Meet the Scots Makar and dine at Duns Castle

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Scots Makar Jackie Kay – Scotland’s national poet – is coming to Duns for the first time in April.

She will be joined by acclaimed popular philosopher Julian Baggini for a unique community conference – followed by a dinner in Duns Castle.

This will provide a rare chance to visit and dine at the castle, celebrating its 700th anniversary this year.

The conference and dinner are being organised by Thinking Without Borders, the local organisation inspired by the great Berwickshire philosophers David Hume and John Duns Scotus.

“It’s been a real Berwickshire coup to secure both Jackie Kay and Julian Baggini,” says Carol Jefferson-Davies, one of the organisers.

“They’re towering talents and fascinating speakers.”

Both of them will be speaking at the Thinking Without Borders conference, staged in Duns’ Volunteer Hall on Sunday April 26.

They will be joined by other speakers in a programme of talks and discussion on the themes of identity and its influences – national, communal and personal.

This will be followed in the evening by the annual David Hume Food for Thought Dinner, held for the first time at Duns Castle, where Jackie Kay and Julian Baggini will be speaking more informally in an ‘in conversation’ session.

“It’s a rare opportunity to enjoy the company of these two thought-provoking speakers,” says Carol.

“They’ll entertain and challenge diners with poems, philosophical reflections, and insights into our notions of personal identity.

“The evening will also provide an opportunity to see inside the castle, with an introduction by its owner Alexander Hay – and, of course, to enjoy a wonderful dinner in friendly and stimulating company.”

The conference during the day will consider questions and understandings of identity and its influences – national, communal and personal – both from history and today.

Inspired by this year’s 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, it is entitled ‘Arbroath and After: Personal and Collective Identity in a Changing World’.

The Declaration of Arbroath was Scotland’s statement to the Pope of its independence from the English.

But it was also a declaration that no ruler should ultimately be above the will and wishes of the people.

It spoke of the importance of people being ‘free’ to be who they believed they were and could choose to be.

Duns and people of the town are closely linked with this famous Declaration.

Research by Professor Alexander Broadie will reveal at the conference how John Duns Scotus, the internationally famous philosopher-theologian from Duns, influenced the Declaration’s contents and wording.

And other notables such as Gilbert de Hay, ancestor of the current Hays of Duns Castle, and Patrick Dunbar – the Earl of March who built the castle – were signatories to it.

So what notions do we have of our identity today, in what seems to be a constantly changing world?

Who do we believe ourselves to be and who do we wish to become?

Questions regarding our sense of who we are, the identity and value we put on the places we inhabit, of borders, borderlands, communities and nations – all these will be up for discussion.

Tickets for the conference and David Hume Food for Thought Dinner can be booked together or as separate events. For more information, email