2008 / 2009 Seasons Events
AGM Meeting in the Howff
The club AGM once again took place in the Howff club rooms on the 26th April 2008 when David Miller was installed as President for the coming year, John Caskie elected Senior vice president and Neil Johnston was elected as Junior vice president.
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2008/2009 Previous Years
11 May 2008 Coldstream Bridge
29 May 2008 Bowling Night
24 May 2008 Mauchline Holy Fair
13 July 2008 Wauchope Cairn
03 July 2008 Treasure Hunt
07 July 2008 Jean Armour Dinner
23 July 2008 Brow Well Service
16 Aug 2008 Edinburgh Tattoo
5 – 7 Sept 08 Federation conference
14 Sept 2008 Dumbarton Bowling Match
31 Oct 2008 Hallowe’en Supper
01 Dec 2008 St. Andrew’s Night Dinner
23 Jan 2009 120th Anniversary Dinner
27 Mar 2009 Games Night
tba April 2009 “Spring Fling” Crichton
30 April 2009 Annual General Meeting
Winter Lecture Programme
2008 / 2009
Please Note - As the Globe Inn will be closed to the public from that date, the venue for the first two talks will be the Moreig Hotel, Annan Road and will commence as usual at 7.30pm.
25th September, Major (Retd) Nancy Duncan “Nursing in Iraq”
30th October, Mr. E. J. Murray, “Words & Expressions”
27th November, Mrs. Elaine Kennedy, “Barrie”
26th February 2009, Mrs. Jane Brown, “Trip to St. Petersburg”
26th March 2009, Mr. Graham Roberts, “Town Archives”
23rd April, 2009, Whisky tasting by T. B. Watson’s - (Pre booking Required)
All talks take place in the clubroom at 7.30pm. Friends of members are welcome.
Ellisland Soiree 24th April 2009
At short notice the Library committee organised an evening in the kitchen at Ellisland Farm, members were invited to come along and enjoy a relaxed evening of banter when they could also practice recitations and songs in very friendly environment in the stone floored kitchen where Robert Burn once lived and worked.
Winter Lecture 23rd April, 2009, Whisky tasting by T. B. Watson’s
Brian From T B Watsons talked took the gathered members on a tour of the Scottish main land - Northern Fife - Speyside - Inverness- Fort William and on to campbelltown an amazing journey during which we all learned a lot about the whisky industry. As well as enjoying a very pleasant evening.
Winter Lecture 26th March 2009, Mr. Graham Roberts, “Town Archives”.
Mr. Roberts, Regional Archivist with Dumfries & Galloway Council, delivered a fascinating account of his work in preserving and conserving the vast amount of documents and other material in the region’s archive collection.
Some dating from the 16th century, the collection covers burgh and parish records before local government reorganisation, including property valuation rolls, census records and reports from the burgh and sheriff courts. Graham revealed that the Dumfries archives are among the most comprehensive in the country and is often asked for help by persons tracing their family history. The amount of material is such that some records are stored in the Archive Centre in Burns Street, the former Loreburn Church and at a disused warehouse at Irongray Road at Lochside where conditions are less than ideal.
Mr Roberts said that he often receives donations of material from local groups and organisations and is usually happy to accept these although problems can arise when a descendant of a donor, possibly a century ago, requests access to the family papers where the terms of deposit may be vague.
The voluntary group, the “Friends of the Archives” assist in cataloguing the records and have now completed the material from St. Michaels Church, some of which date back to medieval times, giving a fascinating snapshot of life and times in Dumfries.
Graham hoped to digitise the collection for posterity but this would be a massive undertaking, dependent on resources available from government.
Mr. Roberts was thanked by president David Miller and took questions from an appreciative audience. He offered to arrange a visit to the Centre on a future date.
Winter Lecture 26th February 2009, Mrs. Jane Brown, “Trip to St.Petersburg”
The Winter Lecture Programme resumed on 26th February 2009 when president David Miller introduced honorary member Mrs. Jane Brown who spoke on her visit to Russia in 2008 to take part in the St. Petersburg Forum.
Mrs. Brown explained that the Forum was launched in Renfrewshire in 1995 as a charitable organisation managed by a group of voluntary trustees with the object of establishing links and to cultivate friendships between the peoples of Scotland and the citizens of St. Petersburg. Since its inception, the Forum has initiated and supported a Cancer Care Centre, supported an orphanage, developed a Scottish Library and been instrumental in a St. Petersburg professor being awarded a Fellowship of Glasgow College of Physicians and Surgeons. It is entirely funded by voluntary public donations.
Also, a Know Scotland and Burns Essay Competition for Schools has been established and a Scottish Painting Competition was started in 2006. The winners of these competitions enjoy two weeks in Scotland staying with local families and attending St. Columba’s school in Kilmacolm.
Jane and friends attended the annual visit to St. Petersburg in January 2008, which she described as fantastic with a spectacular programme including a Russian Burns Supper! and several, sightseeing trips hosted by members of the Forum’s Russian arm.
Mrs. Brown found the city awesome and the people friendly, many of whom could speak English but a big gap between affluence in some quarters and rank poverty in others.
She said that her visit to the children’s Cancer Care Centre was particularly moving but she was touched by the commitment shown by the staff.
Jane and her party had some adventures during the trip including an uncanny gift of being able to find an apartment in the middle of a large housing scheme where she had never been before.
Mrs. Brown thanked the club and also the Dumfries Ladies Burns Club No1, f or generously supporting her fundraising for the trip. She displayed some books of photographs and other material brought back and answered questions from a rapt audience of members and friends before being thanked by senior vice president John Caskie.
Anniversary Dinner, 23rd January 2009
Members of the Dumfries Burns Howff club filled the Globe Inn to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the poet’s birth. For the Howff it was the 120th dinner and in this special year it stimulated thoughts about the days when Robert Burns frequented this very inn. Everyone present knew they were in a unique place.
President David Miller welcomed club members to the dinner and introduced Lord George Robertson of Port Ellen, David Clapham from Glasgow and Alex Pool a long-time Howff supporter from Langholm. Once again the Dumfries Howff Club had laid out a sparkling top table.
Members, sensing history in the making, were in loud voice when past-president Frank Curran sharpened their appetite with “There was a Lad”, which was immediately followed by grace from the “Rev” Dan Cook and a word-perfect and stimulating “Address to the Haggis” by the president.
Secretary David Smith announced greetings from 125 clubs that indicated a rich vein of Burns fellowship around the world. He had received felicitations by email, letter and telephone from places such as Vancouver, Santa Barbara, Budapest Australasia as well as from clubs and societies in the UK.
A rousing rendering of the “Lass o’ Ballochmyle” led by Frank Curran put the company in fine spirit for the most important part of the evening, the Immortal Memory.
President David Miller introduced Lord George Robertson who had before being elevated to the House of Lords held senior positions such as Defence Secretary, Secretary General of Nato and Labour MP.
Beginning his toast, Lord Robertson reflected on how after 250 years, the works of Robert Burns were alive and fresh as if written yesterday and how the life of the poet continued to be celebrated almost everywhere in the world. It was interesting, he noted, how we are all mesmerised by his words, music and the enduring spirit of his message.
He pointed out how curious it was that Robert Burns more than all the great men and women of letters in British history still had followers who sat down every year to listen to his works. No-one, not even Shakespeare, Chaucer, Byron, Tennyson or Carlyle had devoted admirers that met every year to eat offal and drink copiously while being entertained by their poetic works.
Lord Robertson continued to provoke thought among members when he outlined how Robert Burns had become a part of the world language. He had left a remarkable linguistic legacy with millions of people being quite oblivious as to the origins of sayings such as “to see ourselves as others see us” or “the best laid schemes of mice and men”. And renditions of “Auld Lang Syne” and “A Man’s a Man for a’ That”, the song of international brotherhood.
He continued by reminding the company that although Burns’ life and loves are long gone, he is still with us and that Burns brings to life many of our personal thoughts and most secret feelings. This, he proposed, was the real reason for Robert Burns’ enduring popularity. He was a man that listened acutely to the speech, banter and crack in the street and in the field and he had watched and witnessed with the tune and then he distilled that “heady cocktail” into the mighty words that we read and relish today. He could spot with unerring skill and perception the warmth and humanity of the common man and woman and speak to us of the tenacity of the dignity, intensity, troubles and hardships.
In his toast, Lord Robertson also made poignant observations about how Burns had enjoyed fortune, fame and penury and how “he loved and lost and lost and loved”. But on his death, rather than being pilloried as a love rat that would have been the target for a Sunday tabloid “life-destroying” exclusive he died a legend with millions of dedicated admirers recalling his memory ever since.
His works such as “A Cotter’s Saturday Night”, “Tam ‘o Shanter” and “To a Mouse” were amazing examples of “narrative, poetic heart” that illustrate a range of emotions while adding colour, drama and theatre. Burns had been claimed by most major political parties as endorsing their policies but he was, said Lord Robertson “a champion of the underdog, a patriotic Scot and a believer in the unity of and between people”.
In proposing the toast, Lord Robertson asked Howff members to recognise one of the nation’s greatest sons: “An international icon and Scotland’s national bard, an ordinary man with extraordinary talents who stills inspires and bewitches us all in these long years since he was taken from us here in Dumfries but leaving with us a legacy of magic and enchantment, which lives on and on and on.”
As the company raised its glasses, club piper Calum Watson played a lament and with the sound of “Scots Wha Hae” melting into the distance, Members gave Lord Robertson an enthusiastic ovation.
President David Miller had the pleasurable duty of presenting Lord Robertson with an honorary membership and the club tie. He joins a distinguished group of members that include many great Scots.
This, most special anniversary dinner, had reached a peak of passionate fervour and the company needed little encouragement to once again raise voice with “Green Grow the Rashes” and “A Man’s a Man.
The company and the atmosphere became more relaxed when Alex Pool began his recitation of “Tam o’ Shanter”. His presence was greatly appreciated in the Howff as he is considered to be one of the best narrators of this tale in the world. The expression on the faces of members certainly bore testament to this and they might have been likened to those witnessing a most compelling sermon.
Glasgow lawyer, David Clapham proposed the toast to “The Lasses, O” with a medley of jokes and tales and Chris Lyon made full capital of his stage to poke good-humoured fun at fellow club members in his toast to “The Drouthie Cronies”. Past-president Bill Welsh sang Mary Morrison and vice-president John Caskie led the company in further community singing. The Company and Singers were accompanied by Lee McQueen on the accordion. Gordon Johnston gave a memorable recitation of the rarely heard “The Inventory” a poem prompted when Burns received a mandate from the surveyor of taxes.
Junior vice-president Neil Johnston in his toast to “The Artistes” paid tribute to the exceptional skill and talent of those who had taken part making this a truly special and memorable anniversary dinner.
St Andrews Night 1st December 2009
Members of the Dumfries Howff Club gathered at the Globe Inn to celebrate St Andrew’s Night. The evening promised good measures of patriotism, Auld Scotia, Burns and a’ that but there was also undiluted delight among Howffers because they were back in the Globe following its closure for essential structural repairs. Gordon and Maureen McKerrow, owners of the Globe Inn, were warmly thanked by club president David Miller for their caring custodianship of this national treasure and home of the Howff.
A new floor, upholstery and freshly painted walls give the Globe a brighter and more modern image but not at a cost where 400 years of unique history have been covered up. The old clock on the wall at the bar is set in darkened and aged wood and if you give it a long, hard look you will surely see it wink its approval.
After grace by Dan Cook, a dinner of cock a’ leekie soup, steak pie, cheese and oatcakes was served.
Following dinner, the evening’s entertainment commenced with a song from musical director, Frank Curran. His song Always Argyll was touching, reminding the company of what it can be like to be Scottish and in distant places. However, the poignancy of the moment lessened and Howffers’ hearts were raised when Frank sang a jaunty version of Corn Rigs; the Bard had made an entrance.
Past president Les Byers continued the Burns theme with a recitation of The Proposal, an unfinished poem that was discovered under the poet’s desk. And honorary member Chris Rollie held Howffers’ attention as he galloped through Burns’ Holy Fair displaying great command of the tale that mischievously uses religious terminology to stress the difference between what really goes on and what is supposed to go on.
Songs by club member Ian McIntyre and Lionel McLelland preceded the evening’s significant moment, the toast to Auld Scotia.
Peter Kormylo, a past-president and honorary librarian delivered the toast with passion and poignancy using on occasion the words of Robert Burns to amplify his point. He reminded Howffers that Auld Scotia was a term of endearment and that those two words have the power to fire the flame of patriotism and love for our mother land.
It is a concept that lives on for those that live and breath for Scotland. He said that there was no better observer of Auld Scotia than our own national bard. Burns’ poetry, letters and songs are woven throughout with an intimate knowledge of his country’s history and social context of that time, coupled with a fierce pride in the land of his birth.
However, it could be argued that Burns’ lifetime coincided with changes in Auld Scotia. He was born 14 years after the Jacobite Rebellion and six years after the last Jacobite rebel had been hanged. His childhood coincided with events of national and international importance. At home the Scottish people were feeling the consequences of the act of union of 1707, the disastrous aftermath of the 1715 and 1745 rebellion, the industrial and agricultural revolutions were beginning and they would change the face of Auld Scotia forever. Abroad the demand for democratic government and the rights of individuals were fuelling the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. The world stage at that time was filled with reports of floods, disasters and wars. Britain was at war and was to remain at war for most of Burns’ life.
Kormylo imagined how a young Burns might be coloured with what he saw on the Firth of Clyde as tall ships returned home with weary mariners and rich bounty from newly won colonies. But in that same firth, other vessels were tilting full sail towards the wide Atlantic with a human cargo of displaced Scotsmen heading for the remotest corner of this new world from which many would never return. The Scots would help to build the British Empire. Many were the sons who would die defending it. Auld Scotia was giving birth to a much-changed land.
It produced sons and daughters that knew how to fight with courage and determination for cunning and stealth. How history repeats itself. The difference being the battle zones are far more complicated, the weapons far more sophisticated and the killing merciless.
Kormylo reflected on how today Auld Scotia’s battalions are still fighting in dangerous corners of the world and on this very night in the battle against international terrorism our sons and daughters are in the freezing mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq. They have with them a spirit that has been nurtured in the generations of Scots who inhabited the land. They take with them the courage of the immortal Wallace and the cunning of our King Bruce.
“In this morning’s news from Basra,’” he said, “where pipers played at the gates of war, we learned of the launch today, December 1, 2008 of the most dangerous compact disc ever recorded. The Spirit of the Glen by soldiers of the pipes and drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards has the dubious honour of being the first album to be professionally recorded in the theatre of war.
“A newssclip of Pipe Major Ross Munro playing the Flowers of the Forest in full national dress on the runway at dusk with a helicopter flying overhead, and the glow of flaring oilfields a few miles away, you would know the spirit of Auld Scotia was alive and well.
“And when you hear Major Angus Blair’s troops armed to the teeth sing Dear Lord and Father in the tent at the airport you cannot fail to think of Bruce’s army starving and outnumbered, humbly kneeling in prayer before their Maker on the field of Bannockburn.”
Burns wrote this
For gold the merchant ploughs the main,
The farmer ploughs the manor;
But glory is the sodger’s prize,
The sodger’s wealth is honour:
The brave poor sodger ne’er despise,
Nor count him as a stranger;
Remember he’s his country’s stay,
In day and hour of danger.
Peter Kormylo reminded us that we are living in a cruel and precarious world. Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn. He chose the words of a prayer that was written 200 years ago to make his formal toast to Auld Scotia. It was written 10 years after Burns’ death in 1806 and every year since then the St Andrew’s Society of Baltimore has celebrated the Kirkin of the Tartan. After the congregation has sung the Old Hundred the tartans are formally presented accompanied by these words:
“God of our fathers and mothers and of the long line of brave and good people who brought honour to Scotland in the light of faith and patriotism in dark days, surmounting hardships and sorrow with skirling pipes and the colours of unconquerable clans. We celebrated life with dance and song and Your gifts of Highland dew. We the descendants will bring before You these tartans symbols of our families both past and present. We ask Your blessing on them and all that they stand for so that we in our generation may pass on to others the special greatness that we have received for the honour of Your name and the wellbeing of all mankind.
In the name of Andrew the Apostle and the patron saint of Scotland, Auld Scotia.”
Further songs from John Caskie, Ian McIntyre, Lionel McLelland, a musical selection from Max Houliston and greetings from Dumbarton and Dumfries Burns Clubs ended the evening on a high note of friendship.
Junior vice-president Neil Johnston acknowledged the recitations, songs and toast to Auld Scotia and invited the club members’ appreciation.
Winter Lecture 27th November, Mrs. Elaine Kennedy, “Barrie”
Elaine Kennedy presented an interesting and very informative talk which was accompanied by images pictures and maps of the town at the time when J M Barrie lived in Irving Street and played in the garderns that inspired the Peter Pan book, Elaine was also able to show class photographs from the school, now known as Dumfries Academy, which is though to include the author another close up photo of some youths playing cricket is though to be J M Barrie.
An October Hallowe'en nicht's tale
For the first time in its 119-year history, the Burns Howff Club met outside the Globe Inn, Dumfries for its Hallowe’en Supper. Essential repair work at the Howffers’ spiritual home meant that the unique mystical ambience that percolates through the Globe Inn was missing, however, it did not prevent an evening of spellbinding storytelling that was peppered with song and rhyme.
President David Miller welcomed guest speaker Tom Pow who is currently head of Creative and Cultural Studies at Glasgow University’s Crichton Campus and Alex Pool, a worthy of Langholm and friend of the Howff for many years.
The evening began gently with crooner Frank Curran setting the mood but the temperature was raised by Alex Pool’s skilful delivery of A Scotch Nicht. This was followed with old favourites, Dancing in Kyle and Grannie’s Heilan Hame, sang by senior vice-president John Caskie.
Despite Hallowe’en being associated with haunting tales and horror stories, there is regularly a place for nationalistic fervour and Kevin Thompson and Douglas Abercrombie of Bowhill Burns Club delivered this. Their stirring performance of Awa’ Whigs, Awa’ was a palpable reminder of how our nation endured hardship and of the deplorable gap between rich and poor.
Alas, rising emotions were soon harnessed when guest speaker Tom Pow was introduced. In no time he had the company spellbound as he explained Hallowe’en with tales of the supernatural and how a turnip lantern’s candle was symbolic of the soul that resides within our heads. His storytelling was masterful and it possessed all the ingredients that allured, enthralled and held the attention. Howffers were silent and solemn or scared stiff and for a while they looked like a group of men waiting to go to a colleague’s funeral. They were hopelessly caught in a trance, anxiously awaiting to be released from the unbearable tension. But Pow, the genius storyteller did not deliver this freedom to them until the last sentence and the final word. He demonstrated skilfully the art of the storyteller with language and expression that carried the group along, magnetised by his charismatic delivery.
Howffers could at last sit back for a while and relax because they were back on familiar ground with the next entertainer Donald Shamash and his recitation of Tam o’ Shanter. They knew this tale well and what was going to happen. However, they had not reckoned that Shamash, like a fine bottle of claret had reached his finest moment. He raised the excellence benchmark with a delivery that many reckoned to be the best ever. His mad, delirious, dancing eyes where full of cunning, evil and apology but best of all he kept every line in the tale buzzing and full of life. This was a memorable performance of Tam o’ Shanter that will be hard to follow.
A further medley of songs and music from earlier contributors and the Howff’s Ernie Currie on accordion helped complete a most entertaining evening. Junior vice-president Neil Johnston delivered a vote of thanks that received hearty acknowledgement from those present.
Winter Lecture 30th October 2008 - Mr E. J. Murray
The second Winter Lecture of the season was held in the Moreig Hotel on 30th October when president David Miller welcomed members and friends and introduced the guest speaker, Mr. Ted Murray.
Ted’s topic was “Words & Expressions” and dealt with numerous well-known phrases and sayings, which, over the years, have passed into common use.
One example, “No room to swing a cat”, came from the days of Nelson’s navy when a flogging with the “Cat o’ Nine tails” was a regular punishment for sailors who offended. The flogging was usually carried out in the cramped conditions below decks where space was at a premium and gave rise to the modern use meaning “no room” and nothing to do with the domestic pet.
Mr. Murray cited other examples from history with unusual modern connotations, which led to some lively audience participation with an exchange of common expressions having surprising origins.
Ted was thanked by Neil Johnston.
Winter Lecture 25th September 2008 - Nancy Duncan
Junior vice president Neil Johnston welcomed the company and introduced Mrs. Nancy Duncan (Major Retd.) who spoke on her role in the Territorial Army Nursing Corps. during the Gulf War. Major Duncan enthralled her listeners with a witty but poignant account of her experiences in the desert in a MRS (Medical Reception Centre). Working under great pressure, often in extreme temperatures with cumbersome protective clothing and respirators, necessary in case of gas attack. Many nationalities were represented in the camp and Nancy and her colleagues had opportunities to socialise and celebrate different National Days. Daffodils and tinned haggis were flown out from the UK to mark St. David’s Day and Burns’ birthday. Major Duncan illustrated her talk with photographs memorability and some examples of her protective equipment.
Following a question and answer session, Mrs. Duncan, who admitted to being Hon. Treasurer David Baird’s sister, was thanked by Neil Johnston.
Dumbarton Burns Club - Bowling Match
On one of the best days, weather wise, for some time a number of club members travelled by coach to meet friend from the Dumbarton Burns Club for the annual bowling competition. Despite our best efforts we were unable to retain the trophy but still enjoyed a great day. Congratulation to Dumbarton on a very close competition
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
On a visit to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on 21st August a party consisted of the president, treasurer, secretary, junior vice president and Mr Ted Murray, met up with honorary member Mr. Ronnie Crichton. Then attended a show at the Roxburgh Hotel, where a performance of "Loving Burns" was given by two ladies, it was loosely based on the supposed meeting between Jean Armour and Agnes McLehose and was most enjoyable. The second show took place at the Beehive in the Grassmarket, featuring the comedian Bruce Fummey in his one-man show, “About Robert the Bruce”.
Edinburgh Military Tattoo
On the trip to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo on 2nd August when a party of members, accompanied by relations and some friends of the club, visited Edinburgh to the parliment and tattoo. On arrival at Holyrood, members were escorted by knowledgeable guides through the corridors of power of Scotland, an amazing integration of wood, granite and concrete.
Then onto the Castle for the Military Tattoo during which we were witness to some phenomenal marching skills and musical entertainment from around the world, Singapore, New Zealand, India, Canada, Great Britain and of course, Scotland.
Jean Armour Dinner
On 7th July the club held the annual Jean Armour Dinner, which followed the wreath laying at the statue. It had proved to be an excellent evening with superb toasts from Melanie Harris and John Haining and entertainment of a high order.
Wauchope Cairn Ceremony
14 members and friends journeyed by mini bus and were accorded the customary welcome by members of Hawick Burns Club. At the cairn ceremony, John Haining President of the Robert Burns World Federation gave an oration on Burns’ Border Tour in 1787 and wreaths were laid including the club’s tribute by the president and on behalf of the SSCBA by Mr. Baird. An enjoyable social gathering in the Hawick Burns Club followed which featured turns from several clubs.
The Club was represented at a ceremony at Kilmarnock on 27th July to commemorate the printing of the Kilmarnock Edition by John Wilson. The club was represented by the president, secretary, Mrs. Brown and Treasurer. A wreath on behalf of the SSCBA was placed at the statue and a brief social hour followed.
Brow Well Service
Members attended the annual service at the Brow Well on 23rd July. This was Mr. Baird’s first outing as president of the SSCBA and was please to report that on this occasion, the weather was favourable. The company included several office bearers from the Burns Federation and delegates from numerous Burns Clubs. The Rev. Ella Pennington called the assembly to prayer and read from Ecclesiastes Ch. 3. Federation president John Haining delivered the oration and piper Calum Watson played a lament. A vote of thanks was proposed by Mrs. Jane Brown.
Club Treasure Hunt
A good night had been enjoyed an exellent evening, it was a tight contest and only half a point separated the winning team from the runners up. Most members managed to return to the Globe Inn for 9.30pm for customary pies & mushy peas.