Thursday, 25 February 2010

Emily Smith Concert

Friday 19 February 2010

What a thrill to be in Dunedin the very same night on which Scottish Singer of the Year Emily Smith and her Husband Jamie were performing their concert in the Otago Settlers Museum in the heart of the city. A packed-house audience were captivated by the range and quality of the musicianship of this incredibly talented duo. Emily sang many of her own delightful compositions and Jamie played exerpts from his new album and demonstarted vituoso skill on the fiddle which had the feet tapping and hands clapping.
They also sang several Burns' songs from their Year of Homecoming show 'Adown Winding Nith' and showed Burns' song-making capabilities off to great effect. All-in-all a delightful evening which is part of an exhausting trip for Emily and Jamie as they tour Australia and New Zealand.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Dunedin Burns Club

Saturday 20 February 2010

As my last commitment of my trip I visited Dunedin which surpassed even my highest expectations as the Scots Capital of New Zealand. My visit coincided with a festival of pipe bands which paraded through the city and right past the Burns Statue in the 'Octagon' in the centre of
the city. This fine statue (just visible above the mace) sits prominently in front of the Anglican Church (below). Close by is the very striking Presbyterain first Church with its close connexion to the Robert Burns story in that his nephew Thomas Burns (son of Burns' brother Gilbert) was the founder minister of the church and played a fundamental role in setting up the city of Dunedin. He was also a member of the founding committee of the internationally-renowned Otago University. During a visit to the present-day University I had the pleasure of meeting with Professor Liam McIlvanney, author of the splendid book 'Burns the Radical,' who currently occupies the Stuart Chair in Scottish Studies. As well as researching the influence of the Scottish Diaspora and other groups of emigrants, he is making a particular study of the contraversial New Zealand poet James Keir Baxter who was one of those selected for the Burns Writing Fellowship - a highly prized residential writer's position at the University.

Pat and I enjoyed a very pleasant lunch with the committee members of the Dunedin Burns Club at Umbrello's Restaurant close to the University. After going through a difficult period recently the Club has re-grouped under the leadership of President Sue Cantwell and has a refreshingly young and ebullient Secretary in Emma Burns.
Photograph shows at front President Sue and past president Stan Kirkpatrick and from left to right Club stalwart Margaret Campbell, Pat, me, Secretary Emma and committee member Bruce Spittle. Bruce and his wife Marjorie hosted us most hopitably during the visit and gave us a delightful sightseeing tour of the city and surrounding district. It was also a real pleasure to meet with Stan Kirkpatrick, a member for over fifty years ans someone with an outstanding war record as a member of the Merchant Navy during both the Atlantic and Russian convoys. Together with other Club members he was instrumental in introducing special 'haggis' ceremonies for the benefit of visitors to Dunedin to emphasise the city's Scottish heritage. Another member for over fifty years, Stan Forbes, was not well enough to attend the lunch but I managed to visit him and his wife Roberta in hospital. A Dundonian by birth he is the Patron of the Burns Club and has done outstanding work over the years to keep the Burns Club at the forefront of cultural activity in Dunedin.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Family Reunion

13 February 2010

The personal highlight of my tour down under was meeting up for the very first time with an uncle and cousins whom I only discovered I had after family research in Scotland just before I left for the trip. A grandfather (my father's father) whom I had never met, named Charles Anderson, had left Tarland in Aberdeenshire in 1913 and emigrated to New Zealand. Following the outbreak of WWI he returned with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, a formed unit, and fought in France being wounded twice. On return to New Zealand in 1919 he eventually took up the offer being given to returning servicemen of setting up a farm in Almadale near Feilding. He had six more children in New Zealand and died in 1987. It was a real thrill to meet up with my half-uncle Gordon Anderson (below) and his wife Sheila and three of their daughters. It was also particularly poignant for me to be wearing the Anderson tartan in recognition of my 'Kiwi' grandfather Charles Anderson. Before catching the ferry for South Island we stayed overnight with my 'new' cousin Yvonne (below) and her husband Peter who gave us a wonderful tour of Wellington - a great end to the North Island part of our trip. Photo shows the ferry route through the Cook Straits.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Wanganui Burns Club

12 February 2010

It was a particular pleasure to visit one of the newest Clubs to join the Federation; the Wanganui Burns Club which was affiliated as Federation number 2377 in 2001. I am pictured below with Club President John Hanna with the Federation Membership Certificate proudly on view on the
A very special part of the evening was being given a formal Maori welcome from Paddy 'Cameron' Haira who is the 'Kaumatua' or Cultural Spokesperson for the Wanganui Burns Club. I had to respond to the welcome in bringing greetings from Scotland and the Federation and also had to lead in a song in response to their welcome song.
Following this very special introduction Pat and I were treated to a lovely meal of haggis pastries and silverside beef followed by fruit and ice cream. I had to speak for my supper and enjoyed another very lively question and answer session. I was delighted when the audience said they now better appreciated the role and work of the Federation in promoting the life and works of Robert Burns. Yet again we were hosted magnificently during our visit by Neil Boyd (front right in blue shirt) and his wife Christine (far left in blue dress) who is a direct descendent of Billy Marshall the famous Galloway tinkler gypsie featured in the Stewartry Museum. They run a shop in Wanganui specialising in Scottish collectibles and Neil has accumulated an amazing collection of Burnsiana and has been the driving force behind the formation of the Burns Club and its membership of the Federation.
Pat and I were gift with a beautiful wooden tray and spoons as a memento of our visit made by Ian Henderson a teacher of woodcraft at a College in Wanganui.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Trip Down Under - New Zealand

9 February 2010

Auckland was my first port of call on the New Zealand part of my trip and I spent a most enjoyable extended lunch addressing the Auckland Burns Club. A most knowledgeable audience responded exceptionally well during a Q&A session and we had songs and recitations of the highest calibre including a magnificent rendition of ‘Scots Wha Hae’ by Doug Robertson (bottom right)to close proceedings. President Tom Shiels (middle) presided over proceedings and Pat and I were presented with beautifully carved wooden pens as a memento of our visit. These had been carved by our host, and Club Secretary, David Small, ( second from right) and pictured below with his wife Beth and ‘Lass’ their cairn terrier.They could not have been kinder hosts and gave us a memorable start in our exploration of New Zealand's North Island. I was also given a bound copy of a poem entitled ‘An Epitaph and Eulogy for Robert Burns” written by Charles Colquhoun Rowan, a member of the Club. Later in the day I paid a visit to the very fine 1921 Burns Statue in the Auckland Domain Gardens.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Trip Down Under - Australia

In 1997 the Federation’s Annual Conference was due to be held in Melbourne but for a variety of reasons it had to be cancelled. The conference would have provided a wonderful opportunity for the Federation to extend fraternal greetings to the far side of the world and provide direct support to the many keen Burnsians who had emigrated to Australia and New Zealand. These emigrants had taken with them a keen interest in Burns and his poetry and songs but as they grow older there is every likelihood that many aspects of Scottish culture will disappear with them unless the next generation can be motivated to pick up the baton. As President I felt it my duty to visit Australia and New Zealand and try to meet with as many federated clubs as I could to thank them for their continued interest but also to encourage them in their endeavours in promoting the life and works of Robert Burns and other aspects of Scottish culture.

5 February 2010

My first speaking engagement was to the Bendigo and District Caledonian Society and Burns Club in the conference room in the Performing Arts Centre, known as ‘The Capital’ previously the Masonic Temple, built in 1873. After my talk on the work of the Federation and a brief outline of some of my Presidential activities to date, I enjoyed and lively question and answer session with an enthusiastic audience. Pat and I were hosted magnificently by President Jim Millar and his wife Jeanette (pictured below) who made us most welcome in their beautiful city (pictured above) located a couple of hours drive north of Melbourne.

6 February 2010

The following day I proposed the Immortal Memory to Robert Burns at the Melbourne Burns Club Annual Burns Supper at the Karralyka Theatre in the Ringwood district of the city. President Christine Galloway (below) gave a very emotive introduction remembering the people who had died in last year's devastating bush fires.

This was an evening full of variety with a highland dancing demonstration and opportunity to partake in country dancing interspersed between the dinner courses. It also included the most impressive and dramatic haggis ceremony with sword-wielding escorts guarding the ‘beastie’ before the puir wee thing was ceremoniously despatched in grand style before being piped back to the kitchen. I was particularly pleased to see Ron Johnston and his wife Joan (below) who had hosted me on my two previous visits to Melbourne when he was the Hon Secretary of the Burns Club. On this trip we were looked after with most thoughtful hospitality by Bill and Ina Graham, a couple who came originally from Ayrshire and work incredibly hard on behalf of all the Scottish societies in and around Melbourne.

7 February 2010

My last engagement in the Australian part of my trip was to perform two readings at the Annual Foundation Day service in the beautiful Scots' Church in Melbourne followed by a 3-course spit-roast lunch complete with a haggis starter. The minister Rev Douglas Robertson, a proud Glaswegian although born in Dumfries, opened the service with a minute’s silence in memory of the 173 people who had lost their lives in bush fires on ‘Black Saturday’ exactly a year ago.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Gatehouse of Fleet Burns Supper

30 January 2010

As President of the Gatehouse of Fleet I had the great pleasure of chairing my own Club’s 57th Annual Burns Supper in the Murray Arms Hotel, a hostelry with a direct link to the Poet through his stay there in July 1793. And what a delightful surprise I had when past-President Bobby Carson presented me with one of his beautiful rams-head lamps on behalf of the Club in recognition of my being the first Club member to become the President of the Robert Burns World Federation.

The award-winning Scots poet Rab Wilson proposed a particularly fine Immortal Memory focussing on the influences which Robert Burns would have gained from other literary sources but also highlighting the impact of political, religious and social turmoil which feature in his poems and songs. His wife Margaret (pictured) delighted the company with beautiful unaccompanied singing of Burns' songs.

One particularly enjoyable parts of the evening is the tradition of having the children from the Gatehouse of Fleet Primary School recite their winning entries in their competition.

Another tradition is to have an International Toast and this year we were delighted to welcome Simon Faed, a descendent of James Faed, one of the famous family of artists from Gatehouse of Fleet.

Alloway Primary Schools Burns Supper

28 January 2010

The splendid setting of the Brig O’Doon Hotel, Alloway, was the venue for Annual Alloway Primary Schools’ Burns Supper organised by Margaret Morrall. All the speeches, including an excellent Immortal Memory, were performed by the children. They also piped in the haggis, addressed it and gave an enthralled audience some wonderful recitations and songs. At every level this was a truly inspiring evening and one which bodes well for the future of the Burns movement. Margaret is to be congratulated for encouraging so many youngsters to get involved and the fact that this was the eleventh such supper provides a fitting testimony to its popularity. It was a pleasure for me and Federation Chief Executive, Sam Judge, to convey kindred greetings to the company from the Federation.

Kirkcudbright Wednesday Club

27 January 2010

I was delighted to be able to show off the ‘chain’ to the Wednesday Club, a pensioners group in Kirkcudbright with whom I have been associated for several years. Along with singer and musician, John Duncan, also from Twynholm, I gave the audience a wide-ranging talk on different aspects of Burns’ life and works.
In particular, I stressed his life as a ploughman especially for the benefit of two widows in the group. Willie Fairley, a ploughman from Twynholm, had died recently and at his wife Joan’s request I had recited Burns’ famous poem To a Mouse at his funeral. For Barbara McCaig I recalled how I had interviewed her husband Jack as part of my degree studies at Glasgow University in 2002, shortly before he died. Another ploughman, he was deeply knowledgeable about Burns and was an accomplished bothy ballad singer. Burns meant a great deal to both men.