The UK embassy in Argentina is to host its first ever Burns Supper after a diplomat whose family are from the poet’s birthplace was appointed as ambassador.
Kirsty Hayes has always loved the celebration and has organised an inaugural event for 30 dignitaries at her official residence in Buenos Aires for Burns Night on January 25.
She was born in Aberdeen, however, her father was from Alloway, Ayrshire, birthplace of Robert Burns, while her grandmother shared the name Elizabeth Paton with the mother of the poet’s first child.
Mrs Hayes, 44, was appointed to her role as ambassador in September, replacing Mark Kent, who is now chief executive of the Scottish Whisky Association.
She said: “My family’s Alloway roots mean Burns Night has always been a big thing for us and I’m reliably informed that this will be the first time the Embassy in Buenos Aires has hosted a Burns Supper.
“I was born in Aberdeen, but my father was from Alloway and even though we moved about a fair bit growing up, we always visited Ayrshire on holiday to see my granny and my aunt.
“Burns’ first child was born illegitimately to a servant girl, Lizzie Paton, and that’s my gran’s name so maybe there’s a family connection.
“I’ve always loved going to Burns Suppers and although this inaugural event is small because of the Covid situation, the plan is to build on this for the future when things get back to normal again.”
Last year, Mrs Hayes led the embassy’s first St Andrew’s Day event, attended by 70 people, which celebrated the Argentine government reducing tariffs on Scotch whisky.
She said: “It was the first time haggis had been served at the ambassador’s residence in Buenos Aires. The cook did not put it inside the stomach, but it tasted really good.
“They made cranachan and tried to make tablet, although that did not turn out as well. They’re going to have another go for Burns Night.
“My Argentine guests told me they loved the haggis, but one of my Argentine staff suggests they were being diplomatic, although there were definitely no complaints about the whisky.”
She added: “It drives me mad if I’m introduced as the English ambassador, so that’s why celebrating Burns Night and St Andrew’s Day is always important to me.”
People around the globe celebrate Burns Night to mark the anniversary of the poet’s birth on January 25 1759.
In neighbouring Brazil, Fiona Lappin, from Ayrshire, development director at the UK embassy in Brasilia, will be addressing the haggis at a Burns Supper there.
Ambassador Peter Wilson will be hosting an event for 40 guests in Brasilia, at which there will be an official presentation of three sets of MacRae bagpipes to Brazilian navy chief, Admiral Almir Garnier Santos.
Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, said: “This Burns Night, I want to salute the many Scots at the heart of delivering UK foreign policy as a force for good around the world.
“Kirsty and Fiona’s stories highlight how the UK Government is using its extensive consular network to strengthen friendships and open up trading opportunities for Scottish industry.”