The 16th Annual Budapest Burns Supper in 2013 was held in the stunning ballroom of the Corinthia Hotel, Budapest, on 26th January 2013.

The almost 240 guests were treated to a splendid 5-course dinner worthy of the 5-star hotel, complete with beer sponsored by Heineken, wines sponsored by Varga Pincészet and Hangácsi és Fia, as well as whiskies sponsored by Diageo (Johnnie Walker) and WhiskyNet.

The 8 pipers and drummers flown in specially from Scotland provided the musical entertainment along with two opera singers, Szilvia Vörös and Csaba Gaál, who performed a Mozart duet on the gallery of the ballroom, and not to mention Dagda, our resident Scottish folk music band who have supported the Budapest Burns Suppers for many years.

Thanks to the generous donations of all those present the raffle and auction raised the princely sum of HUF 5 million or €17,000 for the Foundation and its projects, and so a big thank you to all those who continue to support the work of the RBIF in Hungary.

You can find a selection of photos from the evening under our Gallery page.

At just before 3pm on Saturday, 14 January 2012, the name of the Robert Burns International Foundation Sponsor of the Year was announced in front of 75,000 football fans at the Manchester United stadium, and RBIF President Sir Alex Ferguson presented the trophy to David Wood, commercial director of Tesco Global Áruházak Zrt.

Tesco Hungary is one of a handful of sponsors who have supported the Budapest Burns Supper since the very first Burns Overnight in 1998. As the very time this article was being written, the company was becoming only the fifth recipient of the Puskás Ferenc – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year Trophy.

The experience of being on such hallowed turf as that of the Theatre of Dreams just minutes before a game is unique. RBIF curatorium chairman Jock MacKenzie has described it as “electric and hair raising”. Supper chairman Stuart McAlister was equally moved the year he attended.

“The feeling of walking on to the pitch at Old Trafford is one I doubt I’ll ever forget,” he recalls. “Even though I was born in Liverpool and have been a Red all my life, I was still proud to have the chance to walk up through the tunnel and onto one of the most famous football pitches in the world. Being greeted by Sir Alex Ferguson certainly made the experience that much more special.”

The match on 14 January was against Bolton Wanderers, which, given that there is only 30 km (20 miles) between the two stadia, almost makes it a derby game, and guarantees a sell-out crowd. The official attendance on the day was 75,444. And they saw a little piece of Red Devil’s history:
37-year-old Paul Scholes’ first goal since the veteran came out of retirement, in his first home game. Manchester United won 3:0.

Robert Burns International Foundation-Charity for Sick and Underprivileged Children

We spoke with David Wood, who has been commercial director since 2010, a few days before he flew out to the UK to receive the trophy.

Tesco has sponsored the Budapest Burns Supper since its launch 15 years ago. But how and why did Tesco get involved in the first place?

David Wood, commercial director of Tesco Global Áruházak Zrt.

It is a core priority for Tesco to be a good neighbour and to act responsibly in the communities we serve. The cause supported by the Budapest Burns Supper has always been an important one for the local community, which is why Tesco – at that time a relatively new enterprise in the Hungarian market – decided to sponsor it.

Why does Tesco continue to support the Budapest Burns Supper?
The need to support children’s hospitals is an enduring one. Hence over the years we have strengthened our partnership with the Robert Burns International Foundation. We value the consistency of the Foundation’s leadership and the great effort the volunteers of the Foundation dedicate to helping people or institutions in difficult situations.

Given the on going global economic recession, and the difficult trading environment in Hungary, are there any plans to cut back on support in the future?
During times of recession it is even more important that we support our local communities and we have no plans to reduce our commitment in this area.

Why is charitable support such as that organised by the RBIF important?
Such charity events not only raise funds for people or institutions in need but also highlight the areas where help is needed most. It is a way of setting an example of how individuals and companies can make a difference, and Tesco has been keen to do so. It is great that such an enduring legend as Sir Alex Ferguson continues to support the Foundation.


Donating 1% of your personal income tax is an easy way to support the Robert Burns International Foundation and, as it comes out of your total tax payment, costs you nothing extra. But how does the system work?

Since the mid-1990s, successive Hungarian governments have indulged in what is, for them, a most untypical example of tax largesse. In doing so, they have provided a vital infusion of cash to charity foundations and religious establishments across the country.

It works in an extremely simple way, at least in theory. The state agrees to forego 1% of your total personal income tax payment, and pass it on to a charity foundation of your choice, and to do the same with another 1% to a registered religious establishment.

All this happens at no extra cost to you, the taxpayer; it comes from the money you have already paid tax authority APEH. Nor is it dependent on nationality. There are only two qualifiers: one, you must be legally resident and pay your taxes in Hungary; two, you must nominate the bodies to receive the tax benefit. If you don’t do so, or are late with your payment or file a faulty tax return, the money goes into the general state budget.

The religious element of tax relief is not new. Mike Birch, former Assurance Partner for the Robert Burns International Foundation’s accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), recalls that, years ago, when he first moved to Germany, the church tax was deducted automatically, unless you opted out.

The Hungarian charity element was new, however. “I think the government philosophy was that if the money came from a tax donation, it wouldn’t have to dip directly into its coffers to support such NGOs, and, in the 1990s, the need for support was absolutely dire,” Birch says.

The law was introduced here in 1996, although, unlike in the German example, taxpayers have to opt in. Passed in 1997, it came into effect for the first time in 1998.

The law covers all 3.5 million people who are liable to pay tax in Hungary.

For you to boost the numbers of those giving their 1% could not be simpler. All you need to do is ask your accountant to include the details of the foundation in a special form attached to your tax declaration. It is only 1%, and it costs you nothing, but with the foundation’s help, it really can make a difference.

By Robin Marshall

Family dare leads to children’s charity

Join us on a journey through the misty veil of history deep into the folklore that surrounds the annual celebration of a Scottish birthday in Hungary…

It seems an odd beginning, but the Budapest Burns Supper started in 1997 with a family challenge, when a relative of Jock MacKenzie’s Hungarian wife Nellie suggested the Scotsman organise a party in honour of his country’s national poet.

MacKenzie is honest enough to admit he had no idea back then what a Burns Supper might entail. “Although I was born in the north of Scotland, the family had moved by the time I was three or four, so I was never really brought up with it; I was raised and educated in the South.” By “the South” he means England.

It was while researching Burns traditions that MacKenzie met someone who was to play a huge part in his life, and that of the Budapest Burns Supper; Zoltán Magyar, the chairman of the Hungarian-Scottish Society.

Magyar loved the idea of a Burns evening, and a plan was soon hatched to find a handful of Scottish expats and do “something small” in the countryside in January 1998. “I was going to provide a sheep and some whisky, Zoli a pig and the pálinka,” MacKenzie recalls. But even then, the Burns Supper had a will of its own. “Within three months, it had escalated to an event for 300 people in its first year,” MacKenzie says.

Letters of support were received from the office of the then President of Hungary, Árpád Göncz, and the Prime Minister. The British and Canadian Ambassadors attended. The Trade Unions’ Congress Hall provided the venue. Tickets, MacKenzie says, cost around HUF 2,000, but that was still enough to generate a surplus of HUF 150,000, which no one seemed quite certain what to do with.

Nellie MacKenzie was a teacher working with seriously handicapped children; she knew first hand that Hungarian healthcare was – and sadly still is – in great need of financial support. She began to ask around her colleagues for a worthy beneficiary. “Three or four weeks later, all the contacts were coming back pointing to Prof. György Fekete at SOTE II,” MacKenzie says. Another piece of what makes today’s Burns event had fallen into place.

He went to meet the good doctor at the Second Department of Paediatrics at Semmelweis University of Medicine to hand over the cash, and what he saw changed his life. It is still, he says, the thing that drives his passion to raise ever more money. Fekete showed him round a clinic were the obvious love and care of the staff was coupled to crumbling infrastructure and ancient equipment. “He took me to the second operating theatre, opened the door and a cloud of dust blew up. Once it had settled, and we could see again, it was like walking into a Dickensian surgery.”

With haggis from Cockburns of Dingwall (who supplied the late Queen Mother), and cheese from Orkney by Inverness Farmers Dairy (both still supply the event, with DHL transporting the goods free of charge), the first supper, called the Burns Overnight, had laid a basis; the second event, in 1999, would set the pattern. Ticket prices went up, but so did the level of entertainment. Overheads were to be avoided (the evening, indeed the Robert Burns International Foundation itself, is still overhead free), and there was to be a fundraising target: HUF 6 mln for a modern operating table for that unused, unusable theatre. MacKenzie laughs at the audacity of it now, but the table was brought out to Hungary and put on display during the evening.

“I remember we had some difficulty bringing it in, a deposit had to be paid, but somebody came to our rescue, as they generally do.” By the end of the evening, this time held in Hűvösvölgyi Vigadó, enough had been pledged to ensure the table could find its new home.

Now established as an annual event, the charity fundraiser continued to grow.

“There were key points when it jumped a level. One was when Mark Muss took over as Chairman for the evening in 2000; there’s no doubt he took us onto a new plain. A second was when Adrian Gray (General Manager of Le Meridien) got involved. His relationship with Adrian Ellis (GM of the Corinthia) moved us from a three-star operation to a five-star operation, and not just in terms of location. Another came when Stuart McAlister succeed Mark as chairman of the Burns Supper in 2004.”

The Robert Burns International Foundation – with Zoli Magyar as founder and Steve Jones, after many years helping the Burns Suppers, appointed General Secretary – was born out of a desire to put the fundraising on a more professional, transparent basis that was sustainable. It took over organisation of the Burns Supper. The joint patrons are the British Ambassador in Hungary and the Hungarian Ambassador in London. The Deputy Head of the UK Mission has a permanent seat on the Curatorium that runs the foundation.

Sir Alex Ferguson was appointed as the Honorary President and for five years has presented the annual Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year Trophy.

The large scale Budapest Burns Supper also supports the “Small Burns Supper” held in and with the support of the Scottish Mission. Staged a few days later, it is supplied with the same food and drink and is designed to provide a more traditional supper; as it is not a fund raising event, ticket prices are kept much lower.

By Robin Marshall

Budapest Burns timeline.

1759 – Robert Burns born on 25 January in Alloway, South Ayrshire
1796 – Burns dies 21 July in Dumfries, age just 37
1998 – Burns Overnight, Trade Unions’ Congress Hall (MSzOSz), Budapest, the very first official Budapest Burns Supper
1999-2000 – Burns Supper at the Hűvösvölgyi Vigadó
2001 – Burns Supper at the Intercontinental Hotel
2002 – Burns Supper at the Marriott Hotel
2003 – to date – Burns Supper at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest
2002 – 5th anniversary
2005 – Robert Burns International Foundation founded
2007 – 10th anniversary
2017 – 20th anniversary