“What a crackin’ night!”, “just like a big happy family supper”, “a terrific start to the Burns Season”.
This was just a taste of comments on the 62nd Annual Duns Burns Club Supper held in The White Swan Hotel on Friday night.
Pipe Major Andrew Ainslie piped in chairman Murray Henderson and the top table guests along with the club’s very first lady member, who just happened to be Murray’s wife Kath.
The chairman welcomed everyone and read out fraternal greetings from the RBWF, The BABC and Burns Clubs of Whiteadder, Galashiels, Coldstream, Eyemouth, Hawick and Dumfries.
Then in came the Haggis, warm-reekin rich as it chased Piper Ainslie up the room. The ‘word perfect’ chairman Henderson soon got the beastie under control an’ wi a knife, cut it up wi ready slight an’ trenched its gushin’ entrails bright.
The entertainment then got under way with Vivienne Oliver leading the community singing with Rantin’ Rovin Robin.
Then it was over to Ronnie Fleming, Past President of Kelso Bowling, Rugby and Burns Clubs who proposed the Immortal memory.
Ronnie led those present in a journey through Burns short life, stopping from time to time time enlighten the company on what this great social commentator might have been experiencing and thinking away back then in the latter quarter of the 18th century.
He spoke of Burns first love and how he articulated his feelings for young Nellie Kilpatrick with whom he worked in the fields in rural Ayrshire.
Then Ronnie expanded his tour to cover how the young poet suffered despair and bitterness through the difficulties experienced by William Burness and the family when trying to eke out a living on farms crying out for investment and improvement.
He spoke of how Burns changed when he went to Edinburgh where he met with the great and the good of Scottish Society bit it was not lost on Ronnie that Burns played the part of the Ploughman Poet and that the young wordsmith was aware that his new found fame could evaporate just as quickly as he found it.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Duns Burns Club Supper without reference to the extended visit the poet paid to Duns and the fire and brimstone sermon delivered by Bowmaker whilst Burns softly placed his protective shield around Rachel Ainslie, telling her that in no way was she the target of the Minister’s tirade but that Burns himself, his reputation already being tarnished by those who didn’t really know or want to know him, was likely the chosen subject.
Ronnie, without delivering in any way an impassioned or unsupportable defence of Burns character, offered fact on the way that the caring father supported all of his children the best that he could. He suggested that tales of over imbibing on Scotch Drink was greatly exaggerated but remarked that Burns was a man of his time.
As he concluded his most excellent Toast Ronnie offered a remark by Hans Hecht: “It is impossible to imagine Scotland without Robert Burns”. Ronnie was afforded an extended standing ovation from a very appreciative audience.
The Toast to The Lasses delivered by Robin Dodyk started and finished with humour and the company laughed their way through a highly entertaining quarter of an hour. Using Burns own words with extracts from his poems and songs, even dipping an investigatory toe over the line into The Merry Muses of Caledonia, Robin outlined just how easily and often Robert fell in love and how indeed we are the better off for it. Here we are over 200 after his death still singing songs of love penned by one of the greatest Scotsmen ever to have lived.
In traditional manner Pauline Heron was invited to reply and she offered hilarious insight as to how young folk communicate without ever apparently needing to see, speak or be in the same part of the universe as each other. Text Speak using coded messages or acronyms appears to be the order of the modern day.
Pauline enlightened everyone as to what some of this gobbledygook actually means and how it removes the need for eye contact, speaking or other conventional means of communication.
Pauline had the audience in stitches throughout and was given a great ovation.
Reiver Darren Aitchison, who will undoubtedly become a regular guest speaker at all sorts of dinners such is the way he has taken to the craft, was to enthral his toon folk and their guests with a resume of what 2015 and his ‘Year in Office’ meant to him. It was plain to see that the chosen callant was bursting with pride and so too was his audience.
Much singing and reciting followed with Martin Aitchison, Ian Aitchison, David Cockburn, Rob Cockburn, Rob Cockburn’s moose, Tom Scott’s heid, Vivienne Oliver and Davey Scott a’playing their part.
Jimmy Foreman toasted The Chairman with great aplomb.