Duns Burns Club toast Rabbie, a cultural icon

Top table guests at at the Duns Burns Club's Annual Supper.
Top table guests at at the Duns Burns Club's Annual Supper.

Robert Burns was fluent in the language of the heart and his life was full of passion for culture, nature and not least women.

This is according to James Royan who gave a superb ‘Immortal Memory’ at Duns Burns Club’s Annual Supper, held in the White Swan Hotel, Duns, on Friday evening.

Club president Frank Millar welcomed members and guests and announced that past club secretary/treasurer Iain Lothian was to be made an honorary member of the Club.

The Haggis was piped in by Pipe Major Andrew Ainslie before Doug Redpath gave the Selkirk Grace and eveyone sat down to an excellent meal of traditional Burns fare – Haggis, neeps and tatties – but not before the ‘Beastie’ was vigorously ‘addressed’ and toasted by the Rev Stephen Blakey.

Frank introduced the main speaker for the evening, James Royan, who gave the Immortal Memory. James, who now lives in Duns but hails originaly from Elgin, is a Chief Inspector with Police Scotland, an avid breeder of pedigree sheep and is also married to president Frank’s daughter Vicki.

James explained that he was first drawn to the music and poetry of Burns when he heard his mother playing ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ on the piano at home. His mother was a music teacher who introduced Burns to youngsters all over the north of Scotland.

He went on to explain that Burns had visited his home town of Elgin and had compared Elgin Cathedral and Melrose Abbey, adding “So it wasn’t only me who had an eye on a beauty in the Borders.”

James explained how the Bard had turned his back on the farm to become an excise man.

He said: “Burns possessed the powers and failings of a genius and combined social observation with the ability to entertain. He had an empathy for nature and wildlife and was very aware of man’s influence on nature.

“Rabbie Burns had many admirable facets to his character, but also had failings which made him human, and it was that humanity which brought him into the hearts of ordinary people.

“He is indeed a cultural icon of whom all Scots can by justifiably proud.”

Ex-Reiver Darren Aitchison gave a humorous ‘Toast tae the Lassies’. He said women were “a mysterious topic which men had been trying to understand for some time” but he added that men couldn’t do without them.

The reply on behalf of the Lassies was given by Caroline Wilkinson, from Hawick. In equally humorous fashion Caroline explained what women looked for in a man and how these changed the older women became.

Reiver Euan Reed’s brilliant ‘Toast tae the Toon’ came straight from the heart and he said that the community in Duns were second to none. He added that the proudest moment of his life was leading the cavalcade into the town on the Saturday of Reiver’s Week.

During the evening Pipe Major Andrew Ainslie played a lament, while Rob Cockburn, in his own inimitable style, recited ‘To a Mouse’ and ‘Tam O’Shanter’ and Bruce Millar gave his excellent rendition of ‘Death and Dr Hornbook’.

There was some top-class singing throughout the night too, from Hawick’s world championship winning Sally Thomas, Dixie Scott from Eyemouth, and Ian Aitchison from Duns. Accompanist for the evening was once again Sandra Nisbett.

Doug Redpath gave the toast to the chairman before another entertaining supper came to a close with the company singing ‘Star O’ Rabbie Burns’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’.