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25 January 2016

About 60 homeless guests were treated to a traditional Scottish Burns' Supper last night, compliments of St Columba's Church, London.  

Guests entered the church hall while Mike Shanahan, a Chelsea pensioner in full kilt, played the bagpipes. The traditional Sekirk Grace was said by a Scottish volunteer, who himself was formerly a recipient of this charity’s services. The Haggis was then presented by Sarah, a long-time volunteer and much appreciated cook for the Sunday night shelters. After a hearty round of applause, volunteer Bruce recited the Burns’ poem “Address to a Haggis”. 

After serving a broth, volunteers passed out plates piled with Haggis served with tatties an neeps (potatoes and turnips), as is custom.

"I think it's great we can share this Scottish tradition with our guests," said Judith Roberts, coordinator of St Columba's night shelter. She had encouraged volunteers to tell guests about their tradition and to welcome the homeless men and women as if they were hosting the supper in their own home. After all the activity of Christmas dies down, it's the end of January when the guests could really use a spirit booster, she added.  

After pudding, all joined in to sing “Auld Lang Syne”.  The only element missing from a traditional Burns Supper was the whisky.

Steven, a homeless guest who had lived in Glasgow for two years said:

It was the best Haggis I've ever had.

For most, it was the first Haggis tasted, and everyone declared it a success. Nothing, not even the vegetarian Haggis, was left over.