We had a fantoosh October week during the school holidays this year with numerous weans and their family members joining us for Halloween themed Cantrip Crafts. We also had a Haunted Horror Hunt on offer that was site wide meaning families were encouraged to explore not only our Museum but our play-park, Burns Monument, Brig o’ Doon, Alloway Auld Kirk, Poet’s Path and Burns Cottage to hunt for clues!
We had seven different crafts on from Monday 14th – Sunday 20th October. They were:
- a pumpkin wreath
- a warlock/witch hat
- creepy sun-catchers
- jam jar lanterns
- toilet roll characters
- a thaumatrope toy
- frichtfu’ finger puppet pals
These crafts were very popular with the weans (and their parents, siblings, carers and grandparents! Our Learning Officer joked that it was inter-generational family-fun, just as much for the adults as the weans, but it seriously is) and so, we thought we’d share some of these crafts instructions with you in case you’d like to try them at home as a family. You don’t need a lot of specialist equipment – most of this you’ll most likely have already or be able to buy out of budget stores like Pound Land, Wilko or large supermarkets. Also, these can easily be tweaked to make them themed around another holiday other than Halloween. Happy crafting!!
Jam Jar Lanterns: this is a creative craft that looks great when finished and you put your candle in it in the dark! It uses up jars that would be going into the recycling bin anyway so it doesn’t require you to buy anything made of glass in especially for it.
What you need:
- A selection of old jars
- Different coloured tissue paper
- Black card, scissors, pen/pencils
- PVA glue, pot & brush
- Googly eyes
- LED or wax candles
- Choose which design you want to do: a pumpkin, haunted house, spooky forest, spiders and their webs, Frankenstein, a mummy?
- Tear up small strips of tissue paper in your chosen colour and paste them onto the glass jar with PVA glue. Apply enough to cover the jar but not so that the light will not be able to shine through.*
- Next, use scissors to cut a spooky design out of black card i.e. pumpkin face shapes, Frankenstein face shapes or owls and trees.
- Then stick it to your jam jar with PVA glue; applying an extra layer of glue over the whole thing to give it a nice finish.
- Leave it to dry – ideally overnight or at least for a few hours.
- Finally, pop in a candle and watch your lanterns glow! Just remember to never leave an open flame unattended.
*Do not put tissue paper inside the lantern – just on the outside – as that is a dangerous fire hazard!
Thaumatrope Toy: this is a 19th century scientific toy that is an optical illusion. You put two separate images on either side of your circles and when you spin it, it combines them together! Cool, huh?
What you need:
- Paper and card
- Glue or Sello-tape
- Cut out two identical circles on plain white paper (using something to draw around is easiest).
- Cut out two identical circles on card.
- On your paper, draw something to put on either side, for example: a spider’s web and a spider hanging down, a cage and a bird, a house then the moon and stars.
- Draw them onto your circles as if they were to be combined they’d match up to each other i.e. draw the moon around the house.
- Glue your paper circles onto your card circles.
- Get a straw and glue them securely to either side of it – now spin it and see if your optical illusion toy works!
Creepy Sun-catcher Decoration: this requires a bit of planning and develops problem-solving skills in the weans as they need to map out where their going to cut and size their “windows” appropriately.
What you need:
- Black card
- Glue or Sello-tape
- Various colours of tissue paper
- Take an A4 piece of black card and draw a window outline then draw shapes inside the window like smaller window panes. You can try to draw a pumpkin, spider, bat or ghost if your up for the challenge.
- Double up your lines up leaving a decent amount of space and make sure you can see your pen marks clearly as you’ll need to cut along these.
- Using your scissors, very carefully pierce a hole in the middle of the parts you’ll need to cut out i.e. where the “glass” will go in the windows.
- Once you’ve cut all of them out, pick different colours of tissue paper and arrange where they’ll go, then cut them to size.
- When you are ready to glue, flip the card over and glue the back of it and then place your tissue into the right place.
- Continue to do this until all gaps are filled.
- Stick it up on a window and watch as the sunlight shines through you creepy sun-catcher!
Scots words used in this blog:
- Fantoosh = flashy, ultra-fashionable
- Weans = children
- Cantrip = magic
- Auld = old
- Kirk = church
- Frichtfu’ = frightful
Friends of Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is a registered independent charity which was created in February 2013 to support the museum. Initially, the Friends group was set up in order to raise funds for the Burns Monument Restoration Appeal – this was a tremendous success, with the Friends donating £30,000 to the Burns Monument Fund in 2017, and a further £6000 donated in 2018. Since then, the Friends have continued to raise funds through a variety of means, and these are donated to the museum for use in other restoration and development projects.
The Friends fundraise in many different ways. Chief amongst them is the Garden Shop: in 2013, the Friends took over the old ticket kiosk in the Burns Monument Garden and set about converting it into a shop. Open during the summer season, the Garden Shop sells plants, bulbs and seeds, as well as Burns-related crafts, drinks and ice-creams to enjoy. Whilst the shop is closed throughout winter, the dedicated volunteers sell Christmas trees and wreaths during the festive season as well. Now in its seventh year, the Garden Shop is set to re-open in the very near future; it is opening later than usual due to work being done on the electronics within the shop.
A number of events also run throughout the year – for example, next month the Friends are putting on a Big Band Night at the museum, featuring the highly popular band That Swing Sensation. Further details can be found on the RBBM website. The Friends also hold an annual quiz night, as well as raffles and tombolas throughout the year.
Finally, it is thanks to the Friends of Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, and in particular the Chair, Hugh Farrell, that the Burns Supper returned to the Burns Cottage. The first ever Burns Supper was held in July 1801, when nine friends of the late Robert Burns gathered in his childhood home to dine, read his poetry and deliver an ode to the Bard before raising a glass in his name. The suppers continued to be held in the Cottage until 1809, before moving to the King’s Arms Hotel in Ayr in 1810. After a gap of two hundred and seven years, on 25th January 2016, a Burns Supper was once again held in Burns Cottage. This event has become the Friends’ major fundraiser.
The Supper has been a regular event every year since and attracts guests from all over the world. The traditional order of a Burns Supper is delivered, complete with piper, fiddler, poetry recitals, songs, and, of course, haggis, neeps and tatties. The names of the nine gentlemen who attended that first supper are listed on the programme, as are the names of all performers and guests at the current supper; a copy of the programme is then placed in the museum archives to become part of the history of the cottage. Attendees at the Burns Cottage Supper are also lucky enough to interact with an object from RBBM’s own collection (with the curator watching closely nearby!). And each year, the Gregg Fiddle that Robert Burns learned to dance to is played: a magical moment.
The Friends of Robert Burns Birthplace Museum are an integral part of RBBM, and the work they do to fundraise for our restoration and development projects is invaluable. We would like to thank them endlessly for the contributions they have made so far, and we look forward to many more years working successfully with them to ensure as many people as possible can enjoy the birthplace of the Bard.
More information on the Friends can be found on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/friendsofrbbm/
Poetry, songs and women are widely known to have been Robert Burns’s great passions, but he also loved to step onto the dancefloor as well. In 1779, Burns as a young man decided to attend dancing lessons in Tarbolton. This decision allowed him to temporarily escape the financial difficulties that the family were enduring at Lochlea. Therefore Burns used to regularly walk to a humble thatched house after the farming work was done to enjoy some time with his friends. In the museum collection you will see a beautifully restored fiddle with a red, green and black floral design work. This fiddle was played by Burns’s dance teacher, William Gregg, while Robert learned and practiced his steps. According to Burns he took up dancing to ‘give my manners a brush.’ But improving his manners and exercise were not the only benefits that dancing would give, as it granted Burns an opportunity to get acquainted with the local girls as well. This early time of social and sexual exploration played an important part in shaping Burns into the man he would famously become. To our twenty-first century minds dancing seems like a harmless pastime; but to his father William Burnes, this was an act of rebellion. According to Gilbert their father was often irritated by Robert’s dancing, as it was a clear sign that Robert was no longer listening to William’s advice and counsel. As a consequence of this, Burns himself acknowledged that his decision to continue with his dancing lessons compromised his relationship with his father.
In Burns’s narrative poem Tam O’Shanter you can feel the excitement of the dance unfolding, yet all the while there is a dark truth to this particular social gathering:
Warlocks and witches in a dance:
Nae cotillion, brent new frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels.’
This scene of enjoyment is not only watched by the protagonist Tam, but also by Auld Nick who played the music to make them dance. This negative perception of dance being sinful is more in keeping with William’s opinion rather than his son. Nevertheless this moral outlook is undermined by the poem’s greater sense of adventure and humour. These two opposing viewpoints mirror the different standpoints of William and Robert in 1779, one saw dance as wicked and the other saw only pleasure. Despite all of William’s disapproval Robert Burns continued to love music, dance and social gatherings throughout his life. Tam O’Shanter was published in Grose’s Antiquities of Scotland in 1791, which reveals that Burns never forgot his father’s outlook on dance.
If you are a lover of dance yourself, you can follow in the Bard’s footsteps and take part in Scottish country dances set to his songs. For instance Ae fond Kiss is a reel, or perhaps you would prefer a livelier jig to the poem Halloween. One of the most popular times to toast Burns and celebrate his life is at a Burns Supper, so perhaps in the future you will follow his example and take to the dancefloor.
‘The dancers quick and quicker flew,
They reel’d, they set, they cross’d, they cleekit.’
By Kirstie Bingham
Following the fabulous and super tasty ‘Haggis in the Hole’ recipe here are some Home-made Haggis Pakoras. Perfect Burns Night party food these are easy, fun and great to make with friends. I first made these when celebrating Diwali and they now feature as my go to party food.
- One medium Haggis cooked (you can use vegetarian haggis)
- 150g Gram Flour
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon powdered cumin
- 1 tablespoon of fresh coriander
- Some salt
- 150ml Natural Yogurt (I used 150 ml of Alpro Soya Yoghurt to make these lactose free)
- One whole lemon juiced
- Oil for frying
- Cook the Haggis following the instructions on the packaging. Once cooked, scoop out the insides getting rid of the haggis skin and break up the meat with a fork. Set this to the side.
- Now mix the chilli powder, cumin, coriander and salt with the Gram Flour in a large mixing bowl.
- Then add the yoghurt and lemon juice and mix into a thick batter.
- Roll the haggis into small ish balls and dip them into the pakora batter and sit them on some parchment.
- Now heat the oil in a pan . Make sure the oil is hot enough before you fry the pakora by dropping a bit of batter into the pan. If it fizzles then it is hot enough.
- Drop the pakora into the pan until the batter is cooked and is a golden brown colour. Set them on some parchment or on a wire rack to cool slightly before eating.
Serving suggestion – When I have these at home I love them with some chilli dipping sauce and a wee bit of salad! Also feel free to mix up your spices to your own taste!
Written by Catriona, Learning Intern , inspired by friends and the tastes of India. Photographs by kind permission of Alistair Copeland.