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The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Dead Poet’s Society

Someone once said an Ambassador was a man (they were only men in those days) sent abroad to lie for his country.

I sometimes feel that a modern definition would include at least as part of the job description being sent abroad to eat for his country.

But when you’re eating something as tasty as haggis, Scotland’s national dish, and drinking Scots whisky (in moderate amounts, of course), it’s a pleasant duty.

In the last few weeks, I’ve attended three excellent Burns suppers (see below for an explanation, if you need one!), one hosted by RBS in Stockholm, another also in Stockholm by the Caledonian Society, and a third, last week in Gothenburg, jointly by RBS and SKF, whose CEO Tom Johnstone (no relation, sadly) is also from Bonnie Scotland.

I was honoured to make the “Tack för maten” speech at the Gothenburg dinner and told the story of my rather unusual family connection with Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, whose birthday is celebrated in the annual Burns suppers.

My great, great uncle, ie my grandmother’s uncle, was a Scots poet called Roger Quin. He was born in Dumfries, the Scottish town where Robert Burns is buried.

Quin gave a Burns supper speech himself over a hundred years ago in which we spoke of the extraordinary circumstances in which, as a young boy, he was able to touch the skull of Scotland’s greatest writer. It was doubtless a moment which inspired his subsequent career, including some great romantic and comic poems.

It was a great honour to be able to tell the story to a distinguished group of Swedish and British business people in Gothenburg last Friday night.

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