I’m writing this column on Robert Service’s birthday, January 16, which is appropriate since the event I wish to describe is the Dawson Community Library’s annual Double Bob Bash – a dinner celebrating the January birthdays of the two Roberts: Service and Burns.

Burns, born nine days later, predates Service by nearly 120 years, but the two are linked in a number of ways. For one, Service believed himself to be distantly related to the Bard of Scotland and in his memoirs he relates a number of incidents during his youth when he recited Burns in public.

Service’s biographer, James MacKay, contends there is no way to tell whether this connection was factual, but Service had the tale from an uncle of his and apparently believed it.

Burns’ work celebrated the ordinary folk of his day in a way that was not popular among the more high-toned poets of his era, just as Service was to do in his time.

Burns was widely read and recited by the people of his day, and it is safe to say that Service held the same position in the 20th century.

Scorned by the poetic elite, Service even called himself a versifier rather than a poet. But, as R.S. Castlereagh noted in a 2003 issue of the Canadian history magazine The Beaver, “if you were to ask ordinary Canadians to name a Canadian poet, they would almost certainly say Robert Service.

“True, he lived in Canada for only sixteen of his eighty-four years. But he did his most celebrated work here, and was universally known as the Bard of the Yukon.”

Burns Nights are celebrated all over the world, but for more than 15 years now the Dawson Library has linked the two Roberts, for it seemed inappropriate to ignore the Bard of the Yukon in the place of his greatest inspiration.

The Double Bob Bash is a moveable feast. This year it’s on January 29 at 6:00 pm in the Legion Hall, a cozier setting than some years, but perhaps more intimate for all that. The evening features a potluck dinner, including a haggis (and the recited Ode to that mysterious member of the puddin’ race) and other goodies.

There are some games involving poetry by both bards.

And there will be recitations of poetry. There will be some from each of the men of the evening, though Service tends to get the nod over the trickier dialect often used by Burns, and there are usually some original pieces by fans of the form.

Come along for the evening. Bring something to read. Works by both poets are readily accessible online. Bring an instrument if you’d like to make some music.

For details, contact Community Librarian Norma Tindall at 993-5571.

After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.

After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.