Haggis has always been kind of mysterious to Canadians

The influence of Scottish poet Robert Burns has endured over 200 years after his birth and far beyond his birthplace.

Purveyor sent the Scottish national dish to surprising destinations for Burns Day in 1955

Making haggis in 1955

2 years ago
Duration 1:16
The process of making haggis is viewed up close in 1955.

Burns Night is a yearly highlight on the calendar every Jan. 25 in Scotland and anywhere with a population of Scots, their descendents, or poetry lovers.

Add haggis fans to that list.

According to The Scotsman newspaper, a vegetarian haggis made by a Scottish company was newly available in the United States in time for Burns Night 2020. The product, called Highland Veggie Crumble, was also available in Canada at specialty stores.

A Burns Supper, a night of reading, eating and drinking, celebrates the Scottish poet Robbie Burns, who was born on Jan. 25, 1759 and died in 1796 at the age of 27.

Haggis, demystified: Lungs, liver, drippings, suet, oatmeal, barley, onions and seasoning were the usual ingredients. (Newsmagazine/CBC Archives)

"Most of the world can understand the poetry of Robert Burns," said a narrator on CBC's Newsmagazine in 1955, as the report launched with a group listening to the poet's words, an essential part of any Burns Night. 

"But some enthusiasms of the Scots remain a mystery to their fellow men."

He was talking about haggis.

A recipe to remember

The Scottish national dish, the traditional centrepiece of a Burns Night supper, was notorious in the rest of the world even then, consisting as it does of organ meat, oatmeal and other fillers sewn into a sheep's stomach before being steamed and then eaten. 

Workers at a Scottish haggis factory sew up the filling inside what was traditionally a sheep's stomach. (Newsmagazine/CBC Archives)

Newsmagazine took viewers inside a Scottish haggis factory as workers laboured to fulfil what was apparently a global demand for the delicacy.

The anonymous narrator asked what haggis was made of, and the film showed apron-clad women mixing the filling and stuffing stomachs with it before using large needles and thread to seal them shut.

"This week, Newsmagazine solves the mystery of the haggis for all time," said the host in a credible Scottish accent.

The camera followed along a table laden with haggis ingredients labelled with signs: calves' liver, calves' lungs, drippings, suet, oatmeal, barley, seasonings and "snoino." 

Aha! A secret ingredient!

No, it turned out to be onions — just upside down.

This haggis had wings

Haggis: made in Scotland, shipped everywhere

2 years ago
Duration 1:41
The infamous delicacy is packaged for consumption by Scots enthusiasts around the world.

Then the haggises were steamed, sealed into cans and processed for long-term storage. 

Upon arriving in Halifax, the haggis was escorted off the plane by pipers and a welcoming committee. (Newsmagazine/CBC Archives)

"Whatever one may say about the haggis, it must be admitted that the haggis is a hardy creature," said the narrator.

"Yet it still retains enough vitality to survive long voyages by sea and air to all points on the globe."

Sure enough, the cans of haggis were shown being packed into crates labelled for New York, Los Angeles, Copenhagen and Korea.

It wasn't treated like just any cargo upon its arrival in Halifax via Trans-Canada Air Lines. 

"On the landing field at Halifax the haggis gets a royal reception," said the narrator as a bagpiper and a group of men and women in kilts stood in a stiff wind to usher it off the plane.   

But the journey of the haggis wasn't over.

"Many a haggis finds its way to the prairies," said the host, "and at a Scots dinner in Winnipeg, it traverses the last mile to its doom." 

The haggis was held aloft as it was carried into a Scots dinner in Winnipeg. (Newsmagazine/CBC Archives)

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