Anyone who has been to a Burns Supper will not forget the rousing sound of bagpipes and drums in full flow. It really lends a great deal of authenticity to the event, and makes it a memorable night for Scots and non-Scots alike. But how much do you actually know about the pipers and drummers who perform for us every year? Did you know there are World Champions in the ballroom every year? Did you know that this is often the only time they now play together?

We asked Stevie Brown about who the band are, where they come from, and most importantly, why do they come back year after year…


Most of us played together at Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band and have known each other for around 35 years. We live all over Scotland, and mostly having retired from competing now, we get together especially to come to Budapest.

It is an honour and a privilege to be invited to join you once again this year and we are delighted to congratulate the RBIF on the occasion of the 25th Burns Supper to raise funds for the Foundation and the worthy causes it supports.

We have been very fortunate, in the past, to have competed at the highest level, winning numerous titles, including multiple World Championships. We have been afforded the opportunity to travel the world, we’ve appeared on TV shows, met celebrities and made recordings, even earning a gold disc for a collaboration with traditional musicians from across Europe.


However, to be associated with the RBIF for around 20 years has provided us with the most gratifying and humbling experiences, not only entertaining guests at the Burns Supper, but actively engaging with the children who benefit from the charity work of the Foundation.


We have played for youngsters in hospital cancer wards, orphanages, schools and community centres and cannot overstate the effects these visits have had on us. We hope that we have left the children with even a fraction of the memories with which they have provided us.


Budapest has become a very special place for us and the friendships formed here will last for many years to come. We wish the RBIF continued success in all its ventures in the future and are eternally grateful to be acknowledged by the Foundation as the charity’s official pipers and drummers.

Hampden Park, Scotland’s national football stadium, has been host to the Scottish Football Museum since the turn of the millennium.

The insightful article by Stewart Miller revealed the impact that Ferenc Puskás had on him as a young boy, but he was not alone. Scottish football fans on the whole were mesmerised by the skills of the “Galloping Major”. Having played such a key role in what is rightly considered one of the world’s best games, which broke several records (most goals in a European Cup final, most goals by one player in a European Cup final, and highest attendance at a European football game), it was only fitting that the Robert Burns International Foundation together with the Scottish Football Museum, the Puskás Institute, the Hungarian Embassy in London, the Hungarian Scottish Society and the Puskás International Football Foundation unveiled a plaque at Hampden Park in 2015, in honour of one of the best players the footballing world has ever seen.

You can read more about Ferenc Puskás and his links to Scotland in this article written by Stuart Spencer at the Scottish Football Museum.

The Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year Trophy goes to the company judged to have made the most significant contribution to the work of the Robert Burns International Foundation during the course of the previous year.

Stewart Miller, a sports fan from Argyll, Scotland, had been so moved by the death of the legendary Hungarian footballer Ferenc Puskás that he wanted to present something to his widow, Erzsébet, in honour of the great man. This is his story:


I am like many people on this planet a fanatical football fan. The death of Ferenc Puskás evoked mixed emotions amongst everybody with a love of the great game. Whilst we were all deeply saddened by the loss of one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors, we can also take some comfort from the great memories he has bestowed on us.

My own introduction to the legendary Puskás was via my father and grandfather. Both were present at Hampden Park (Glasgow) on 18 May 1950, to witness what has been recognised as one of the greatest football games ever. On that day Puskás and Real Madrid showed the world football perfection, by winning the European Cup in front of over 130,000 fans, defeating Eintracht Frankfurt by seven goals to three. Puskás scored four goals. Though I was not even a twinkle in my father’s eye in 1960, I was to hear stories of this marvellous football game for many years to come. Ferenc Puskás achieved greatness. He scored 511 goals in 533 appearances in the Hungarian and Spanish leagues. He also scored 83 goals in 84 international matches for Hungary – a strike rate unmatched in international football (and footballs were very much heavier in those days!). On two occasions, in 1953 and 1954, Puskás and the national Hungary side also demolished England, and in the process became the first overseas team to beat England at Wembley. This feat also won the hearts of the Scottish nation.

As a tribute to this legend and truly outstanding character, I have commissioned the production of a very unique gift. A highly skilled craftsman located in the north of Scotland has lovingly created a hand-made copper football. The football is of the highest quality it is creative, and it is unique – just like Puskás. This gift is for the family of Ferenc Puskás. Please accept this gift from the football fans of Scotland We love Ferenc Puskás. He will never be forgotten – his football exploits will be told for many generations to come – in his native Hungary, in Scotland, and all over the world.

Stewart Miller
Football Fan


Stewart wrote to the Hungarian embassy in London, and the news eventually made its way to Zoltán Magyar, the Robert Burns International Foundation Founder.

Zoltán suggested that the gift could perhaps be used in a different way, and Mrs Puskás agreed that it could be used as an annual sponsor’s award. In 2007, Sir Alex Ferguson became the Honorary President of the RBIF, and the trophy now bears the names of the two footballing legends.

You can read all about the previous winners of the trophy in the separate articles on our Sponsors of the Year, which you can find here.

How did the Robert Burns International Foundation (RBIF) come into being? Well, in the beginning was The Supper, and The Supper was with the Hungarian Scottish Society, and The Supper was The Hungarian Scottish Society. Except that it’s all a little more complicated than that…

What is clear is that the history of the RBIF is intrinsically linked with both the Budapest Burns Supper, which dates back to 1998, and the Hungarian Scottish Society. It might be more accurate to say that they begat the foundation.

The RBIF, indeed any foundation, needs a founder, someone who actually gets the ball rolling with a donation of money. In our case, that man was Zoltán Magyar, whose initial input in 2005 of HUF 1.1 million (around EUR 3,800 at the September 2012 exchange rate) set up the organisation.

Magyar is President of the Hungarian Scottish Society, and, with Jock MacKenzie was involved from the start with organising the Burns Supper. Magyar has had a long-time association with the Hungarian Football Federation (Magyar Labdarúgó Szövetség), which also provides a link to the foundation’s Honorary President, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Manchester United boss Fergie agreed to take up the role on 23 January 2007, when he was in the country to give a lecture to Hungarian football coaches. He had breakfast with MacKenzie and Magyar, after which he joked in an exclusive interview he gave me for The Budapest Sun that he had been “press-ganged” into joining.

Describing himself as “a good Scot, a proud Scot”, and “a real aficionado of Robert Burns”, Ferguson said he wanted to spread the fame of Scotland’s national bard, adding that the RBIF’s charitable work was “exceptional”. The football legend presents the Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year Trophy each year before a Man United home game at Old Trafford.

Ensuring that the books are all above board and that everything is transparent, accounting services are provided by PricewaterhouseCoopers and PwC Partner David Williams sits on the foundation’s Curatorium. In addition, KPMG makes an audit of the financial statements, a task organized by Partner Elek Votin. Neither PwC nor KPMG charge for their services, providing them instead as a form of sponsorship.

In addition to its fundraising activities, the centrepiece of which remains the Burns Supper, the RBIF also uses its highly developed networking skills to source funding and other support for cultural and Corporate Social Responsibility projects.

“The RBIF is not short of missions, but with a fully dedicated, no overhead staff [costs are met through sponsorship deals], just short of time for implementation of ideas to fulfil our objectives,” says MacKenzie.

By Robin Marshall

For a history of the Budapest Burns supper, click here.

For more on the Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year Trophy, click here.

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(also known as Robbie Burns, Scotland’s favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, Robden of Solway Firth, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland simply as The Bard)

Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a “light” Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these his political or civil commentary is often at its most blunt.

He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement, and after his death he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism, and a cultural icon in Scotland and among the Scottish Diaspora around the world. Celebration of his life and work became almost a national charismatic cult during the 19th and 20th centuries, and his influence has long been strong on Scottish literature. In 2009 he was chosen as the ‘Greatest Scot’ by the Scottish public in a vote run by Scottish television channel STV.

As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) Auld Lang Syne is often sung at Hogmanay (the last day of the year), and Scots Wha Hae served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well-known across the world today include A Red, Red Rose; A Man’s A Man for A’ That; To a Louse; To a Mouse; The Battle of Sherramuir; Tam o’ Shanter, and Ae Fond Kiss.

That man to man, the world o’er, Shall brithers be for a’ that.’ (the last two lines of the poem below) – reflects Burns’ attitude to his fellow man and represents his attitude towards the inequality in society. The above summary of his life from Wikipedia is rather academic and does not reflect the man himself. Married only the once he never the less managed to have children with several different women, for which he was called before the ‘Kirk’ for a stiff reprimand. It is amazing that in his very short, 37-year life he managed to cram in so much.

The Burns Supper, originally an evening of eating and drinking for a group of men, developed into what it is today but we hope that our use of the Burns name is justified by the money we raise for children’s hospitals.

A Man’s a Man for a’ That

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that.
Our toils obscure an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The Man’s the gowd for a’ that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man’s a Man for a’ that:
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that;
But an honest man’s abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities an’ a’ that;
The pith o’ sense, an’ pride o’ worth,
Are higher rank than a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brithers be for a’ that.