25th January is Burns Night, when people get together to celebrate the National Bard Robert Burns, by eating haggis, neeps, and tatties, proposing toasts to the aforesaid haggis, to The Lassies and various other groups of people (as many as possible in order to drink as many toasts as possible – usually whisky of course), to recite poetry, and to sing songs. Burns was an outstanding creator and adaptor of political songs and songs of social justice. Perhaps one of his greatest songs, and one often cited as a contender for the Scottish national anthem, is A Man’s A Man For A’ That, also known as Is There For Honest Poverty. The song is a powerful, inspirational, and internationalist paeon in praise of equality, social justice, and decency – and how relevant in our world of sordid political corruptions and spin; I wonder if Dave and Gideon have ever heard the song!
Many, many performances and recordings of the song have been laid down, such as Sheena Wellington’s moving rendition at the opening (or rather reconvening) of the Scottish Parliament on 1st July 1999; the first such event since the Act of Union in 1707, when that “Parcel of Rogues” (the Scottish nobility and establishment) betrayed the Scottish people for the sake of English gold. Catch a fine rendition by the Dubliners of a Parcel of Rogues.
At the other end, perhaps, of the performing spectrum, is this performance by Paolo Nutini , as performed at Glasgow’s Barrowlands – and a great version it is too!
The final verse says it all really:
Then let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a’ that)
That Sense and Worth over all the earth
Shall have the first place and all that!
For all that, and all that,
It is coming yet for all that,
That man to man the world over
Shall brothers be for all that.
Happy Burns Night!