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Harburn Village Hall - Burns Club 2020





















































































































burns 19

BURNS 20“Nae man can tether time nor tide,” Burns proclaimed, but once again he was THE man of the night, his memory living on at the Harburn Hall on Saturday, February 25 as the Harburn Men’s Rural Institute offered up its annual celebration of his birthday. In usual fashion Robert Burns was honoured on every wall as the crowd poured in and took their seats ready for a night of feasting on leek and tattie soup, haggis, champit neeps, bashit tatties, cheese with oatcakes, and dumpling. Aside from the food, David McDonald had the crowd laughing to the bottom of their bellies as the host with the most cracking jokes that even included some fresh, cheesy material.
This might be a fitting place to mention Jenny Tuffs's fabulous table decs -- Red Rosebuds with seasonal winter greenery ... augmented by pink and white candy Wee Tim'rous Beasties.

Joe Ross was the haggis bearer for 2020, piped in and out by Jim Cooper. A position of distinction at the supper, the bearer of the haggis has traditionally s been a man each year, but there has been some talk among the ladies that some of them would like to take their turn at the platter. For now, this shall remain a wait and see.
Fiona Durham, who has one of the best Scottish accents in the district, grabbed our attention with her Immortal Memory of Robert Burns.

His place in the Scottish consciousness is unique, she said, historically important for his ability to reach ordinary men and women, defending attitudes of democracy and equality, and widely admired internationally because of the fundamental truth in his poetry that crosses frontiers and language boundaries. “For many, he is the rhythmic heart of the nation,” she said. “He catches the reality of the passing moment and daily life, demonstrating his love of nature and life.” But Burns was also a man full of contradictions, she explained. “He loved women, but exploited them. He was a republican and yet a social climbing government employee. He was a champion of democracy, yet planned to reap the financial rewards of the Caribbean slave trade. He was a radical who wrote Jacobite songs; a loving husband incapable of fidelity.”

Wull Kirk is a man who shines Burns’ poetry like a new penny in a bairn’s pocket. He is well known for his ability to leave the crowd in awe.  He is, of course, well practised and when asked how many times he has presented a Burns recital at a corresponding supper, he said, “By the end of this season, it will be 1200.” At the Harburn Burns Supper he presented a new poetic recital for 2020, ‘Death and Dr. Hornbook.’

According to the National Trust of Scotland, ‘Death and Dr. Hornbook’ was written by Burns in 1785 following a conversation he had with one John Wilson, a schoolteacher, who opened a grocer’s shop and offered the sale of some medicines along with limited advice. It was the thoughts of death and Wilson’s medical ineptitude that led Burns to compose the work on his journey home, refining it the following day with his brother as they worked in the field. 
Overall, it was a night of couples sharing the night’s lineup of toasts. Dr. Alastair Orr channeled the Scot’s tongue for the stabbing Address to the Haggis, and his wife, Sheena Orr ended the evening with the Toast and Vote of Thanks to the artistes’. Mrs. Netta Smith christened the dumpling with the first cut followed by her husband, Paul, offering the Selkirk Grace before the diners dug in. 
Mr. Colin Mitchell, a Cornishman, offered up a heartfelt toast to the Lasses drawing back to the first interactions between Adam and Eve, and Burn’s love for ‘Bonnie Peggy Alison’, but it might be fair to say that he was resoundingly put in his place by his Mrs.Chris Mitchell, who had the crowd in stitches when she hiked her dress skirt above her knees and proclaimed that the length of the reply should be equal the shortness of the hemline of a woman’s dress. Giving the man his due, Burns should be commended for being an environmentalist in his time, she said, and not necessarily brandished for his love of the ladies, because it produced heartfelt poetry dedicated to love. 
It should be noted that Alistair Hutson did some extended wrangling with himself to compose a Toast to the Harburn Community. In the end he dug deep and recognized what was right in front of him. It was perhaps kismet that he was seated at table number 5, because it has been five years since he and his wife, Louise, moved to Harburn. It must have resonated with him because he could be seen leaving the hall later that evening nicking the Table 5 placard. A lover of the time that he and his family spends in the countryside that Harburn has to offer, he said, in terms of the Harburn community there are no real boundaries. Robert Burns was compulsory learning in his school days, he said, and while he admitted to not having an interest in Burns’ poetry he has acquired an appreciation and understanding of celebrating community through his life and works, treasuring it and never taking it for granted. 

The music for the evening showcased the stylistic sounds of the fresh-faced boy band known as Cairnpapple with John Wilkinson on bodhran drum, Joe Ross on vocals and Richard Drysdale Wilson on guitar and vocals. Their Trinkle of Sangs included John’s new verses to ‘The Surface of the Moon’, a continued ode to the potholes of Harburn’s road surfaces. 
Ian McArthur brought out his guitar for the final musical pieces and changing the  words to ‘The Muckin’ of Geordie’s Byre’, he presented the tongue twisting ‘At the Burns Do Last Saturday Night.’ 

Sidelining the night, the Burns Supper was also a place to recognize Allan Maclaughlan for the hard work that he performs to bring all the pieces of the night together, but he was also in for a surprise as the crowd joined in song to congratulate him and his wife, Mary, with song as they celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary on the same day. David McDonald also recognised Claire Duncan, with a bit of fun, for attaining Indefinite Leave to Remain as she continues on her path to citizenship. Guy and Lilian Vernham sent a message to the attendees expressing their well wishes as they were unable to attend.
As usual, the night ended with the whole house heartily singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and the crowd filtered back out with hugs and clapping hands as the congratulations were passed around for each of the night’s presentations. Let it not be said, however, that all the people of Harburn are early to bed on the night of the Burns Supper as a number of attendees decided to discover their own singing voices over a few bottles of whisky after the night’s program concluded. Prompted by his wife, Julie, Alan Jackson treated the long stayers to his dancing fingers on the ivories of the piano in the back of the hall, playing some old Scottish tunes, Kenny Rogers at special request, and even the U. S. National Anthem. It was all in good fun and John Wilkinson filmed some of the shenanigans for posterity's sake. Ian Gillespie took it all in his stride, but come 1:30 am, it was lights out and he ushered us to the door finally ending the evening. And as Fiona said earlier in the night, “The hour approaches when even this long winded blast must blow its last…to a poet of the ages…to Scotland’s best loved son…to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns.”

Claire D