He helped us to celebrate our New Year, and now it is time for us to celebrate him. Rabbie Burns that is, whose birthday on the 25th January is marked by haggis, neeps, tatties and plenty of whisky, the "Burns Supper". At one memorable Supper, I was invited to "toast the lassies", quite a remarkable honour to be bestowed upon an Englishman, since Burns was inordinately fond of the lassies (I was not asked again). Great Scott! as an exclamation of surprise is believed to be a Puritanical "minced oath" (good God!) but was also often associated with Sir Walter Scott, a contemporary of Burns and in many respects (certainly international profile whilst alive) more than an equal. Have you ever been to a Scott's Supper? It just does not have the same ring to it! So, how did Rabbie achieve greater greatness than Walter? Leonard Bernstein (not a Scot of any sort) is quoted as saying "To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time". Maybe so; Burns was only 37 when he died. If Bernstein is right, we can look forward to a truly great Conference in Cordoba: the plan is in place, but deadlines are looming! Do join us if you can, and whilst you are in Cordoba be sure to visit another great; the Mosque Cathedral is acknowledged as probably the very best example of Moorish architecture in the Western world and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This from "The Moors in Andalucia": The influence of the Moors’ culture reached out far beyond Spanish borders, with the mighty cities of Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada and Cádiz being recognised throughout Europe and North Africa as centres of great learning, renowned for magnificent art and architecture, and homes to eminent scientists and philosophers. In the countyside, they also left behind sophisticated irrigation systems, testament to their skilled agriculture, and many pueblos blancos – white-painted hillside villages. Moorish agriculture focused on the land, crops, fruit and vegetables, and it is noteworthy that Andalucia is not famous for its dairy cattle breeds. For that, we must retrace our steps and introduce another Great Scot, the Ayrshire cow. The improved breeding that created the Ayrshire would have been happening in Sir Walter Scott's later years, but the first formal recognition of the breed was in 1877, slightly more than one hundred years after his birth. In 1860 Ayr Show hosted a competition at which the winning Ayrshire yielded 28 lbs 7 oz, and if I am interpreting this correctly (it appears to be the average yield per milking over 10 milkings) this equates to a very healthy 26 l/d. Furthermore, the milk was "12% cream". Great Scott! Gustaf De Laval's cream separator was patented the following year, and I cannot easily determine which definition of "cream" would have been used at the time (can anyone help?). If one assumes minimum 48% fat ("double cream" in the UK) the winning cow's milk was almost 6% fat, and so on an energy corrected basis we are certainly talking greatness! Ayr remained in the forefront of dairy cattle breeding for many years, and in the 1950s hosted one of the first meetings of the International Committee for Animal Recording, ICAR. The Savoy Park is one of only a few Ayr hotels to survive from that era. Ayr's dairying reputation was based on other greats, such as Nether Craig Janet, the first Ayrshire cow to yield 3000 gallons (more than 13000 litres) in a single lactation (in 1936). This would have created consternation in Ayr, since Janet was from the neighbouring town of Kilmarnock, home to Johnny Walker whisky but in all other respects a deadly rival! 3000 gallons was the inspiration for a group of dairy scientists, farmers and processors to form the "3000 Gallon Club" (some say in an attempt to consume 3000 glasses of port!), still going strong but now renamed the Dairy Science Forum*. Janet's reputation spread around the world (the newspaper cutting is from Brisbane) as had that of the Ayrshire breed itself, used as the foundation of the excellent Swedish Red and having influence in many other parts of the world, sometimes under the original name of Dunlop cattle, after the Ayrshire village of the same name (which reminds me: as I cycle around Copenhagen, I have reason to be thankful to another Great Scot, John Boyd Dunlop, a vet from the Ayrshire town of Dreghorn and creator of the modern pneumatic tyre. Another Scot actually invented it; they get everywhere!) Dunlop cheese, a superior cheddar, dates back 300 years and is now complemented at Dunlop Dairy by other cow's milk cheeses and also several made from goat's milk. What next for Dunlop? Maybe we should return to Andalucia for inspiration. Not only has the area incredible amounts of warmth and passion, it also neighbours La Mancha, home of the Manchego cheese that has taken Europe by storm in the last decade. Dunchego, anyone? See you in Cordoba!