I was delighted to be able to fulfil a regular commitment which I have undertaken for the past few years in ‘Addressing the Haggis’ at the Fleet Valley Nursing Home in Gatehouse of Fleet at lunchtime on the Poet’s birthday. The residents and the staff always look forward to their special celebratory lunch.
It was then a quick dash to Dumfries to attend the commemoration service in St Michael’s Church at which Burns had been a regular attendee in the last few years of his life before his untimely death at the age of just 37 years. The service was conducted by the Rev Maurice Bond and readings were delivered by Federation Senior-Vice President David Baird and Jane Brown on behalf of the Southern Scottish Counties Burns Association. The Rev Ella Pennington addressed the local school children and had them (and the adults) guessing answers to her questions relating to the use of a red flag in early days of motoring. Songs and recitations completed a most fitting service of celebration of the Bard’s life.
In the evening I had the honour of proposing the Immortal Memory at the Kirkcudbright Burns Club's Annual Burns Supper in the Royal Hotel Kirkcudbright. Despite Kirkcudbright's being only three miles from my home in Twynholm, this was the first time I had attended the Club's Burns Supper. The town has a direct connexion with the Bard because he stayed there overnight in 1793 during his tour of Galloway with his friend John Syme. He spent a pleasant evening in the Earl of Selkirk's House on St Mary's Isle regaining his good humour after being in a 'foul' temper the day before when his new 'Jimmie' boots were ruined during a storm. As Syme writes in his letter journal of the tour, "Mercy on me how he did fume and rage, nothing would reinstate him in temper." However, en-route to Kirkcudbright from Gatehouse of Fleet where they had stayed overnight in the Murray Arms Hotel, Syme showed him the Earl of Galloway's house. According to Syme, "Burns expectorated his spleen against the aristocratic elf, and regained a most agreeable temper." Syme thought the tongue-lashing of the Earl undeserved but was pleased it had restored his friend's good humour. The photograph shows President David Austin to my left and Adam Gray, Honorary Life President on my right together with the other speakers and artistes.