Top class speakers at Duns Burns Supper

editorial image

Duns Burns Club members and guests were entertained by some top class speakers and artistes at their 57th Annual Supper held in the Royal British Legion on Friday evening.

The top table was piped in by Pipe Major Andrew Ainslie before club chairman Bill Patterson welcomed everyone to the Supper.

The Haggis was piped in by Piper Ainslie before chairman Bill gave the ‘Address Tae The Haggis’ in his own inimitable and flambouyant syle - o’ what a glorious sight!

The company stood to toast the Haggis before the chairman gave the Selkirk Grace and everyone enjoyed a meal of traditional fayre - Scotch kail, haggis, neeps and tatties and cheese and biscuits - served up by Selina and her army of waiters and waitresses.

After proposing the loyal toast to The Queen the chairman introduced the first of the evening’s guests, George Anderson MBE, to give the ‘Immortal Memory’.

George was brought up in East Lothian and attended school at Athelstaneford, home of the ‘Scottish Saltire’. He worked at Smeaton Gardens and then later at the Royal Botanical Gardens where he was head of the School of Horticulture. He was later awarded the MBE for service to horticulture.

George explained that this was the first time he had given an ‘Immortal Memory’ speech and had taken advice from various people.

He spoke about the bard’s early life and his love for the lassies.

Burns’ father engaged a schoolmaster, John Murdoch, who made sure his son was well educated. Burns was an avid reader and his teacher had trouble keeping him going with books.

Burns learned surveying and land measurement and worked hard at this task. He also learned flax making during which time he met Robert Brown and took up his interest in poetry.

George said that Burns had a great love of nature and had a great way with words when explaining his passion for the country way of life and quoted several Burns poems in which the poet related to is love of Scotland’s nature.

When Burns started getting his poems published he had money and fame and set off for Edinburgh with great plans. His lifestyle changed, as did his friends, but he still loved the lassies. He fathered 16 children but one wife was never enough for him.

Burns died, aged 37, of rheumatic fever brought on by the dark days and hard work from his early time on the farm.

George said: “He was a natural poet who gave us songs to sing and showed us the way to live and how to laugh and be true.”

He concluded by reciting part of ‘A Man’s A Man for A’ That’.

The company then raised a glass to toast Burns and Piper Ainslie played a lament.

Everyone joined in and gave a hearty rendition of ‘Rantin Robin’, accompanied by Sandra Nisbet on the organ, before Rob Cockburn entertained by reciting ‘Epistle To A Young Friend’.

Duns Reiver Richard Burns then gave a most amusing ‘Toast Tae The Toon’.

Richard told how Burns came to Duns over The Hardens, just as the mounted cavalcade does on the Saturday of Reiver’s Week. He would have been welcomed by the superb view of The Merse.

Richard posed the question “How would Burns react to the present day Duns?

“Would he be prepared to pay the current price for a drink or would he expect it to be paid for him?”

Richard said that although he had the same surname and same initials he was no relation to the poet. “The initials RB were inscribed near Berrywell House - it definitely wasn’t me! If Burns had done that nowadays he would get an ASBO or be charged with vandalism!”

Richard conluded: “We are very proud Robbie Burns appears in the history of Duns, the town that dings a’.”

The company then sang ‘Green Grow The Rashes’ before the chairman introduced Alastair Christie, depute head at Berwickshire High School, to propose ‘The Toast Tae The Lassies’.

In a very humorous speech Alastair explained that “Burns’ dallies wi the lassies, were legendary” and quoted some of his poems on the ladies.

He wondered how Burns would be able to cope with the modern day Scottish woman and recited a poem entitled ‘A Woman’s A Woman for A That’.

Alastair said that being in education he has had trouble with the lassies over the years but added that although the ladies can be difficult at times where would we be without them?

Young David Cockburn then recited ‘Sic A Wife As Willie Had’ before Eloner Crawford gave the reply to the Toast Tae The Lassies.

Eloner took on the persona of Kate O’Shanter, wife of Tam O’Shanter, and had her audience in stitches throughout.

She said Robbie Burns had the ‘gift o’ the gab’ but wondered how he got inside the heads of women.

She then gave her version of Tam’s escapade in the famous poem ‘Tam O’Shanter’, sticking up for her husband in the sorry tale (no pun intended).

She asked why men found telling the truth so difficult - as Tam did.

Next to entertain was Josie Taylor who sang ‘Ye Banks and Braes’ before Bruce Millar gave an outstanding rendition of ‘Tam O’Shanter’, one of the highlights of the night.

The company sang ‘Corn Rigs’ before the chairman thanked the guests and artistes.

Murray Henderson proposed the ‘Toast Tae the Chairman’ is his own humourous style. He said, tongue in cheek, how it would be a real treat for the guest speaker, George Anderson MBE, to see Bill’s garden! He also recited his own poem about Bill which was very well received.

More entertainment followed. Josie Taylor sang ‘My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose’, Rob Cockburn recited ‘To A Mouse’ and Frank Millar brought a superb evening to a close with ‘The Star O’ Rabbie Burns’.