IN HIS first year as president of Arbroath Burns Club, Dr Rusty Smith welcomed over 200 club members and guests as the 254th anniversary of the birth of The Bard was celebrated at the Meadowbank Inn on Friday.
Arbroath Burns Club, one of the best-known Burns clubs in the east of Scotland, is to celebrate its 125th anniversary in November this year and the evening’s supper was a fine beginning to this important milestone in the club’s history.
The principal toast was delivered by well known Senior Advocate Alex Prentice from Edinburgh. Though Edinburgh-based, Mr Prentice has local links.
In his moving and erudite Immortal Memory he took as his theme, the feeling he had that Burns “helped you to know yourself”. He told of the enthusiasm that Abraham Lincoln had for Burns’ works and noted the similar upbringing that both endured yet were stronger as a result of the hardships they shared. This, he considered, allowed Burns to appreciate every person’s worth.
Robert Burns, he said, was adored in Edinburgh, not just for his poetry but for his eye for detail which was exemplified in all his written works and, of course, for the fact that he arrived in Edinburgh having come from an impoverished and obscure background. His all-round ability to speak in such beautiful language of so many things from nature, love, humanity and politics astounded them.
Mr Prentice finished his toast by noting that Burns’ eye for accuracy would not have had him using text speak, as is often the case today, but was firmly of the view that he was perhaps even more relevant in our present time than he was at any time in our past.
Members and guests accorded Mr Prentice a standing ovation. Dr Smith presented him with an engraved quaich as a memento of his visit to the club.
The Toast to the Lasses was in the hands of the first of the evening’s ministerial double act, the Reverend Matthew Bicket, Carnoustie, who carried out his task with great wit and enthusiasm. In particular he had his audience in stitches with his definition of ‘A Woman and the duties of a Woman’ from a publication of circa 1955.
The reply was proposed by the second member of the supper’s double act, the Reverend Stuart Lamont, Arbirlot. He entertained the company with humour and consummate skill. His versions of verses of Tam o’ Shanter in cut-glass English and then in Ken Dron’s Russian were hilarious.
The Selkirk Grace which started the supper was given by retired MSP Andrew Welsh and the Address to the Haggis was expertly delivered by committee member Dale Hatton.
Secretary Tony Treger advised that he had as usual received and exchanged greetings with Burns clubs all over the world. He also confirmed that the next celebration of the birth of the Bard would be held in the Meadowbank on Friday, January 24, 2014.
Stuart Cargill delighted all with his first recitation at the club of Tam o’Shanter, and this was followed by wonderful recitations, firstly of Ode to the toothache and then Holy Wullie’s Prayer by past presidents Peter Black and Frank Ferguson respectively.
In their usual way, musical arranger Alan Mowatt, and his fellow singers Douglas Cant, Alec Whitton, Ian Lamb and Jonathan Milne, ably supported by accompanist Sandy Yule and Piper Michael Thain and also Ian Lamb on guitar, provided music to suit the occasion.
The haggis was borne by club member David Henderson and in his fine vote of thanks past president George Dunlop rounded off a superb evening by thanking all those who had contributed and paying tribute to the first class service from the staff of the Meadowbank Inn.
“And each took off his several way, resolved to meet some ither day”.