Coldstream Burns Club held their annual Tweed Bridge ceremony on Sunday to commemorate the visit of Robert Burns to the town in May, 1778, when he crossed over the bridge and stood on English soil for the first time.
The ceremony was well supported by members as well as guests from other Border clubs including Duns, Kelso, Galashiels, Hawick, Peebles, the Howff Club of Dumfries and the St. Andrews Club of Berwick.
After gathering in the British Legion Club the members and guests led by pipers Rob and Duncan Bell and club standard bearer Martin Johnstone set off in procession for the bridge in somewhat wet conditions. On reaching the bridge the company gathered around the plaque, placed on its west parapet by the club in 1926, while the police ensured that the traffic was stopped for the duration of the short ceremony.
After a brief welcome Rob Smith, club chairman, reminded everyone of the story of Burns’s crossing of the bridge and then did as Burns did all these years ago and dropped to one knee before reciting the last stanza from his famous poem ‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night’.
Garlands were then attached to the parapet alongside the plaque by Dave Scott of Duns Burns Club, the principal guest and Frank Manson, president of the Howff Club of Dumfries. The company then retired to the Craw Green to continue the ceremony, by which time the sun was shining.
Following a formal welcome to guests and members, Rob Smith called on Dave Scott, past president of the Borders Association of Burns Clubs and former chairman of Duns Burns Club to propose the toast to Robert Burns.
Dave’s reputation as a speaker at Burns Suppers is high and his toast to the bard was a further enhancement of that reputation. Describing Burns as Scotland’s greatest, he marvelled at the fact that his influence remained so strong 200 plus years after his death.
To emphasise the point Dave explained he is involved in taking Burns into Borders schools encouraging youngsters to learn about Burns, recite his poetry and sing and play his songs. A remarkable 160 plus children were recently involved in this.
Dave went on to sing the praises of the town of Coldstream and the beauty of the day’s setting beside the Tweed in the shadow of Smeaton’s wonderful bridge.
He was also generous in his praise for Coldstream Burns Club mentioning the talent within its ranks and the efficiency of its organisation. All his remarks were delivered with the humour and passion of a true Burnsian and received a deserved ovation from the company.
His toast was followed by the father and son piping duo of Rob and Duncan Bell in fine form playing most appropriately ‘A man’s a man for a’ that’.
Jim Davidson, honorary president, then stepped forward to propose the toast to Coldstream Burns Club. With well over 50 years involvement in the club there is no man better placed to pass comment. He expressed his pleasure at the current good health of the club and his confidence in the officials and the committee. Jim also complimented Dave Scott on his stirring toast to the bard saying he was particularly pleased to hear that so many youngsters were involved in Burns’s poetry and songs.
The company then re-traced their steps to the British Legion Club where food, provided by Deakins Tearoom and refreshments were laid on.
An excellent day was rounded off with some impromptu entertainment in the Burns tradition with performances from Kenny Brodie, Bobby Hanlon, Rob Bell and David Clark as well as excellent contributions from some of the guests including Dave Scott.