Coldstream Burns Club celebrated its 124th anniversary last Saturday at the annual supper in the British Legion Club.
Chairman Rob Smith got the evening’s proceedings underway welcoming everyone to the annual celebration of the birth of Scotland’s bard.
The meal was preceded as usual, by the Selkirk Grace delivered by the Rev David Taverner attending his first supper as a member of the club.
A first class table of traditional fare followed, prepared and served up in the customary efficient manner by Sheila Cockburn and the Legion volunteers and was hugely enjoyed by all.
The entertainment got off to the best possible start with the arrival of the haggis carried high by Bobby Hanlon to the skirl of Pipe Major Rob Bell’s pipes and addressed by Les Turnbull who was on top form.
In his annual report John Elliot, hon secretary, advised that the club was in good health with membership standing at 148 including six new members being welcomed.
The financial position of the club is also solid under the stewardship of Richard Melvin and John thanked Richard and his fellow committee members for their contributions throughout the year.
He mentioned that in April a group of club members visited the new Burns Birthplace Museum at Alloway in Ayrshire and had been very impressed.
They had made a generous contribution towards the establishment of the new museum and as a result Coldstream’s name appears on the roll of honour listing major contributors.
The annual Tweed Bridge ceremony continues to flourish with last year’s main speaker being the president of the Robert Burns World Federation and this year’s being the incoming president of the same organisation.
John ended his report with the customary toast to “Burns Clubs the world o’er.”
This year the toast to the ‘Immortal Memory’ was given by Alan Brydon of Hawick, chief executive of the Garnett Group of Companies and well known in musical and literary circles in the Borders.
His toast was interesting, insightful, humourous and original and even contained a couple of musical interludes all of which revealed his knowledge of the subject and his admiration for the genius of Burns.
Many in the audience agreed that it was the best Immortal Memory heard at Coldstream for many years and was well worthy of the standing ovation it received.
The toast was followed by a lament played by Pipe Major Rob Bell.
As always the singers and musicians were of the highest quality. Bobby Hanlon was in fine voice singing favourites such as ‘Mary Morrison’ and his trademark number ‘Ae fond kiss’, accompanied on piano by consummate musician Ken Pritchard who also provided the accompaniment for the communal singing throughout the evening.
Kenny Hilsley sang to his own accomplished guitar playing and his programme included ‘Bonnie Dundee’ and his excellent version of a number which always goes down well ‘The Deil’s awa wi’ the Excise Man’.
Kenny then joined Rob Bell on guitar and Duncan Bell on bass to perform rousing versions of favourites like ‘Ye Jacobites by name’ and ‘Killiecrankie’ to the delight of the assembled company.
One of the highlights of the evening was a word perfect recitation of ‘Tam o’Shanter’ by David “the Vicar” Clark, who was on top form. Similarly James Bell rose to the occasion in his rendering of ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’, suitably attired in night shirt and cap and carrying a candle bringing to life Burns’ old hypocrite.
The toast to “The toun we live in” was proposed by Dave Blackman, who although not from these parts has become a well kent figure in the town through setting up and tending the town’s floral display each year
His friendly genial manner has ensured his acceptance as a ‘local’ thus enabling him to do justice to the toast to “the Toun”.
That is just what he did as he recounted how he came to the area, weaving into his toast some amusing anecdotes of his progress to the settled and contented state he now finds himself in, living in the town.
Kenny Hilsley, who had already made a significant contribution to the evening through singing and playing guitar, then stepped up to deliver the toast “To the lasses”.
Kenny spoke with passion, humour and originality and did the lassies proud, rounding off a trio of first class speeches with another one of the highest quality.
Vice chairman Fred Mitchell thanked Rob Smith for yet another masterful performance in the chair with Rob himself, making sure that everyone involved in the evening was thanked for their contributions.
As usual the members were in fine voice throughout and the evening closed with the customary rendition of ‘Auld Land Syne’.