Presidents’s Blog July 2014

President’s Blog July 2014

It’s been a strange kind of month. When writing this I had hoped to be musing merrily on the Jean Armour Supper and other events of Howff significance. Unfortunately I could not make the supper due to a sudden illness which also almost scuppered my attendance at my daughter’s wedding held a few days prior to the supper. Many thanks to Callum Watson for standing in at such close notice and from all accounts a good night was had by all. Apart from a week resting up in the highlands and islands (highly recommended) and an incident with an exploding power shower at Airth Castle that almost took my head off, I am pleased to report that I am now firing on all three cylinders!!

Before all this kicked off, my wife and I had the pleasure of attending the Guid Nyburris celebrations where we enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the proceedings in weather more associated with the Bahamas than Bonnie Galloway. The ceremony went smoothly and we retired to the Municipal Chambers along with other guests and dignitaries to a rather nice buffet lunch.

Wauchope Cairn
A place of pilgrimage for Burnsians, especially those who stay near the ‘people’s republic of Hawick’, the Cairn marks the site of the home of Mrs Elizabeth Scott an ardent admirer and correspondent of Burns. Even using 21st Century transport it’s a remote spot which must have been even remoter in Burns’ day. After wreath-laying, a moving tribute was paid by the inimitable David Scott from Duns and the company retired to the Hawick Burns Club. Our party was made to feel most welcome and we were treated to a sumptuous buffet and superb entertainment. The diversity and depth of talent in Hawick Burns Club is much to be admired and we were entertained by wonderful singing, humorous poetry, recitations and piping. David Smith (our honourable Sec) was invited on to the stage to play the part of an errant bus driver in a brilliant humorous sketch expertly delivered in a broad Border twang by a member of the Hawick Burns Club! The hilarity of this can only be appreciated by viewing the video clip that Callum Watson recorded ‘live at Hawick Burns Club’. Well done David! David Miller and Calum contributed to the days entertainment with a song and some excellent piping. Reluctantly we had to bid our hosts adieu – a great day out was had by all. In deference to James Thomson (a Hawick Man) and the author of The Star o Rabbie I’ll close with a few lines……

Guid friends when by the fireside ye recline
reflect anon anither day is done
dark skies are but the canvas o the Lord
whaur brightly shines
the star o Rabbie Burns!

John Clark



Mixed Moss by a Rolling Stone

Mixed Moss by a Rolling Stone


It has been a long gap since the last posting so there is a lot to catch up with.  The AGM in May saw Godfrey Bedford shuffle of to the back seat but he was an excellent president with a light but sure touch and will be missed as the public face of the club. John Clark was elevated to the Chair and will bring his creative talents with him. Sadly, the AGM commenced with a minutes silence in memory of Frank Curran, whose sudden and shocking death affected us all.  I was later privileged to be asked to contribute an obit for Frank for the paper. Past President Bill Farrell received his personalised whisky bottle marking the 40th anniversary as president. He has a lot to answer for as it was he who introduced me to the Burns Howff Club all those years ago. The AGM was uneventful and office bearers and committee were duly elected.  A long overdue award of honorary membership was conferred on past president Marshall Laing.  Off to Coldstream  on 11th May for the annual ceremony at the bridge. President John placed the club’s floral tribute with great style. Visitation from New Cumnock Burns Club on Sunday 18th May. Lively and knowledgeable Burnsisans. Same day was the Haggis Reciting Competition at the Globe Inn when Murdo Morrison as organiser, conned me into acting as an adjudicator. Strangely, some folk thought it was a haggis tasting event and were disappointed but the winner was entertaining. The opening Excom meeting and soiree on 26th May was stimulating for matters raised and for fun afterwards. Agreed to produce a blended malt whisky, labelled to mark the 125th anniversary of the club in 1889. Disappointing response to date. The Cleaning Task Force scooted round St. Michaels Kirkyard in record time with a wash and rub up of the commemorative plaques. All were found this year.  The AGM of the SSCBA on 24th May witnessed the retirement as president of Jane Brown and the election of David Miller as successor and also Gordon Johnston as junior vice. Long serving Treasurer Betty Haining stood down and was replaced by Jane Brown to the obvious surprise of some delegates present. Complaints were made regarding the ongoing works at Burns Statue and the antics of some, believed to be from Dumfries Big Burns Supper, during the January commemorations.  Had the pleasure of attending a function at Cree Bridge Hotel on 30th May. Entitled, “The Bard & the Bottle”, it consisted of several malt whisky tastings and a presentation by the whisky sales rep, interspersed with songs and recitations. This included a bravura performance of “The Court of Equity” by Gordon Johnston, complete with wig and goonie. The meal was haggis, bashed neeps and tatties and was overdone by some. Visitation from Helensburgh Burns Club on 7th June when the ten cent tour was conducted in a downpour but that did not dampen the spirits of the visitors who were clearly delighted to be allowed access to Burns Mausoleum and the Globe Inn afterwards. Their president is Graham Hill who also happens to be on our Waiting List. The recce for the annual Treasure Hunt took place on 19th June when the “easy-to-find” clues were compiled by Messrs Miller Johnston and Smith within five town centre pubs and the routes thereto. Depressing how dilapidated the town centre is becoming. The June meeting of the RBWF was held at Alloway Church Hall on 14th June. Escorted Mrs Brown and Mrs MacMillan-Forster to the gathering accompanied by Mr. Miller.  Shocked at the revelation that the Fed is facing a financial deficit of over £20K, £7K of which was a loss from the 2013 conference in Glasgow. Plans are being put in place to address the situation but we will see. Members of the Heritage Committee had a site visit to the Burns Monument which is in a poor state of repair but the enhancements to the area around the “Auld Kirk” were impressive. Guid Nychburris Day was celebrated with glorious weather for once and President John Clark, accompanied by Mrs Clark, were in the official party which processed from the Municipal Chambers to the Midsteeple for the crowning ceremony for the “Queen of the South”. The 10th Jean Armour Dinner on 30th June was one of the best of its kind with excellent toasts from Joan MacAlpine MSP and Dr. Maureen Milton. Holly Little brought some class to the entertainment well supported by talented club members and the meal was, in my opinion, first class, even if the shortbread and coffee was served before the superior cheeseboard. Unfortunately, President John was ill and unable to attend but SVP Callum Watson rose magnificently to the occasion and made a genial chairman. Gordon Johnston gave a stirring oration at the statue.  One of my most satisfying projects recently was to help in the arrangements for the placement of a commemorative bench in memory of my old friend and club member, Ted Murray. Ted’s sister Ann ‘phoned seeking advice and I was able to liaise with the Council who agreed to locate a bench adjacent to the Jean Armour statue. Ann’s choice of a Burns Verse for the plaque was apt, “The Epitaph on my own friend, Wm. Muir” which includes the lines, “If there’s another world, he lives in bliss; if there is not, he made the best of this”. Ann was delighted that the club made a contribution towards the cost. Surprisingly, Dumfries Burns Club of which Ted was a past president, although invited, did not find it possible.  The Club Treasure Hunt on 3rd July attracted a poor attendance but three teams were formed and sent off clutching the clues and instructions to return by 9.00pm in good order. The winning team was the Globe Inn, aka “Inglorious Bestards” and received miniature club whiskies as their prizes. Pies and mushy peas were consumed with gusto.  One of the most enjoyable dates in the club calendar is the summer barbecue at Gordon and Betty’s seaside residence at Southerness.  Invitees gathered on 12th July and although the weather was inclement, the gazebo at the garage door kept folk dry and succulent choice cuts, prepared by Neil, was much enjoyed. The Johnston’s are generous hosts and the company did their best to get through the bar supplies.  On the following morning, a party set off in a luxury minibus to Hawick, to attend the annual ceremony at Wauchope. A splendid day and a memorable social hour afterwards at Hawick Burns Club when remarkable turns were performed.  A meeting of the Jean Armour Statue Project  Committee was called on 14th July to discuss the long delayed question of major donors’ names being inscribed on the reverse of the plinth. The agreed criteria was £1000.00 and above and a list was duly drawn up but since the meeting, questions have been asked as to eligibility and a decision has been postponed pending further inquiries. A major contribution to the town’s cultural life was the Burns pageant, “Love, Life & Liberty”, reprised this year and held over the weekend of 19th 20th July. Your reporter was recruited as a “Dumfries Volunteer”  to add to the street theatre and escort the audience from point to point round the streets during all three performances.  The professional cast was excellent, especially “Robert Burns” and “Jean Armour” supported by musicians and “extras”. The audience numbers were estimated at about 100 for each show which was seen as satisfactory. I spotted one club member in the audience on Saturday evening, otherwise local Burnsians were conspicuous by their absence.  The club umbrellas were put to good use.

A success story was the Brow Well Service on 21st July, moved from its traditional date to avoid the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, live on TV. RBWF President Jane Brown delivered an outstanding oration and the company was welcomed by David Miller in his first appearance as president of the SSCBA. The Rev Moule prayed and Psalm 23 was intoned. The gathering was notable for the number of Burnsians from all over Scotland and overseas.  Mercifully, midges ware absent this year as was the smell of slurry and a tractor passed only once. The social gathering which followed at the Cairndale suffered from the usual Cairndale inefficiencies but the entertainment was enjoyable and well conducted by John Caskie MC and Gordon Johnston proposed Vote of Thanks as JVP.

The tunic of the RDV was again called into service on Friday 25th July for the 13th annual dinner of the Royal Dumfries Volunteers (resurrected) at the Globe Inn.  Chris Lyon, aka Col. De Peyster, presided with great dignity and an excellent meal was served by the Globe Inn staff. Luminaries included Chris Rollie, Jim Brown, Rab Wilson and Peter Kormylo as well as David Miller, Gordon McKerrow, Robert Richmond. Les Byers and Callum Watson.




First engagement

John Clark – President Burns Howff Club  

Dear Members

My first ever Blog! Out of interest I looked up my trusty Chambers Thesaurus / Dictionary to see what the entry for blog would be and was surprised to see there was none!! The reason for this was my dictionary was published in 1995 and the term blog was not introduced into dialogue until 1999. Using the power of the internet I looked up the word blog and discovered enough information to choke a Clydesdale Horse several times over. I’ve printed a small extract below.


Early example of a “diary” style blog consisting of text and images transmitted wirelessly in real time from a wearable computer with head-up display, 22 February 1995

Main articles: History of blogging and online diary

The term “weblog” was coined by Jorn Barger[10] on 17 December 1997. The short form, “blog”, was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog in April or May 1999.[11][12][13] Shortly thereafter, Evan Williams at Pyra Labs used “blog” as both a noun and verb (“to blog”, meaning “to edit one’s weblog or to post to one’s weblog”) and devised the term “blogger” in connection with Pyra Labs’ Blogger product, leading to the popularization of the terms.[14]

I’m not going to print chapter and verse on blogging as it is simpler to look it up on the internet. Suffice to say if you want to read more than my own humble little offerings why not join in the blog and post your own comments on the Burns Howff Club Website. You will need a password to gain access and this can be obtained from the web master Neil Johnston by e-mailing him on webmaster

The content of your Blog is entirely up to you but should have some relevance to our beloved Bard, the club, associated clubs or previous blogs. Happy Blogging!!


Burns Howff Club AGM

This is new territory for me (in the chair) and apart from a little first night nerves I think things went pretty smoothly. The real test is in the months to come and hopefully I can be a worthy President. I was struck by the warmth afforded to me at the end of the evening by all present and welcome on board the new- ex committee members Billy Graham and Russell Williamson. The night concluded with a cracker of a Chinese Meal up at Garden of Eden in English St Dumfries and a small libation or three to wash it all down!! I am lucky to have such an experienced senior ex- council to keep me on track.

 Coldstream – my first official engagement!

In 1787, Burns crossed into England over the River Tweed. It is recorded than when on English soil he threw away his hat and quoted the two concluding verses of ‘ A Cotter’s Saturday Night’. with great passion – a moment to savour and one that has been re-enacted with enduring passion by the Coldstream Burns Club since it was formed aprox 120 yrs ago. I was extremely proud to represent the club by laying one of two wreaths at the plaque on the Brig dedicated to Robert Burns. Jane Brown fittingly left a single rose.

 O Scotia, my dear, my native soil 

for whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent

long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil

be blest with health and peace and sweet content

O Thou who poured the patriotic tide

that streamed thro Wallace’s undaunted heart

who dared to, nobly, stem tyrannic pride

or nobly die, the second glorious part

 Chairman Rab Smith of Coldstream Burns Club gave a warm welcome to visitors in the Spring sunshine. He emulated this historic event with unbridled enthusiasm on the bridge and gave welcome to guests and dignitaries on the Scottish banks of the Tweed. There was a stirring rendition from the club piper and a poignant lowering and raising of the Scottish Saltire. President Jane Brown of the RBWF gave a fitting oration as did David Baird (President Dumfries Burns Club) after which we toasted the Bard and then retired to the British Legion where we were treated to a rather tasty buffet and entertainment by the Coldstream Burns Club members.

 The hospitality shown to us by the Club was genuine and warm. They have an extremely talented membership who kept us amused with songs, recitations and clatter! Jane Brown entertained us in her inimitable fashion and with a wee bit coaxing even I managed to muster up a poem and a wee song. The afternoon concluded when David Baird won the star prize in the raffle, a fine bottle of Black Bottle Whisky. I even managed to get a couple of decent pics on Jane Brown’s I-pad of the famous Smeaton Brig! Could be a rather nice landscape painting opportunity here …I will give this serious thought? Although it’s a good two hour drive, I would recommend Coldstream as a lovely place to visit not just in respect of the landscape and will definitely return. A grand day out!

 Frank Curran

it is with deep sadness, I close the resurrected Blog with a reflection on the death of past president Frank Curran. He was a much valued, long standing member of the Howff Club and will be greatly missed not just for his wonderful singing but his quiet charm and endearing personality. At my first anniversary supper when I joined the club almost 14yrs ago I was invited to sit with Frank, Bill Welsh, Bert Hastings and Dan Cook, all past presidents. Frank recognising my nervousness in being placed with such a high profile table, quipped to me with a wee twinkle in his eye … ‘ so do you see yourself one day as President then John?’ I smiled and humbly mumbled, ‘ I’m just happy to be a here.’ I am pleased to say I still hold that sentiment very dear to my heart. To be elevated to President is a great honour.

 Shortly before Frank’s death, David Smith and I were privileged to attend the Ladies Burns’ Club No 1 closing function at the ‘Hole In The Wa’. Frank was the consummate professional and not only ably fulfilled the role of MC but acted as comedian and singer for the best part of the evening. I have never heard him in better voice and like many, found it remarkable that at 79 he could not only sing the songs in key but could remember all the words without any prompts. My enduring image of Frank was, to the last, he did what he liked doing best; entertaining his many friends without thought of reward. Like many I was shocked to hear of his sudden death and wrote a brief poem which I think is a fitting tribute.

 Frank Curran

Some men are measured by their worth

some measured by their claethes man

some measured by the sons they bear

the colour o’ their skin man.

Some are remembered by their gait

some by their wealth and mair man

some by the company they keep

or by the cross they bare man.


But he who shares the goodly heart

the song that lifts the spirit

the story that wad mak us laugh

and feel the better for it

he that wad haud oot his haun

tae help the weary stranger

he that wad put himself at risk

tae help the child in danger


Here was a man, we knew him well

of selfless disposition

wha’d walk the extra mile (without reward)

regardless o’ position.

if wealth was measured by his charm

the number o his friends man

the list wad be forever lang

Frank Curran was his name man!

A tribute to Frank Curran frae his friends at the Burns Howff Club Dumfries


John Clark 09/05/14





Reflections through a glass

Picking up from the last posting last October, the social gatherings in the Globe this season were superb. Excellent speakers at Hallowe’en and St. Andrew’s Night and a truly memorable Anniversary Dinner when Brian Taylor’s toast was thoughtful and poignant, supported by a stellar entertainment programme including a sparkling “Lasses, O” from John Glover MBE. 14 members and spouses attended the Dumbarton Burns Club’s St. Andrew’s Night Dinner on 22nd November and enjoyed an evening with old friends. I had the pleasure of attending the “Scocha” Christmas concert at the Buccleuch Centre at Langholm on 14th December with Ian and Moira McIntyre and met up with Alex Pool and was delighted to see was on the mend. Our Christmas Dinner in the Globe on 16th December was packed with seasonal jollity and mirth. An excellent meal and bounty from Secret Santa. The January events included the annual commemorative service at St. Michaels Kirk which was well attended and featured a large number of local school pupils as well as the great and the good. President Godfrey Bedford placed the club’s floral tribute at the Mausoleum with great dignity. Our annual Burns gathering at Charnwood Lodge on 26th January was the best attended yet and was great fun. It seems the lunch format is successful. The 125th Anniversary Dinner previously mentioned was remarkable. Godfrey’s address to the Haggis in the accents of Oxford was interesting and in no way could be described as “Brigadoonified”. It was pleasing to note that the company stayed to “Auld Lang Synne”. Members received news of the passing of honorary member Ian Whitehead just after Christmas with much sadness. Although Ian had been ill for some time, his death was a shock to us all and he will be sadly missed. Later in January, another honorary member, Ian Clowe, passed away after a long illness. Ian was club piper for many years and was one of the most gifted pipers in Scotland. Gordon Johnston, the club impresario, arranged the Burns Suppers at Friars Carse and Five Arches with great skill and relied on talented members to sustain the programme. Good public relations for the club. The RBWF declared 2014 to be “The Year of the Haggis”, in association with the Scottish Meat Traders Society and was launched at various locations throughout Scotland in November. Your reporter had the privilege of assisting with the Dumfries event with Jane Brown and past president Ian McIntyre.
Four members travelled to Tarbolton on 21st March to attend the Bachelors Club Burns Supper in the famous building where the poet founded a debating society. The Burns Supper was magnificent with incredible talent and stirring toasts. Some modest refreshment was taken. The hotel near the Bachelors Club found by Gordon as Club Billeting Officer was interesting and the public bar had some colourful characters. Was disappointed that the promised Tattie Scones at breakfast failed to materialise.
Now preparing for the annual meeting of office bearers before the last meeting of the Executive Committee on 14th April. Godfrey has had an excellent year in my opinion, notwithstanding the rearrangement of speakers at the Anniversary Dinner but every function and event was successful and enjoyable. The Winter Club Night programme also had some rearrangements and the attendances in some cases were good. I have often wondered why most committee members ignore these interesting gatherings.

Turbulent Waves

September opened with the RBWF conference in Glasgow, well covered in Ian McIntyre’s contribution to the blog but delighted to witness the installation of honorary member Jane Brown as president for the ensuing year and hope she has a much fun and enjoyment as I had during my time in that office.
Shocking news on return that Sir George Reid had to cancel his visit in January to propose the “Immortal Memory” due to serious health problems but Brian Taylor brought his visit forward from 2015 to oblige. Sent a “get well” card to Sir George on behalf of the club. We were fortunate in attracting Fraser Sanderson to fill the gap in 2015. The SSCBA Quarterly Meeting on 14th September was taken up with reports from the conference and they agreed to a donation from funds to the RBWF President’s Appeal. Sunday 15th September was supposed to have been the annual bowling match with Dumbarton Burns Club, this year at Newall Terrace but they called off due to members being on holiday or sick. It was our turn to win this time but there’s always next year. Our librarian Gordon J. obtained a rare copy of Burns’ “London Edition” of 1787 in good condition and valued by our consultant William Robson at about £750.00. This was displayed at a meeting of the Library Sub Committee on 16th September where members were obliged to use rubber gloves. The Club Night programme opened on 26th September with an evening visit to the police museum at the Loreburn Street Station. 20 members shuffled up from the Globe and were met by the curator Joe Craig who conducted the party round a fascinating display of photos and artefacts of policing in Dumfries & Galloway from the 18th century to the present. A visit was made to the Custody Suite and the CCTV Monitor Room before Ian McIntyre proposed a vote of thanks to Joe and presented a copy of his mother’s Constable’s Handbook from 1932. Sunday 29th September, a superb concert in the Globe by a foursome from St. Petersburg, Russia, who delighted the packed house with their knowledge of Scotland and their songs and readings in immaculate “Scots/ English”. Andy MacKay’s first class autumn edition of the “Howff News” ready for posting. Wednesday 2nd October, met with President Godfrey to construct the programme for the Hallowe’en Supper which looks good on paper and hope that most of the company will wait to the end. Excom meeting on 7th October for provisional issue of Hallowe’en tickets but the meeting was overshadowed by news of a threat from the Council to close Burns House and other Burns’ visitor attractions due to “budget cuts”. Personally, I didn’t take this seriously as I suspect that the Council were creating a smokescreen to achieve other targets by stealth while attention was taken up by the Burns’ issues. A meeting was scheduled at Gracefield on 14th October with “stakeholders” but the club would send a letter of objection as would individual members. Committee agreed to confer honorary membership on Peter Westwood for presentation at Hallowe’en . Don’t know why this was not done years ago. Sunday 13th October, a visitation from a party of 17 from Coldstream Burns Club and assisted with the reception and the “ten cent tour”. It was a pleasure to meet genuine Burns enthusiasts and they were appreciative of the turnout from the club. Thanks to Dan Cook, John Lauder, Ian McIntyre, Gordon Johnston, Tom Johnstone and Godfrey Bedford. Meantime, news of a Council revolt and a change of administration followed by the withdrawal of the proposals for the closure of the Burns sites. Who do they think they were fooling!!! Tuesday 15th October, out to Carlisle with Treasurer Frank Manson and honorary president Dan Cook to the nearest branch of “Virgin Money” to open an account which should attract a better interest rate than local banks. Met by the delightful “Kimberley”, a doonhamer who was gracious. This was followed by a delicious treacle scone and coffee at a quaint olde worlde cafe before the return journey in Frank’s Porche. Excom meeting on 21st October for confirmation and payment of Hallowe’en tickets. The number was closed at 76 which should be comfortable. David Miller tried out his ticket and seating form and it will be interesting to see if it works. The October Club Night on 24th was first class with an illustrated talk by Ian McIntyre on “Sir James Crichton Brown” a Victorian character and pioneer of modern psychiatry who had many Dumfries connections. Ian’s knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject was communicated to his audience supplemented by Neil Johnston’s skill in operating the Magic Lantern. Had the pleasure in moving the Vote of Thanks in place of President Godfrey who was unable to attend. Superb shortbread followed.
Friday 25th, with David and Norma Miller, attended a concert in Maxwelltown West Church by the Male Voice Choir in aid of the church Organ Fund. The guest soloist was Christian Taylor, a baritone/tenor. The choir was in good voice and the programme was light and hugely enjoyable. Spotted several members in the choir and audience.

The Torch is Past

The RBWF Annual Conference and AGM took place over the weekend of 6th, 7th and 8th September.
The venue, the aptly named refurbished Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow. The hotel was perfectly situated, a mere shuffle from Central Station. The rooms were of a high quality, although the corridors were reminiscent of the film from Stephen King’s book, “The Shining”….where was John Lauder going with that axe..? The Champagne Bar was the meeting place for the usual rag, tag and bobtail gether up that is the Howff Club. Application forms were available for bank loans to settle the bar tabs! It was heartening to see so many weel kent faces there to support Jane’s finest hour.
Friday nights “Informal Dinner” in the Ballroom saw us treated to fine dining and a wonderful after dinner performance of “Clarinda”. The company was convivial and the wine and conversation flowed and we were treated to “turns” from delegates and from our own Lee McQueen, accompanied by Kirsty and Colin from the Globe Inn.
The partying went on until the wee sma’ hours with tales of Jane Brown and Bertie entertaining in their sarks.
Saturday saw an uneventful if drawn out AGM with Dr. Peter Hughes being elected as Junior Vice President. General consensus is that Gordon Jamieson would be welcome to throw his hat in the ring again next year.
Howffers met after the AGM to repair to McSorley’s Pub in Jamaica Street for a bite to eat and a sherbert or two. The lunch was of an extremely high order and afterwards, we were treated to a session of traditional jazz from an epileptic band, which included John Lauder’s brother on American Cornet. We were joined by Mr and Mrs Johnston, Gordon fresh from another sporting achievement. A silver medal was won by our Librarian who just missed out on gold in the European Championship. He also missed out on the World Record by 0.45 of a second. Well done Gordon. You are among athletes of some prowess.
Saturday night was the “set piece” of the weekend and it never ceases to amaze me how well the Howffers scrub up. The Hon. Secy. even had matching shoes. On the right feet.
We were treated to a drinks reception before dinner by the Lord Provost of Glasgow. He failed to appear, clearly had some inside information. However, he was represented by one of his Baillies.
Retiring president Bob Stewart bestowed the Chain of Office on Jane who gave a very moving and emotional inaugural speech.
It must be said that Bob Stewart has been a marvellous president and has navigated the RBWF through stormy waters over the year. It has been a pleasure to know him and he will be missed.
Jane will bring her own style and , as she pointed out, there were now two women at the helm of the Federation.
Jane had a large “rent a crowd” to support her on Saturday night, including her family, the McKerrows and John Howietson. John offered to refashion Les Byers’ thatch prior to dinner. He politely declined, saying that he preferred to live in the past. At dinner, we were joined by Hector Davidson of London Burns Club, a close friend of Gordon and David.
Once again, the food was superb but with 220 people in the ballroom, service was inevitably slow. By the time the various toasts and fund raisers were concluded, we were well past 11.00pm. This meant we had limited entertainment from our old friends Andy Kain and Craig Paton. They are a marvellous talent.
At the end of dinner, Mr. Smith claimed his drink had been spiked and he retired to his bed “no weel”. He was later heard calling for “Hughie” on the big white telephone in the cludgie.
Saturday night concluded with a party in Mrs. Brown’s room which I gather went on until cock crow.
A bleary eyed busload set off for Glasgow Cathedral on Sunday morning where a very personal service was conducted by Dr. Lawrence Whitley, the Minister. The cathedral which dates back to the 11th century was a playground during construction for Hon. Member Wilson Ogilvie.
All in all, a very successful and enjoyable weekend. Hon. Member Len Murray QC was able to arrange bail for errant members first thing Monday.
I. McI (with apologies)

Autumn Mists

Friday 16th August, off to Edinburgh with David Miller, Ian McIntyre and Gordon and Neil Johnston for our annual visit to the Festival Fringe. Decided again to travel by train from Lockerbie and Gordon had the foresight to book seats as the 08.15 was packed. Welcome bacon butty at a cafe near the Waverley Station before shuffling round to Captains’ Bar near the Old University for the 11.00 show, “Burns and the Lassies” performed by Alan Foster with songs from Andy Chueng, the well known Chinese/ Scots folk singer. Allan spoke the narrative of Burns’ liaisons with various ladies throughout his life with musical illustrations from Andy. Very well done and enjoyable in an intimate venue which also had bar facilities. Excellent lunch at the ancient White Cockade in the Grassmarket, frequented by the poet, and absorbing the atmosphere in the streets with some outdoor acts and a variety of “street creatures” before wandering down Leith Walk to Valvonna & Crolla’s, an upmarket wine and delicatessen and met old friend and honorary member Ronnie Crichton. The show at 3.00pm at the back of the shop, was “Robert Burns Votes for Scotland” performed by Gill Bowman as Jean Armour and Mark Stephen as Robert Burns, set in the present and featured comments and opinions on Scotland “where she is”. Numerous barbed remarks from “Jean Armour” on her husband’s philandering and intriguing hints on which way Burns would vote in the independence referendum. At the end, the audience was asked to vote and this resulted in a definite, if a trifle unscientific, no. Enjoyed a jar with Ronnie before he caught the bus back to Balerno. Plenty of time before the train at 8.12 so decided to relax in the Guildford Arms, off St. Andrews Square. The return journey was uneventful but made the mistake of not pumping the bilges on the train expecting that the toilet at Lockerbie Station would suffice but neither it, or the public toilet were open and it was only 9.15pm. A veil is drawn over the subsequent event. Apart from that, a super day with lots of interest and the best of company. The following day, attended Ellisland with Mr. McIntyre to meet a party from Dumbarton Burns Club “doing” Dumfries. The visitors arrived on time and Les gave an absorbing talk on the history of the farm with many anecdotes and a viewing of the DVD in the Granary. As a result, the party were behind schedule on arriving at the Globe but were welcomed by John Clark , Dan Cook and Ken McKinnon. After soup and sannys, the ten cent tour was provided including a visit to the Mausoleum when one visitor commented that it looked like a phallic symbol. Anyway, a most enjoyable afternoon with the Dumbarton boys before their High Tea at 5.30pm. Tuesday 20th August, a meeting at the Globe Inn at 3.00pm with planning officials of the Council and reps of local Burns Clubs to hear the amended proposals for the Burns Statue vicinity. Forgetting the customary Council jargon, was reassured to some point and hope that the eventual outcome will enhance the iconic site with Greyfriars Kirk. The Executive Committee meeting on 26th August was good humoured and productive and the price established for the tickets of the season’s functions. Saturday 31st August, privileged to attend the Johnson family’s annual barbecue at their holiday home at Southerness. Superb hospitality and first class comestibles prepared by William and Neil in great company and clement weather.
I will not comment on the practical joke perpetrated by the immediate past president but he will hear shortly from my sillycitor.
Now looking forward to the RBWF annual conference at Glasgow when we will see the installation of our own Jane Brown as president for the ensuing year.