Commemorating Robbie's love for the lassies

Justin Crann
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Celebrated poet a feminist ahead of his time

More than 200 years ago a Scottish poet wrote a few verses on the Rights of Woman.

Robert Haakenson and several other lads at the Robert Burns supper at Timothy Eaton Gardens Saturday night raise their glasses to the lassies.

On Saturday night, more than 150 Moose Javians gathered at Timothy Eaton Gardens to pay tribute to the poet — Scotland's favourite son, Robert Burns.

They kept the man's spirit, and his feelings about women, alive. 

"Burns could not have retained the status that he has so long enjoyed were it not for the fact he was surrounded by remarkable women," said Robert Haakenson before raising his glass "to the Lassies."

But Burns was not a perfect man. 

Though he wrote on the rights of women and treated them as his equals in a time far in advance of the movement for women's suffrage, the poet was also a noted philanderer.

That doesn't make him any less worth celebrating, according to Ian McWilliams.

"This supper that we are having tonight is celebrated across the globe. At its best, it can transcend race, creed and condition," he said. "What's even more fascinating is that it commemorates a man who was a failure in many ways.

"He had within him the stuff of greatness, but beneath him, feet of clay," added McWilliams. "He was consistently inconsistent. … To celebrate Burns, we have to accept his baseness. Acknowledging his infidelities and weaknesses doesn't prevent us from praising his ideals."

In that respect, it would seem Marie Gibbs certainly agrees. She said she has "tallied up 53 Burns nights" in her life, and has done the "Response from the Lassies" many times.

She delivered it once more Saturday.

"Robbie Burns was one of the first men in history to raise his glass to the women. He toasted them. He recognized them in the pubs," she said. "Once again, this honour was bestowed upon us — and what a pity that every lassie in Moose Jaw isn't here to receive it."

According to Gibbs, "it would be worth walking a mile in a blizzard" to attend a Burns supper.

"It's damned important, because I grew up in an age when there were no rights for women whatsoever," she said. "That's why I love to come to every Burns night: because it's one of the few public events where men toast to the women."

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Geographic location: Timothy Eaton Gardens, Scotland, Moose Jaw

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