President Rusty Smith welcomed 213 members and guests to Arbroath Burns Club’s annual supper at the Meadowbank Inn on Friday.
The club was celebrating the 255th anniversary of the birth of The Bard and the 125th annual supper since its founding in 1888. A specially printed programme had been produced for the evening.
The principal toast was delivered by the excellent James McLaren from Crieff. In his well crafted, informative yet humorous Immortal Memory, he spoke of the sheer volume of Burns’ works achieved over such a relatively short period. He illustrated this prodigious creativity comparing the ploughman poet of 1785 writing ‘To a mouse’ and the technically advanced 2014 ploughman who wouldn’t even have noticed that he had dug up the nest!
He wondered just what Burns might have achieved if he had not died so young and also if he had had available to him the technology we take for granted in the 21st century.
Finally, he told his audience the story of how Tom Sutherland had survived his incarceration in Beirut by reciting to himself the poems and songs of The Bard and reminding himself of the, in many ways, greater privations Burns suffered during his life.
The genius of Rabbie was in every sense his lifeline whilst imprisoned.
Mr McLaren received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his toast and was presented with an engraved quaich by Rusty Smith as a memento of his visit to the club.
The ‘Toast to the Lasses’ was in the hands of the incomparable Jim Brown from Fettercairn. Jim’s pedigree as a Burns’ speaker is almost legendary, and he, as usual, performed wonderfully, to the obvious delight of the members and guests.
To Jim, Burns spoke spontaneously from the heart through his rhymes and songs. His poetry showed his love of the lasses. He also related his witty views of the two great characters of Scottish literature - Tam o’ Shanter and Soutar Johnnie - and the adjectives that Burns used to describe their relationship.
Jim gave the company the influential women in the Bard’s life from his mother to Jean Armour. Humour abounded throughout his toast and again the audience were on their feet at the end of his talk.
The reply to the Toast to the Lasses was performed in his own style by another weel kent member of the farming community, Gordon Law of Carmyllie.
The Selkirk Grace which started the supper was given by committee member Andrew Welsh and the Address to the Haggis was delivered by past president W.C. (Willie) Braid.
Secretary Tony Treger advised that he had as usual received and exchanged greetings with Burns clubs all over the world.
Past president Frank Ferguson gave a superb rendition of Tam o’ Shanter which evoked all the drama and excitement of the classic poem.
Ken Smith, another past president, recited the much loved tale of Mr Doo’s first visit to a Burns Supper to the rapt attention and appreciation of his audience.
In addition to his duties as president in leading the evening’s entertainment so ably, Rusty Smith also regaled the members and guests with a superb rendition of ‘Holy Wullie’s Prayer’.
In their usual way, musical arranger Alan Mowatt, and his fellow singers, Douglas Cant, Alec Whitton, 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, in an extremely professional manner.
The haggis was borne by club member David Henderson and in his fine vote of thanks vice-president Bob Smith rounded off a super evening by thanking all those who had contributed and paying tribute to the first class service from the staff of the Meadowbank Inn.