WHITHORN & DISTRICT BURNS CLUB report by John Kirkland.
The Club held its 57th Annual Dinner and Celebration on 23rd January in a new venue, St Ninian’s Hall, Isle of Whithorn.
Our new President and Chairman Rory Christie welcomed members and hoped that “the best laid plans of mice and men.....” would ensure a successful evening.
The Company noted with regret the passing of Robin Christie who proposed the toast to “The Lassies” fifty two years ago when aged just twenty one.
Putting sadness aside the Chairman asked Tom Bell to deliver the Selkirk Grace in anticipation of the feast to come.
The Haggis was piped in and addressed by Cameron Stewart – his 21st time for the former and 9th for the latter, all performed with skill and gusto.
Excellent traditional fare followed, prepared and served with style by Caroline McCornick and her catering team.
Dinner concluded with the Loyal Toast and playing of the National Anthem.
In the President’s Address he noted that it was two hundred and fifty seven years since Robert Burns’ birth, seventy nine years since the Club was formed and nineteen years since the previous change of President. After long and valued service our pianist Eric Wilson, and the String Trio had retired. Some changes to the programme indicated a “coming home” theme in the new venue with speakers returning from far and wide. He thanked his numerous helpers who made the event possible, and enabled the Club to provide £150 annually to support Burns studies in three local schools.
The “Immortal Memory” was proposed by Stuart Houston who was born in Garlieston and is currently a DCI with Police Scotland. Based at Gartcosh he heads task forces dealing with race relations and security matters. Before police reorganisation he spent much time in Edinburgh which gave him the opportunity to explore the city’s numerous Burns connections. He was struck by the many statues, monuments and plaques marking his every move. In fact Burns comes third in the world after Queen Victoria and Christopher Columbus in the monuments league. His works have been taken into space; his face was the second to appear on a coke bottle (after Father Christmas); and you can read his poems on your i-phone – immortal Burns!
Stuart took us on a fascinating tour of the times Burns spent in Edinburgh and how they affected his work, relationships and career. The places he knew in the Old Town are much the same today for all to see, and with his works they preserve his memory.
The Chairman thanked Stuart for an expertly delivered presentation and gave him a certificate of honorary membership of the Club.
He then called on John Nisbet from Eyemouth who he met as his bagpipe teacher in Garlieston. John is also a keen motor cyclist and has travelled the US highway Route 66, and he is sought after for Burns recitation. It is no surprise that he was introduced as piper, biker and reciter. “The Twa Dugs” is not quite as long as Route 66 but is still a remarkable feat of memory which he completed to applause.
The toast to “The Lassies” was proposed by Neil Wilson. Neil is native to the south west with excursions to Edinburgh where he is head of agricultural matters at HSBC Scotland. His address was presented with customary humour with respect for his subject (or was that fear?), and a hint that forgiveness comes with a red, red rose.
Our final speaker was Campbell Kinnear whose subject Bonnie Galloway returned to the homecoming theme. Campbell grew up in Port William and was prominent in local activities, including this Club. In motorsport he was Scottish Junior Navigation Champion (with our Chairman driving). Today he is a world traveller working in oil exploration, flying in from Texas to attend his first Club dinner in many years. He regaled us with tales of his experiences in foreign parts but pausing always to quote lines from the song extolling the virtues of his homeland.
For those who might follow his path he advised: never stop learning, a happy wife means a happy life, buy a plunger, the world is a small place but always pack the night before.
Thanks to all who contributed to making the evening a success were expressed by Tom Bell. These included the St Ninian’s Hall Committee, Mike Marshall for filming, Norman Gerrish for carrying the haggis, Mick McGeoch as music master, and Keith McIrea, Martin Wallace, Stephen Broll, Gregor Christie and Peter Simpson who led the singing.
We sang Auld Lang Syne. We went home.