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The Great Selkirk Haggis Hunt

History Scottish Traditions

What will become of Selkirk Hill in 2021 without the annual haggis hunt? Without the families of Border towns sending their bravest to hunt down the little creatures, might the haggis' (or haggae?) overrun the inclines of Selkirk and scare the swans away from the Pot Loch? And what of Burns Night? Will the people of Selkirk be tucking into their haggis suppers, or shall they have to declare an ode 'to a Chicken'? Surely not.

Never fear, we have it on good authority that a few COVID-safe professional hunters will control the population for the 2021 season and ensure there is plenty haggis available this Burns Night, 25th January.

In case you want to relive last year's excitement, or if you want to know more about the Great Haggis Hunt in preparation for next year's season, read on.

 

What Happens on the Haggis Hunt?

On the first morning of the last weekend before Burns Night, hunters from across the Borders gather in Selkirk Market Place. Led by the town's bands they then set out towards Selkirk Hill at the traditional time of 11.02 am. The procession stops when it reaches the Argus Centre. There, accompanied by music from Riddell Fiddles, the hunters perform the customary Haggis Polka. This ritual is said to bring good luck.

Armed with their nets, the hunters can then descend on the hill searching high and low for the elusive creature that is Scotland's most famous delicacy. The sound of Bagpipes flushes out the creatures their hiding places, and for more than an hour, the hill is awash with the sounds of some serious hunting.

 

Last year, 567 haggis hunters attended the search and were reported to have caught around 750 haggae - this was the events biggest haul to date! The haggis found in Selkirk are renowned for their unique tartan pelt, which sets them apart from the more ordinary-looking species you might find upon the Highlands' cairns!

When the hunt is over, everyone heads to the Hut on the Hill for the closing ceremony. To the sound of a lone piper, Chieftain Burgess recites Rabbie Burns’ most famous poem, 'Address to a Haggis', and a ceremonial haggis is cooked and shared among the revellers.

Address to a Haggis
“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit’ hums.
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis”

The weary hunters then make their way back towards the Towns Arms to relax after the morning's activities. There, all the youngsters receive a certification for their outstanding achievements; keeping the haggis breeding grounds protected and their family's well fed!

Now you know all there is to know. Next year, we'll see you there, dressed in your best tartan hunting gear for the Haggis Hunt 2022!

Wishing all of our customers a wonderful (and safe) Burns Night, 2021


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