HE’s no stranger to reciting Burns having entertained many top tables during his time with Coldstream, Whiteadder and Berwick Burns clubs and although Burns season is now well over for another year, Ian Buick has tasted success thanks to his near perfect recitation of one of the Bard’s famous works.
Ian made the trip over to Muirkirk in Ayrshire to compete in the annual World John Lapraik Speaking Championships and his journey was well worth the effort as he finished in a highly commendable second place.
On the night before Lent, 1785, Robert Burns had gone to a party. During the course of the evening he was very much taken by one particular song so he enquired where it had come from.
He was told that it had been written by an old farmer and poet from Muirkirk by the name of John Lapraik.
Burns very much wanted to meet Lapraik so he sent him a letter in verse, the ‘Epistle to J. Lapraik, an old Scottish Bard, April 1, 1785’. In it Burns told Lapraik a little about himself and requested that they meet up. This they did, and struck up a friendship.
In the 21st Century, this 22 verse poem by Robert Burns, ‘The Epistle to J. Lapraik’, is the basis of the annual Lapraik Speaking Championships where six of the best reciters of Robert Burns’s poetry take it in turns to recite the epistle.
Ian’s day started with a trip to John Lapraick’s grave for a recitation of the epistle by last year’s world champion and from there he and his fellow competitiors proceeded to Muirkirk Caravan Park for the competition itself.
After a warm up Ian stood in front of a four person judging panel headed by David Baird, Past President of the Robert Burns World Federation
This was the first time that Ian had attended the Lapraik World Championships but his experience as a seasoned Burns club performer and competition judge himself served him well.
He finished runner-up, a result which ranks alongside his third place in the ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ competition in Dumfries and first place in the all Scotland, Tom McIllwraith Robert Burns reciting competition two years ago in Edinburgh.
Modest in his achievement, Ian said: “Until you put yourself up against the best you never know how good, or bad, you are. This time it turned out to be quite good.
“With 22 verses ‘The Espistle to J Lapraik’ wasn’t the easiest to remember but at the same time it’s no ‘Tam o’Shanter’.
“It wasn’t a piece I was overly familiar with before I entered the competition but now it will be a permanent fixture in my Burns repertoire.
“I think having judged people myself in the past, I had an idea of what the panel were looking for; for instance there was one judge who was there just to pick up on any mistakes; another for punctuation and another for the ambience of the piece.
“Sometimes the spaces you leave in a poem are just as important as the words themselves.”
Organisers of both the Lapraik competition and the Tam o’ Shanter competition want Ian to compete in their competitions again but as the last line of Robert Burns’s ‘Holy Fair’ says, that is “Some ither day.”