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Harburn Village Hall - Burns Club 2009

FIRST DEGREE BURNS........................

burns cartoon


A 250th Anniversary ‘Homecoming’ Burns Night took place in Harburn Hall on Friday 20th February amongst a congregation of eighty or so eager participants. Longterm enthusiasts calculate it was the seventh Harburn Burns Night since its reinception in 1981.

piping in 09What might otherwise have been chaos and dark night was Called to Order and Welcomed by the night’s high priest Gaffer John Pearce in the Cornish style. He reminded us that he (or rather a younger more innocent JP) had done the very same thing twenty-eight long years earlier (and again in 87) before an assembly which also included the majority of the Brothers Rennie, together with partners.

A more recent addition to the annual High Mass of the Haggis ritual is a similar votive address to The Dumpling. Ms. Rona Smith (the first of our three celebrity call-offs, two for illness and two for urgent business reasons) being unwell, Mrs. Isabella McChesney most ably stepped into the breach, summing up the dumpling’s worth in a Burns-like poem of uncertain origin. Teachers! We wish Rona well and look forward to hearing the address she composed next time, when there may well be an Ode to a Turnip, if present trends continue.

Mr. Sigmund von Habsburg being detained in airport limbo, the Selkirk Grace was intoned by arch-organiser Mr. Allan Maclaughlan (aka Wanlung*). With a resounding Amen the seven dozen strong congregation prepared to tuck in to the splendidly served supper, with their own choice of communion wine. Then, after a short interval allowing old friends to catch up, new friends to meet, forgotten acquaintances to recall similars vaguely to mind, Mr. Calum Power again splendidly breathed air through the curiously effective combination of animal skin and turned sticks, recalling us to reality.

tryst 09A reality that was reaffirmed by another celebrity stand-in: Mr. Alistair Mackie, ex-councillor, ex-Deputy Provost, giving us, ad lib and with practised ease, ‘The Immortal Memory’ in place of Mr. Lawrence Fitzpatrick, councillor. The Economic Reality of Robert Burns. All these years we’ve been celebrating an imaginary character. No untutored ploughboy he, no drunken penurious sot in later life. No, it seems that Rabbie was a highly educated 18th century yuppie, if not quite a Fat Cat, whose family enjoyed the sort of income that’s expressed today by a Merc and a couple of 4 x 4s in the drive and a second (or third) home in the Caribbean, a location that appealed to him. Well. Whatever we remember of The Bard was heartily toasted.

Then came the music. The aptly named Mr. Marcus Sangster gave his stentorian version of ‘A Man’s a Man’ and ‘Willie Brewed a Peck of Malt’, in a departure from the programme, and with some audience participation. He concluded, as planned, with the spine-chilling ‘Scots Wha Hae’: a commanding presence, and a fine voice.

Mr. Andrew Leslie humorously offered The Lasses a toast. Sole male in a four-strong household, let out for the evening, he persuaded us that in his lifetime we have seen a male-dominated empire turned on its head. Not only have women become participants, they have actually succeeded in creating a matriarchal society, as instanced by the Harburn family. Not a man in the hall dared to disagree. Andrew salvaged a symbolic vestige of male pride by refusing to let Mrs Sandra Dobson (below) see his speech in advance.

Proving his thesis correct, Mrs. Mary ‘Kirkie’ Maclaughlan, still fresh from cooking four score meals and dishing them out, served us her maiden performance of ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ with considerable energy and verve. No long-toothed veteran of a thousand Burns Nights had ever heard a woman recite it before. What can we say? Nursed on the poem, and weaned on ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’, Mary rendered it in true Kirk fashion. Uncle Wull would have been proud. And so would Tam. Her apprenticeship with Harburn Players was obvious. More!

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