I'm meeting my secret Scottish lover again tonight. We meet about once a month, but our January hook-up is the big one.

My family back in Ireland don’t understand. They think I’m weird, that in the 27 years I’ve been in Scotland I’ve gone native and started consorting with types they’d never allow over the doorstep. My friends in England simply consider me a sicko. And as for pals in America, they wouldn’t even let my lover into their country. Her sort are banned there. In fact, it’s pretty hard to find anywhere accepting of our forbidden love.

Look, I get it. My lover shouldn’t be my type. Even their perfume is a bit strange. I usually go for a spritz of Opium, maybe a classic Chanel No 5, but to be honest, my lover smells slightly gamey if anything.

And as to her name, well it’s hardly written in the stars along with Juliet, Cressida or Helen of Troy. She’s called Haggis. But, heavens to Betsy, I love that lassie. My journey into haggisophilia has been long and tortuous. My first brush with the word "haggis" came in 1977 when a Scottish kid rocked up at my Northern Ireland primary school. I can’t remember his name, because children being children and this new child being Scottish he was simply called Haggis, even by teachers. Understandably, he left shortly afterwards.

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But what was a haggis, I mused to myself as I wandered home amid police sirens and bomb scares? My granny had the answer, as her great-grandmother was Scottish. “It’s a disgusting thing, my boy. Evil as food. The Scots – and you must be brave and face the fact that their blood runs in your veins – mince up the insides of a sheep, put the gunk into the dead sheep’s own stomach, cook it and eat it.”

I staggered back in horror. It sounded like a sin worse than cannibalism. The Scots frightened me at this point. I could imagine them capturing and torturing sheep all over the Highlands. Then the 1978 World Cup happened and because I was called Mackay, I decided to support Scotland and put my haggis nightmares and the culinary crimes of Caledonian to one side.

A hiatus of many years passed, and haggis and I lost all touch with each other. My next brush with she of the sonsie face came in 1994. I was a journalist now and my girlfriend and I were offered a trip by the Scottish Tourist Board. Glamorously, we started in Ayr, where we were taken on a jaunt around Burns country. There was much talk of haggis and even the recitation of poetry in honour of the monster.

But this is where things started to change for me. I liked the poem. It was funny. You could tell Burns was taking the proverbial something rotten. To a Haggis is a classic of the mock heroic style, like Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale where a stupid rooster is given the kind of literary treatment reserved for kings. I thought it pretty cool that one of Scotland’s best-known poems was basically a 1700s stand-up routine.

Nevertheless, I was still somewhat reticent about putting the fiendish thing in my gob. This was the height of Mad Cow Disease, after all. And yes, evidently, I realised cows aren’t sheep; still, simply the sight of haggis looked like it could turn a human mad.

Regardless, I psychologically girded my loins for an encounter. I couldn’t come to Scotland and not eat haggis. It’s like going to Ibiza and not taking drugs. And there’s steel in me. I wouldn’t be cowed by offal.

Also, the Irish may sneer at the stately haggis, but we’ve our own foul food stuffs. Back in Ireland, I loved my yearly dalliance with Bloomsday, celebrating all things James Joyce. The shenanigans see us Irish – and foolish Americans – guzzling blubbery pigs trotters, aka crubeens, aka boiled feet, accompanied by all manner of hideous, yet delicious, organs: grilled kidneys, breadcrumbed livers, roasted hearts.

So let’s be honest, I was being a wee bit precious with my hemming and hawing over haggis given that I was a regular consumer of what goes into haggis, just merely in an unminced form.

Our Scottish travels continued. We went to Glasgow, and were shocked to find we weren’t stabbed and that people were friendly. Nobody was stingy; strangers told jokes in bars and bought you drinks.

Ah-ha! I realised quite a lot of lies had been told about poor old Scotland. So maybe the haggis wasn’t to be feared.

In Edinburgh, my girlfriend and I took the plunge. In some Royal Mile tourist trap, probably Deacon Brodies (for shame) we braved the tricolour: haggis, tatties and neeps. Bam! It was love at first taste. This was basically Irish food, just slightly madder looking.

After a week, my girlfriend and I headed back to Belfast. You could say that wee Scottish trip cemented our love. It was our first holiday together. We got married the following year, and decided we wanted to have our children while still young. But we didn’t want to raise them in Belfast, what with civil war and all that.

“What about Scotland?” my new and lovely wife suggested. “It was cool,” I replied. “And you can’t get haggis in Ireland.” Six months later, we moved to Glasgow. Nine months later we’d one baby, and a year after another. Two girls, now young Scots women in their twenties.

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Tonight, like every Burns Night, I'll tell the girls how if it wasn’t for me and their mum eating haggis on the Royal Mile back in the last century, they might not be here today.

They'll look at me – a mix of confusion and sympathetic disdain’ and say: "Dad, it’s haggis, mate. When are you going to get over it?”

But you know, maybe never. I’m an adopted Scot, that’s how I see myself. Still Irish, but a citizen of this fine country, and while the symbols of Scotland may seem quite meaningless to those born and bred here, for folk like me they remain rather special, even if they look hellish.