Bellow are the notes for the Address to the Lassies I delivered at the 28th of January 2016 Pembroke College Burns Night BA Dinner.
There had been concerns over the heteronormativity and genderedness of the address, but as it is a well-intentioned tradition, I would rather it be updated than not performed at all. I hope this address manages to draw the correct balance between tradition as I know it, the celebration of Lassies at Pembroke, and general inclusiveness.
The following is not exactly as the speech was delivered – considering I had drunk the most of a bottle of white wine and was balancing precariously on a chair infront of ~100 people.
For context, Flo is the International Officer who arranged the Burns Night, the GPC = the Graduate Parlour Committee, JPC = Junior Parlour Committee, and everyone else mentioned is a well-loved member or official of Pembroke College, Cambridge.
Modern tradition is that the address to the Lassies is a chance for the speaker to give his views on his wife, girlfriend and women in general and attempt to make it funny. This usually includes the Robert Burns quote about his own wife, Kate, from Tam O’Shanter “Where sits out sulky, sullen dame // Gathering her brows like gathering storm // nursing her wrath to keep it warm” in reference to the man watching some sport game instead of doing house hold chores. Rapidly followed by feeble attempts to reconcile with “But to see her was to love her, love but her, and love forever” from Ae Fond Kiss, and Then We Sever, when he realises that this was ill planned.
However, the only straight guy on the GPC wasn’t overly keen on standing here and making clichéd and sweeping generalisations about women or the Scots. So being a Burns, as evident from my thick, impenetrable Glaswegian accent, Flo decided I would be the next most qualified to give this toast. Now, to be honest with you, as a gay guy, Lassies aren’t my area of expertise – but having read that Burns nights used to be all male affairs I doubt that’s an issue.
As a good scientist I’ve studied a few review articles on Lassies to get up to speed on the latest research. I’ve also conducted my own analysis, including studying hours of footage of Michelle Rigozzi’s flawless bop costumes and dance moves and Anna Cassell’s solution to climate change with her perpetual source of energy. Quantitative data analysis reveals, that despite Pembroke also being an all male affair till relatively recently, 10 out of the 17 members of the GPC are lassies, 11 of 20 of the JPC are lassies and both of the most important and powerful elected student positions are currently held by lassies.
My personal qualitative analysis has also revealed a list of those who hold the real power in college. The people who you email to get things done. This list includes Prof Lorraine Gelsthorpe, Dr Becky Coombs, Francis Kentish and Caroline Adams, who, I am very reliably informed, are also Lassies.
At this point in Flo’s original script, he provided me with the altered lyrics to a well known Beyoncé song with the helpful note “sing along as much as you like!”. I have drunk almost a bottle of wine and I am still not inebriated for that. So instead, if you would like to charge and the raise your glasses, I would like to propose a toast to the Lassies and anyone else who wants it.
To the Lassies!
This was followed afterwards by many glorious Irn Bru and Whiskey combinations.