Having a fit

AS many readers rummage about for their kilts for their annual appearance at a Burns Supper next week, we look out some classic Diary stories about the Bard and his Suppers over the years. Incidentally, if you are trying on your kilt, you might agree with Radio Scotland presenter Mark Stephen who once remarked: "It takes nine yards of material to make a kilt – so how the hell can it be too tight?"

One of our favourite lines was from a speaker at a Burns Supper at Giffnock and Newlands Synagogue who remarked: "I said to my wife, 'Did you ever, in your wildest fantasies, imagine I would speak at a Burns Supper at the synagogue?' 'Trust me,' replied my wife, 'you're never in my wildest fantasies'."

Red neck

A READER invited a friend from England to a Burns Supper who, although he drew the line at wearing a kilt, thought he could at least wear a tartan tie. He went into a gents' outfitters in Northumberland and asked: "Do you have any Scottish ties?" and the assistant replied: "Yes, I've got an aunt in Fife."

What a card

WE have recalled many well-known Burns speakers over the years including the late Sheriff J Irvine Smith who was a guest speaker at a Glasgow Police Burns Supper. When he was met on arrival by the organising committee, he popped his hand in his pocket, withdrew a Monopoly Get Out of Jail Free card and said: "Something for the raffle, chaps!"

Not a prayer

ANOTHER great Burns speaker was the Rev James Currie. As a reader once recalled: "In one Immortal Memory he told of taking his car to a garage for a service – the Burns connection evades me – and he said to the mechanic, 'Don't charge me too much, I'm just a poor minister.' The mechanic replied, 'Aye, ah ken. I heard you on Sunday'."

Stole the show

INCIDENTALLY, the Rev James was known for scribbling down the stories and gags of fellow speakers which he might usefully recycle in the future. As entertainer Jimmy Logan remarked, while on the top table at the same Burns Supper: "Am I speaking slowly enough for you, Jimmy?" And we remember that Rikki Fulton, also amused by Jimmy's note-taking, who dubbed him "The Thief of Bad Gags".

Jackets off

ANOTHER celebrity speaker was the late great STV announcer Bill Tennent. A reader once told us: "Bill was also 'mine host' of his hotel in Crosshill, Glasgow. Our football team wanting a venue for a Burns Night, approached Bill with the suggestion that, to cut costs, he would make the address to the haggis. He served drinks from the bar, put a dinner jacket on and made the speech, immediately returning to his bar duties sans jacket."

Book him

OK, another gag from a Burns Supper when a speaker giving the Immortal Memory claimed he wanted to brush up on his Burns beforehand so called in at Govan Library where he marched through the doors and asked the assistant: "Robert Burns – the complete works." The librarian replied: "The massage parlour is further down the road, Mr Burns."

Hard to swallow

OUR favourite scene at a Burns Supper was the teetotal chairman who ordered a glass of cold tea for him to toast the haggis as it would look like whisky, and of course a glass of the real stuff for the piper. The glasses got mixed up, and the chairman's face was a picture when he swallowed the whisky – but nothing compared to that of the piper's.

Not lay a glove

FINALLY, a lovely reflection by none other than the late boxing world champion Muhammad Ali who was in Scotland for an exhibition bout when he was cajoled by a TV reporter to come up with a "poem on Scotland" because of Ali's penchant for rhyming. But the great man simply replied: "No, you have your own poet. He is a genius, and I am no match for your Robert Burns."