DESPITE the wintry conditions Duns Burns Club went ahead with their 59th annual supper in the White Swan Hotel on Friday evening.
The weather did, however, mean that several of the artistes were unable to attend but neverthless the large company enjoyed a tremendous evening of poetry and song.
Club chairman Ian Turnbull welcomed everyone and thanked them for braving the weather to attend.
The haggis was piped in by Scott Holmes and after the Rev Bill Patterson gave the Selkirk Grace, everyone enjoyed an excellent meal of Burns fayre - Scotch kale, haggis, neeps and tatties and cheese and biscuits.
The ‘Address Tae The Haggis’ was given by chairman Ian in his own inimitable style.
Following the meal the chairman gave the toast to ‘The Queen’ before introducing Alan Brydon who gave a superb ‘Immortal Memory’.
Alan, from Hawick, is well known by many as a multi-talented musician and member of the popular Borders band ‘Scocha’, but he is also a composer, poet, historian and a great after dinner speaker.
Alan spoke of the occasions on which Burns had visited Duns and expressed his disappointment that although the bard had visited other Borders towns he had never visited Hawick and laid the blame on the people of Jedburgh for that!
He spoke of Burns’ friendship with Robert Ainslie of Berrywell and said that Duns had obviously left a lasting impression on him.
Alan explained that Burns was not anti-English but had problems with the ruling classes of that time. He was a rebel, a working class hero, “a John Lennon of his generation”.
He went on to talk about the bard’s love of the lassies and recited a poem entitled ‘Burns’ Secret’ about his fondness of the women and the benefits of eating haggis, neeps and taties washed down, of course, with whisky!
He said many famous people were big fans of Robert Burns including Bob Dylan, Beethoven and Abraham Lincoln.
Alan concluded: “Burns’ words dance off the page, he was an extraordinary man. He died at the age of just 37 but what a legacy he left. His work will continue to entertain generations.”
Alan, quite deservedly, received a standing ovation for what was a most entertaing and interesting toast.
The toast to ‘The Toon’ was given by Reiver Martin Aitchison who also spoke of the bard’s visits to Duns and how, on the Saturday of Reiver’s Week, the riders get the same view from the top of The Hardens that Burns would have had.He also described how he thought Burns would have coped in the present day Duns.
The toast ‘Tae the Lassies’ was given by the Rev Bob Higham who spoke of the qualities of ‘the lassies’ and admitted they were a much stronger sex.
He described Burns as “an amorous adventurer with a silver tongue”.
He concluded by saying that the man is the head of the household but the woman was the neck - turning the head any way she wished!
The reply was given by Di Higham, wife of the Rev Bob Higham, and she thanked her husband “for such flattery coming from a man of the cloth”.
She decribed men as “children of a larger growth” and remembered the lassies to beware “a tongue that is smoothly hung”.
There was some excellent entertainment throughout the evening. Piper Scott Holmes played a lament, Rob Cockburn recited ‘To a Mouse’ (with the help of Bill Thorburn’s head) and ‘Epistle to a Young Friend’. Bruce Millar recited ‘To a Louse’ and Murray Henderson recited ‘Willie Wastle’.
Ian Buick has met with considerable success at the Burns Federation World Championships and you could see why during his recitations of ‘Tam O’Shanter’, ‘The Whistle’ and Holy Willie’s Prayer’.
The company, without any accompaniment, sang ‘Rantin, Rovin, Robin’ and ‘Scots Wha Hae’ and Frank Millar led everyone in ‘The Star O’ Rabbie Burns’.
The chairman thanked the guests and artistes before Jimmy Feeney proposed the toast ‘Tae the Chair’.
A superb evening came to a close with the company singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’.