October Club Night 2017

Past President Ian McIntyre was speaker at the October Club Night and took as his subject, Dr. Thomas Blacklock, “The Blind Poet”, born in Annan, the son of a bricklayer, he lost his sight in his infancy due to smallpox. Largely self educated, he studied Divinity at Edinburgh and was inducted into the Parish of Kirkcudbright by the Earl of Selkirk in 1762. However his parishioners were less than impressed with his disability and he retired to Edinburgh on a small annuity and augmented his income by running a boarding establishment for students. He entered Burns’ life when he wrote him a letter in 1786, congratulating him on the success of the “Kilmarnock Edition”. They became regular correspondents and later met in 1787. Dr. Blacklock was himself a poet and published a miscellany of songs and poems and some academic works. He was created a Doctor of Divinity from Aberdeen University in 1767 and died in Edinburgh in 1791. Ian’s talk was illustrated by a series of slides.
Ian replied to some intelligent questions and was thanked by President Colin Gibson.


Brow Well Service - 19.07.17

Wet weather meant the annual commemorative service at Brow Well was held in Ruthwell Church this year. The oration was delivered by Bobby Kane, President of the RBWF and a wreath was placed at the  


Annual Club Bowling Night - 23.05.17 - Draffen Cup


Picture left to right: Sandy Mitchell, Godfrey Bedford and President Colin Gibson.

The annual club bowling night on 23rd May took place on the plush green of Dumfries Bowling Club and saw some indifferent skill displayed by members. Teams were organised by Bob Wilson and play commenced in spite of the particularly vicious midges. At 9.00pm, after some calculation, the winning team, consisting of Godfrey Bedford and Sandy Mitchell was announced to a chorus of catcalls.

Returning for a pie and mushy pea supper at the Globe Inn, the coveted Draffan Cup was presented by President Colin Gibson to the winners who seemed strangely reluctant to accept the ancient trophy. The runners up were Ken Crookshanks and William Johnston who were heard to breathe a sigh of relief.

The president made reference to the bomb outrage at Manchester Arena on 22nd May but said it was important that normal life carried on in the face of terrorism. He thanked members for the excellent turnout and also thanked Kerr Little for supplying the succulent meat pies and to Jane Brown for donating the mushy peas.
Thanks were also expressed to Ken Crookshanks for liaising with Dumfries Bowling Club and to Bob Wilson for his sleight-of-hand.

Winter Club Night - 27.04.17

 Rev. Gerry Moule & Club members in front of the Ruthwell Cross

The April Club Night consisted of a trip to Ruthwell by luxury minibus. 16 members and friends arrived at Ruthwell Kirk to be met by the Interim Moderation of the combined parishes, the Rev Gerry Moule and an elder. Members were treated to a talk on the historic church and the ancient stone Celtic Cross believed to date from the 7th century AD and possibly the oldest of its kind in Europe. At the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, the cross was seen as an abomination by the fledgling Church of Scotland which opposed any type of imagery linked to the Catholic faith and was down for demolition but the then minister, buried the cross in several pieces in a field. One of his successors, Rev. Dr. Henry Duncan, discovered the remains in the 1790’s and had the cross restored and set up in the church where it remains as a famous relic.

The party then travelled the short distance to Ruthwell Savings Bank and were welcomed by Rob Valance, a volunteer guide at the Savings Bank Museum and who had some fascinating tales to tell. The bank was founded by Dr. Duncan in 1810 as a local banking system for his parishioners as commercial banks would only accept deposits of £10.00 or more, far beyond a farm labourers means. The proceeds were invested in the Linen Bank in Dumfries which paid an interest of five to six percent. The scheme caught on and eventually became the Trustee Savings Bank currently with 600 branches. Dr. Duncan is remembered by a statue , The Stane Man in Academy Street on the wall of the former TSB.
 Rev. Gerry Moule and Rob Valance inside the doorway to Savings Bank Museum.

Members then rejoined the coach for nearby Comlongon Castle where a succulent supper was served in the impressive Banqueting Hall surrounded by coats of armour and fearsome swords. Following a vote of thanks to Rev. Moule and driver Mike Harris by President William Johnston, the party returned to Dumfries in full agreement of an interesting and enjoyable trip.


Winter Club Night 30.03.17


 Peter Marshall and members.

The March 30th club night was a visit to the Theatre Royal. Arriving at 7.30pm members were welcomed by Peter Marshall, Master of the Guild of Players and Anne Aldridge, past master.wcn317b
Refreshments were offered in the bar before the party settled down in the hall for a slide presentation by Peter, covering the history of the Theatre Royal from is erection in 1792 in what was then an open space in the town, and the connection with Robert Burns who was a regular attender and who wrote the well known The Rights of Women€¯ to be delivered by Louisa Fontenelle, a popular actress of the time.

Peter covered the chequered history of the iconic building which originally could seat 1000 and revealed that a skating rink had been set up in the basement. The theatre over the years had welcomed Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardie as well as Dumfriesown John Laurie. J. M. Barrie was a patron during his time in Dumfries. Many members would have recalled the Electric Theatre€¯ as the building was known for a spell before being acquired by the Guild of Players in 1959 which saved it from demolition. The Guild have recently completed a major expansion and renovation project to bring the theatre up to modern standards and following the presentation, members were conducted on a tour of the building including the props and costume departments, and the high tech lighting and sound systems.

President William Johnston proposed a warm vote of thanks to Peter and Anne at the end of a fascinating visit.

Bronzed plaque of Burns presented by the club in 2016


Winter Club Night - 23.02.17


Past president David Miller was speaker at the February Club Night in the Globe Inn and gave a Powerpoint dfshsepresentation on Dumfries House at Cumnock where he is a consultant surveyor. David took the company behind the scenes at the project, the inspiration of HRH The Price of Wales, whose initiative has transformed the local economy and revived the 18th century former home of the Marquis of Bute, full of treasures including Chippendale furniture and old master paintings. Members who were present at the club outing to Dumfries House in August 2016, were reminded of the scale of the renovations and the continuing developments including photos of the installation of the spectacular “Chinese Bridge”

David took questions from members before being thanked for a fascinating talk by Jun. Vice President Bill Graham.



The Howff Club Fiddle


The club’s Millennium Fiddle, hand crafted by Honorary member Ian Kirkpatrick and played by him with great talent at many functions since the year 2000, has been retired.
The “Millenium Fiddle” was conceived in the New Bazaar in the spring of 1999 over pints of live ale, by club members Ian Kirkpatrick, Ian Whitehead and Jim McCambley to mark the approaching Millennium with a project and a lasting memento for the club.
A surplus item of aged furniture from the Crichton was sourced as suitable timber together with some hard wood from a sawmill near Dalkeith in Midlothian. The work was completed by December 1999, and the splendid instrument was played by Ian K with distinction at the club’s Anniversary Dinner in 2000. In recognition of his skill and perseverance, Ian was awarded honorary membership of the club in 2000.

Ian formally handed over the fiddle for safe keeping to President William Johnston at the Globe Inn on 5th December and it will be placed on display with other club treasures in the library.
Ian’s wish is that any budding fiddle players associated with the Howff Club should be given the opportunity to play the instrument.



Winter Club Night 24.11.16
Donald Urquhart - Burns Scotland


Past President Donald Urquhart was guest at the November Club Night and was welcomed by Colin Gibson, senior vice president. Donald spoke on his involvement with the quango, Burns, Scotland, the body set up to look after manuscripts, books, relics, art and memorabilia associated with Robert Burns. The partners work together to conserve and document the national collection as a learning and research tool, in Dumfries & Galloway, Ayrshire, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The bureaucracy can be a problem but he has hopes that Ellisland can be upgraded to Museum which would make it easier to apply for grant funding.




Winter Club Night October 2016
The Police Surgeon


Dr. Graeme Adam was guest speaker at the Winter Club Night in the Globe Inn on 27th October. Dr. Adam, a retired GP was also one of the local Police Surgeons (Forensic Medical Examiner) for some time, and spoke of his experiences in that field. Dr. Adam displayed some photographs of the aftermath of the Lockerbie Air Disaster in 1988 and said that he was almost one of the victims as he was travelling home to Lockerbie at the time of the disaster and his car avoided being hit by one of the aircraft engines by only a few metres.

Dr. Adam recounted some humorous events as a Police Surgeon being called out to the Police Station in the middle of the night to assess whether miscreants were fit to be interviewed or charged with driving whilst over the alcohol limit. Some gruesome tales of dead bodies emerged when he had to pronounce whether murder, accident or suicide was the cause. Latterly drug offences took up a lot of time and there was an argument that drug use such as cannabis should be legalised.

The speaker was thanked by Callum Watson who had a professional interest in the subject matter.”

Picture left to right: Ken Crookshanks, Dr Graeme Adam and immediate past president Callum Watson.


Winter Club Night 29.09.16
Samuel Rutherford, the “Starry Saint”

Picture shows President William with Helen Morrison.

Helen Morrison from Wishaw, no stranger to the club, opened the 2016 Winter Club Night programme with an illustrated talk on Samuel Rutherford, the 17th century divine who, as one of the Scottish Commissioners, helped to draw up the Westminster Confession of Faith which established the Presbyterian system of government for the Kirk in Scotland after the Reformation.Born in 1600 near Jedburgh and educated at the local Grammar School, he attended Edinburgh University where he later became Professor of Philosophy and Latin in 1623 before becoming ordained and appointed to Anwoth parish near Gatehouse of Fleet in 1627. Due to his writings and reputation for non conformity, he was banished to Aberdeen but his powerful patrons ensured his rehabilitation and he was appointed Professor of Divinity at St. Andrew’s University. A staunch supporter of the Covenanting cause, opposed to prelacy in the kirk, his books were burned on the orders of King Charles 1st and he was deprived of all his offices and ordered to cease from preaching. Although he was under sentence of death, he died in 1661 before the sentence could be carried out and is buried in the kirkyard of St. Andrew’s Cathedral. A monument to his memory is sited on a hilltop overlooking Anwoth Kirk near Gatehouse.Mrs Morrison stated that Samuel Rutherford’s writings and letters survive to this day and a source of inspiration to all who believe in the coming of Christ’s kingdom.Helen took a series of questions before being thanked by President William Johnston.


Refurbishment of the Burns statue at Portpatrick. 25th September 2016


The statue erected to Robert Burns by Portpatrick Burns Club in 1923 was badly damaged in a major storm in the 1980’s which brought down the hill side overlooking the site at the bowling club.ppstatue1
The Burns Howff Club took on the project to repair the statue and members travelled to Portpatrick on three successive Sundays under the supervision of Jack Johnston and the statue was restored to its former glory.
In the intervening years, the statue deteriorated but as Portpatrick Burns Club became defunct, Stranraer Burns Club arranged to refurbish and repaint the statue with the cooperation of Portpatrick Bowling Club. A ceremony to mark the event was held on 25th September when Howff President William Johnston thanked all concerned before the company retired to the Waterfront Hotel for a meal.
Group photo shows club members and members of Stranraer Burns Club and Portpatrick Bowling Club with Mrs Georgina Wilson, the painter and President William Johnston left of statue.




February Club Night

Elaine Kennedy was guest at the Winter Club Night on 26th February and enthralled a good attendance of members and friends with a talk on “Maria Riddell, friend of Burns”.
Elaine who was previously a curator at Dumfries Museum brought the 18th century lady to life with a fascinating account of a gifted woman who for a time was the poet’s neighbor at Friars Carse. Maria was born in England and at age 16, she accompanied her father to the West Indies where she met the dissolute Walter Riddell, younger brother of Robert Riddell of Glenriddell whose home was Friars Carse. Maria married Walter and in 1792 settled at Goldielea which was renamed Woodley Park.

Robert Burns probably first met Maria in the latter part of 1791 at Friars Carse and a friendship was formed.  She was witty and had beauty as can be seen from the portrait by Lawrence but was also a published author with an interest in natural history.  Their friendship was shattered following an incident during a social evening at Friars Carse when Maria refused to accept the apology from Burns and it was some years before they were reconciled.  After the poet’s death, Maria wrote a glowing obituary in the Dumfries Courier which later appeared in the Edinburgh and London journals.  After her husband’s death, Maria moved to London where she married a Dragoons officer but she died after one year in 1808.

Following a question and answer session, Elaine was warmly thanked by President John Clark.




Charnwood Lodge Burns Lunch 2015

The annual Burns celebration provided by the club for the residents of Charnwood Lodge was a great success this year with a record gathering for lunch on 25th January.
After an excellent meal including a spicy haggis,  piped in by Callum Watson and addressed with gusto by President John Clark , Bill Welsh set the scene with a couple of Burns’ songs before Gordon Johnston stirred the blood with “A Parcel o’ rogues in a Nation”. John Clark delivered a fitting toast to “The Immortal Memory” before Bill took the floor again followed by a witty toast to “The Lasses, o’” from Callum Watson. A reply to the “Lasses” came from Shona Shaw, a member of Charnwood staff and also a past president of Dumfries Ladies Burns Club No 1.  Bill and Gordon entertained further before the entire company joined in a rousing version of “The Star o Rabbie Burns”.  A vote of thanks was proposed by a resident before a happy afternoon closed with “Auld Lang Syne”.  The accompanist was Lee McQueen.

Charnwood15bThanks are due to Morrison’s Supermarket for some sponsorship.

The Service Manager for Charnwood, Denise Malone was delighted and has put next year’s Burns Lunch in the diary for 25th January 2016.








War drum in the Howff

President John Clark welcomed guest speaker Barry Graham to the Club Night on 23rd Oct.  Mr Graham, Oct14cna native of Zimbabwe, then known as Rhodesia, spoke of his childhood in the capital, Salisbury which at that time was ruled by the white minority. As a teenager, Barry formed close friendships with the native population who worked on his parent’s farm while he enjoyed a life of privilege and comfort. He admitted to feeling uncomfortable with the brutality sometimes meted out by the whites against the black. Barry moved to South Africa in 1976 in the Apartheid era where conditions were much worse for the locals but he found work in catering and prospered.

Moving to Scotland, Mr. Graham helped to set up the Loch Arthur Community at Beeswing which does sterling work in taking care of people with learning difficulties and where he is now in charge of the cheese shop.

Barry intrigued his listeners with a rendition of an African folk song to his own accompaniment on a richly decorated native drum and got a well deserved round of applause. He also displayed an ancient carved soap stone which curiously bore a certain resemblance to some club members.

A question and answer session was followed by a vote of thanks to Barry by the president.


Draffen Cup


Gavin Findlay, a member in waiting from Dumbarton and Gordon McKerrow, were the winners of the coveted Draffan Cup at the club bowling night at Newall Terrace, by courtesy of Dumfries Bowling Club.  A good turnout of members and friends enjoyed some spectacular sport and afterwards repaired to the Globe Inn for the prize giving and pies and mushy peas.  Thanks are due to Bob Wilson for organising the pairs and to Kenny Crookshanks for manning the bar


Dumfries Rotary Club Charity Quiz Series


Howff club members were demonstrated their cerebral agility in the Rotary Club Charity quiz series - shown below is the Howff team at the last in the series.  When the scores were calculated over the series the Howff team “the Burns unit” finished runners up.



28th November 2013

Honorary member Jane Brown stood in at the last minute at the November Winter Club Night as the speaker, David Collin, called off due to an injury.


Jane regaled members and friends with a tale of her recent trip to Alberta, Canada, when she was a guest of the famous Calgary Burns Club and later at Medicine Hat.  Mrs Brown was invited in her role as president of the Robert Burns World Federation and was; she said, treated like royalty and during her stay in Medicine Hat, was provided with her own personal “Mountie” called Sean, as her minder.

Jane’s light hearted account of the trip illustrated with spectacular photos of the Rocky Mountains and other interesting scenes made for a very relaxed and enjoyable evening.   A feature was the impressive display of all the cards and messages of congratulations she received during the RBWF conference in September, including a letter from the Chief Clerk to HM The Queen.

Mrs. Brown was thanked by President Godfrey Bedford.

26th October 2013

“Dundrearies and Dissertations”

Past president Ian McIntyre was guest speaker at a well attended October Club Night in the Globe Inn and took as hioct13s subject, the great Victorian doctor, Sir. James Crichton Browne who, though born in Edinburgh in 1840 had many links with Dumfries.  He was a pupil at Dumfries Academy before studying medicine at Edinburgh University. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame lay in his work at the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum and at the Crichton Institution where he pioneered developments in modern psychiatry and in later life was hailed as the “Elder statesman of British Psychiatry”. He was knighted by Queen Victoria and his list of honours included a Fellowship of the Royal Society.  As a teenager in Dumfries, he met the eldest son of Robert Burns fishing in the Nith in 1854, wearing a lum hat and frockcoat  but commented that he saw no sign of this father’s genius.  Sir James could claim friendship with Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, the prime minister Lord Rosebury and he corresponded with Winston Churchill. In 1875, has was appointed as the Lord Chancellor’s Visitor in Lunacy and in that role he travelled widely in England inspecting Institutions and Asylums. His later years were spent in Dumfries and died at the age of 98 in a house at Nunholm. He was a prolific writer and his publications included “The Prevention of Senility”, “The Death of Burns” and “A Doctor’s Notebook”.  Sir James was a past president of Dumfries Burns Club and proposed a toast to “The Club” at their centenary dinner in 1920. He was a vigorous opponent of teetotalism and was one of the last gentlemen to sport “Dundrearies”, a luxuriant growth of facial hair. Ian’s talk was illustrated by a series of “Magic Lantern” slides showing early pictures of the Crichton site and some of the characters featuring in the narrative.

Following a question and answer session, Mr. McIntyre was thanked by Secretary David Smith deputising for President Godfrey Bedford.    


25th September 2013


Centre. Joe Craig with some of the party.

The seasons programme commenced on Thursday 26th September with an evening visit to the Police Museum at Loreburn Street Police Station. President Godfrey Bedford and party were welcomed by the Curator, Joe Craig and conducted to the fascinating display of artefacts and photographs of the history of policing in Dumfries and Galloway from the 19th century to the present day, including gruesome exhibits from the Buck Ruxton murders of the 1930’s and the murder of the lighthouse keeper at the Mull of Galloway in the 1960’s as well as the Lockerbie Air Disaster of 1988, the biggest murder enquiry in Britain.  Visits were made to the custody suite where members were invited to view the cells and to the CCTV room where the town centre cameras were monitored. Ian McIntyre presented Mr. Craig with a copy of a Stewartry Constabulary Constable’s Hand Book from 1932 for the collection and thanked  him and his colleagues for their hospitality.  Although there was a check for any outstanding warrants, members made it safely back to the Globe.


25th April 2013

The final Winter Club Night for the season was another visit to the Sulwath micro brewery at Castle Douglas when 14 members and friends were conveyed by another member, Colin Craig, in the customary luxury minibus.
Members were welcomed by Jim Henderson, the founder of the business and after a complimentary pint of beer, the party were given a very entertaining and informative account of the history of beer making and the romantic story of Sulwath, with numerous samples of dried hops and assorted herbs to nibble and savour.

Members took full advantage of the opportunity to buy from a selection of cask beers of all strengths, including the recent “Grace” blend, brewed for the 2009 Homecoming Year
A succulent supper of lasagne and chips followed which helped to absorb the effects of the alcohol and Jim was warmly thanked by President Ian McIntyre before the noisy return journey.


28/03/2013 - Peter Westwood

Peter Westwood, former editor of the Burns Chronicle, was guest at the March meeting and enthralled the company with a talk on Robert Burns family and descendants.ClubN0313
Referring to little known documents and correspondence, Peter told of the rakish exploits of the poet’s eldest son, also Robert, whose career as a Treasury Clerk in London was derailed by his gambling and other pursuits. Due to the generosity of his uncle Gilbert, who at the request of Jean Armour, sent £200.00 to keep Robert junior out of debtors jail, a fantastic sum in those days. The same Robert in later life, traded on his father’s name and claimed to have fathered 15 children, most of whom died in infancy.
Mr. Westwood questioned the well known tale of Robert Burns having tried to send two carronades seized from the captured smuggling brig, “Rosamund” to the French revolutionaries and read extracts from the poet’s letters to Agnes McIlhose (Clarinda).
Much amusement was had in some poems written by local school pupils on Burns in the 2009 Year of Homecoming.
President Ian McIntyre thanked Peter for his entertaining and informative talk and hope he would come back on a future date.

25/11/2012 - Peter Kormylo

Past President and honorary member Peter Kormylo brought the study of Scottish history into the 21st century during his talk on the national Education Scotland initiative.  Peter took the member through the newly relaunched website and explored some of the links and resources which the web provided for studies of Scots history and culture,

25/10/2012 - Rab Wilson

The second of our winter club nights we were delighted to welcome Rab Wilson who spoke on the struggle which the Scots language is going through compared to the funding which gaelic is receiving. 

27/09/2012 - David Collins

The season opened for the Burns Howff Club with the first Winter Cub Night in the Globe Inn on 27th September when President Ian McIntyre welcomed a pleasing attendance of members and friends and introduced guest speaker, Mr. David Collin from Kirkcudbright.  Mr Collin, a retired architect and current wcn0912author gave an illustrated talk on the schooner “Prince of Denmark”, built on the Moat Brae at Kirkcudbright in 1789. Mr. Collin is publishing a book on the remarkable history of the “Prince” whose disappearance from the records for the 33 years following her launching is explained by her early service as a Revenue Cutter and speculation is made that Robert Burns, who was an Excise Officer at the time of her construction could perhaps have been preset at her launching.  Her reappearance in official records in London in 1822 is detailed and relate to her early voyages to Australia and New Zealand when the thirst for exploration, new lands and new opportunities characterised the early 19th century.  David’s narrative covered the visionary colonists, whalers, sealers, Maoris, botanists, butchers, missionaries, coopers, cannibals, convicts, aristocrats, confidence tricksters, explorers and seamen of many nationalities, linked to their contact to the “Prince of Denmark”.  Following her shipwreck off the Chesterfield Islands in the Pacific Ocean in 1863, the ship’s carpenter rebuilt a smaller schooner from the wreckage named “Hamlet’s Ghost”. All of which is verified in detail by the ships logs and contemporary records. The voyages of the “Prince of Denmark and “Hamlet’s Ghost” highlight the courage, skill and vision of men and women who experienced hardship, danger, adversity, duplicity and skulduggery in their quest for riches in colonial lands of supposed plenty.
Mr. Collin’s experience as a sailor and lifeboat crewman, his familiarity with the beautiful and remote islands of the South Pacific, and his presentation skills as an architect, brought to life a complicated story in a clear and dramatic manner which kept his listeners enthralled.
Following a lengthy question and answer session, Mr. Collin was thanked by the president and promised to return with another story next year.