This was held in some restaurant in Castelldefells, just outside Barcelona. Haggis was pretty much unknown to most Spanish chefs, so they were persuaded to prepare their own concoction, which did look a bit like a haggis, but was clearly something completely different - exactly what I dare not remember. Anyway the evening was great fun for all. In addition to the staff from the school, some of the more adventurous natives attended. I remember this supper because I was asked to give the Toast to the Lassies. No doubt due to its brevity more than to its wit, the toast seemed to have been well received. Though I will not be at any Burns Supper this year, we will have haggis, neeps and tatties with a dram of whisky on the 25th.
January is on the whole a good month for the Rutherford family. I can only find one death for this month - my great great great grandfather James Rutherford, who died in Cameron Bridge Hospital in 1868. Curiously, my aunt Betty, James’ great great granddaughter also died in this same hospital in 198 . There are however at least four January births to celebrate. The earliest was Mary Edie Cunningham who was born on 15th January 1836 in Leuchars. She was my great great grandmother and the wife of David Rutherford, who was the youngest son of the above mentioned James Rutherford who died in 1868. More recently both my Dad and my sister, Pat, were born in January. My Dad was born in 1908 in Kanpur in northern India. His father was a soldier in the British Army and was at the time stationed in India. His older brother, James, was also born in India, in 1906. Here is my Dad in later years in his favourite location - the Old Course, St. Andrews.
The most recent addition to January births is my second grandson - Jamie, who was born on 3rd January 2005. Here he is getting ready to blow out the candles on his birthday cake.
Looking over my records I realize that I have very little information about the dates and months of the births or deaths of most of my ancestors. I need to try and do a bit more research. For example I have just discovered that last month I missed out mentioning the birth of my mothers’ paternal grandmother - Helen Wright who was born on 5th December 1861 in Old Machar, Aberdeen. If there are any Rutherfords reading this who have details about the dates of birth or death of any of our ancestors please let me know.
When it comes to birthstones the most favoured seems to be garnet. This is the gemstone of both the traditional and the Ayurvedic lines. The reddish variety appear the most popular and the garnet symbolizes awareness, commitment, regeneration, insight and removing negativity. A pretty cheerful lot then. If you don’t fancy a garnet the mystic tradition favours the emerald.
For flowers, while the snowdrop does come out in January, it seems that the traditional flower associated with this month is the carnation. Again a wide range of colours to choose from, though the reds seem to be the most favoured. The Carnation symbolizes love, fascination and distinction.
I want to end this little post with some of Burns’ poetry. All the versions come from this BBC site on Robert Burns. It includes audio and video performances of most of his poems. First off is the last verse from his celebration of men and women’s inherent humanity, irrespective of origin - A Man's a Man for A' That
Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.
Next is one his wonderful love poems - My Luve is like a Red Red Rose. This time I give the complete version.
O my Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
O my Luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.
Till a' the seas gang dry , my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.
And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve !
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' 'twere ten thousand mile!
Many of Burns’ poems were of course songs and you can see a fine version of My luve is like a red, red rose here, performed by the great Scottish singer, Eddie Reader.
Though Burns did write in impeccable English, most of his works were written in the language of the countryside, as then spoken by most Scots in the latter half of the 18th century. Nowadays of course many Scots find some of his poems difficult to follow without the aid of a glossary. If you want to test your skills in Scots you can try this little quiz here. I took the test and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I got 8 out of the 10 answers correct. If you get 8 or more correct you’re informed “That wis braw! Ye ken yer neaps frae yer tatties!” You can find out more about the Scots language at this site.
So a happy January to everyone and don’t forget your haggis and whisky on the 25th.