On Tuesday 29th December four members of the Council of Alloway Burns Club met with the President of the Caledonian Society of Cincinnati, Robert Reid, and his family. They were visiting relatives in Monkton for Christmas and were keen to establish a link with our club and to visit the birthplace of the Bard. Although the Museum, the Cottage and the Monument and its Gardens were closed they did visit the Auld Brig, the Auld Kirk, the Poet’s Path and saw the exterior of the Cottage. They also visited Alloway Parish Church and were particularly impressed both with the beautiful interior of the building and with the Burns Window.
While at the Auld Kirk, the President of our Burns Club recorded a message which will be played to the Caledonian Society in Cincinnati at its Burns Supper a week after we celebrate the Bard’s Birth at our Anniversary Dinner. The two organisations also agreed to exchange newsletters and to create links to each other on their respective websites. A number of photographs were taken to record the creation of new bonds of friendship between Alloway Burns Club and the expatriot community in the city of Cincinnati.
The Club held its St. Andrew’s Night Dinner in the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum on Friday 27th November. We had to put up the “House Full” signs with 86 members and friends attending. The Toast to St Andrew and Scotland was made by Immediate Past President, Martin Cassidy. After a thoroughly enjoyable meal, the entertainment this year was a condensed retelling of the highlights of the last 750 years of Scottish History in music, song, poetry and prose, accompanied by a series of slides expertly prepared by Bill Kerr. Among the star attractions on the night were poems and readings from a number of club members, individual singing performances, bagpipe and fiddle solos, the local folk group Luath, Alloway Burns Club Choir, 19 club members taking on the role of 19 Famous Scots and even a guest appearance from the Proclaimers – though they did look remarkably like Bruce and Keith from Luath. The evening finished, as always, with Luath leading the company in the traditional singing of “Auld Lang Syne”. In total, 40 club members were involved in the entertainment and they all lined up for a photo shoot at the end of the night.
One of Alloway Burns Club’s younger members has achieved another success with his recitation skills. Cameron Kerr won the Helen Waddell Memorial Trophy on the 4th. of November. He was presented with this award by Peter Hughes, the President of the Robert Burns World Federation. His success came against an array of other highly talented and very experienced Burnsians. Their challenge was, as always in this competition, to recite the “Address to the Haggis” . Congratulations, Cameron, for an outstanding achievement from the rest of Alloway Burns Club.
The recitations were done to an uncooked haggis which Cameron also won as part of his prize. The Kerr family were thus able to dine well for the rest of the week!!
On Wednesday 7th October the Octagonal Hall of Alloway Parish Church was full to capacity for a joint meeting of the Burns Clubs of Ayr and Alloway. For the first part of the evening Alloway Club member Alex Morris (ably assisted by her husband Paul) gave an illustrated talk on the 19th. century statue of the Bard which they repatriated to Scotland from South Africa and restored to its former glory. When they first saw the statue, it was in a very sad state of repair having endured many years buried in a rubbish heap and then coping with the vagaries of the South African climate when placed outside in a garden. The statue was created at the Saracen Works in Glasgow and the Morrises are eager to find out more about its history. It now stands proudly in the hallway of their home in Alloway, beautifully restored to its original colour and with the Bard’s hand outstretched as though to welcome visitors.
After an enjoyable supper provided by the council members of Alloway Burns Club, the rest of the evening was devoted to entertainment provided by two young ladies, Caroline Kennedy from Alloway and Alison Jones from Ayr. While Caroline sang a beautiful selection of songs, some by Burns and others of a more recent vintage including a couple by Eva Cassidy, Alison recited a number of well known Burns’ pieces with great enthusiasm and skill. Her rendition of “Tam o’ Shanter” was particularly memorable. The sustained applause both young ladies received was a real indication of how much the audience enjoyed their efforts. It was fitting that Alison’s last recitation was “A man’s a man”. The last lines of that poem are inscribed on the base of the Burns’ statue the Morrises brought back from South Africa and may well explain why it lay buried during that country’s apartheid years.
Kathleen Davey, Vice-President of Ayr Burns Club gave a heart-felt vote of thanks to all the contributors to the evening’s entertainment. As always, the event was brought to a conclusion with everyone joining in the traditional singing of “Auld Land Syne”.
On Sunday 13 September three young people from St. Petersburg visited Alloway. The three visitors were all from different schools in the Russian city and had all been winners in “The Knowledge of Scotland” competition held this year. There were two girls - Valerilla Filonenko whose winning piece was called “Glasgow Past” while Ekaterina Kasyaneva was successful with her essay entitled “The Lake of Menteith”. Finally there was Slava Lapin whose winning essay was on David Livingstone.
The guests were met at Burns Cottage in warm sunshine by Past Presidents of the club John and Margaret Skilling and by some of the clubs younger members including Cameron Kerr and his Mum, Beth, who had visited St Petersburg earlier this year under the auspices of the forum. After visiting the Bard’s birthplace the company was invited to lunch with the club’s Senior Vice-president, Andy Moynihan and his family. Not only was the soup and home-baking, privided by Andy’s wife, Tracy, thoroughly enjoyed but the young people had an opportunity to find out more about the life of young people in Scotland from Cameron and Cara and Lewis Moynihan.
After lunch and despite a change in the weather, the guided tour continued by way of the poet’s path to the Auld Kirk, the Brig, the Monument and finally the Museum. John and Margaret’s expert guiding was appreciated by all. It was with much hugging and exchanging of email addresses that the Russian youngsters and their hosts from the Forum left Alloway to continue their visit to Burns Country in Dumfries.
On the 28th of August the club held its annual Inter-club Sangs and Clatter evening. Alloway Village Hall was again the venue as we entertained guests from other clubs and a number of special visitors. Our local M.P., Corri Wilson, the recently elected member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, attended with her parliamentary colleague, club member, Margaret Ferrier. We were also delighted to welcome two guests from Malawi, the Rev. Bordington Singini, who sang for us in the course of the evening, and Benford Mwakayuni, the Headteacher of Bandawe Girls Secondary School. The Council decided that the proceeds of the evening’s raffle should be donated to the Bandawe school. A very healthy £150 was raised.
The entertainment was of the usual high standard. The first performance was from the Alloway Burns Club Choir, who have now established themselves as a vital part of evenings like this. There then followed prose, poetry and musical contributions from a host of members and guests alike. The supper, half way through the evening, was voted first class with the star act of the feast being, of course, Susan Searle’s celebrated Clootie Dumpling. The evening ended with the traditional singing of “Auld Lang Syne”, which we hope will be a final lasting memory of their time in Alloway that our Malawian friends can take back to Africa.
On a beautiful summer’s evening, around 70 members and friends of Alloway Burns Club gathered in the grounds of Burns Cottage for their annual Friendship Evening.
In the week that saw the 214th anniversary of the first Burn Supper, the evening commenced with the guest of honour Ms Jane Brown, Imediate Past President of the Robert Burns World Federation together with Malcolm Ferguson, President of the Club commemorating that event by placing a rose in the window of Burns Cottage. This was done as Karin Stewart beautifully serenaded those attending with My Love is like a Red, Red Rose. Not a dry eye in the house. Thereafter, Jane had the audience in the palm of her hand as she gave a funny yet particularly moving speech on how Robert Burns has and continues to have influence in her daily life.
It was then over to Alloway Village Hall where after a hearty supper and light refreshments, the Alloway Burns Club Choir together with volunteer members of the audience entertained the company with an array of songs, poems and funny stories. All in all it was unanimously agreed that it had been another great evening of fun, friendship and fellowship.
It was an overcast July day when members of Alloway Burns Club and a number of guests gathered at the gates of Alloway Church for the annual wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the death of the Bard in Dumfries on the 21st July 1796. The company was led to the monument by the young piper, Laura Rowney, from Carrick Academy.
Wreaths were laid by Alison Wilson, coordinator of the volunteers at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, on behalf of the National Trust for Scotland and the Depute Provost of South Ayrshire, Mary Kilpatrick. The Heritage Convenor of the Robert Burns World Federation, John Skilling, and the Presidents of Alloway and Ayr Burns Clubs also laid wreaths on behalf of their organisations.
As well as members of Alloway Burns Club we were pleased to welcome to the ceremony a number of our friends from Irvine Lasses Burns Club. After the wreaths were laid and short speeches made, the company recited the last verse of “A man’s a man” before being piped through the beautiful monument gardens to the Museum where a very appetising and welcome lunch was served.
On the morning of Saturday 20th June 2015, thirty six members of the club attended a guided tour of the jewel in the East Ayrshire crown that is Dumfries House, followed by lunch. As members gathered in the car park, the clouds parted and bright sunshine guided a path up to main house itself, a sure sign that everyone was in for a special day.
For the next hour and a half, members toured the house and were enthralled by details of the family history, the eleventh hour saving of Dumfries House and its contents for public accessibility and pleasure, the ongoing conservation of the fabric of the building and the plethora of near priceless treasures, many of which have remained in the house for over 250 years. All of this so eloquently described by our knowledgeable guides Robert and Pat.
If that wasn’t enough, it was a treat for us all then to sit down, enjoy lunch and discuss the experiences that we had just had. Another Alloway Burns Club event filled with fun and fellowship.
Alloway Burns Club’s first meeting of session 2015-16 was different in a number of ways. Although we don’t usually start our season so early, this event took place on the 27th May and it was a joint evening with our friends and neighbours in Ayr Burns Club. Another departure in format was that the star of the show was one of the club’s junior members, Cameron Kerr.
Cameron had been on an exchange visit to St Petersburg in Russia organised by the St. Petersburg Forum, a number of whose members joined us on the night. He started the evening with a fascinating account of his visit: of the sights he had seen, the people he had met including many ordinary young Russians and places he had visited. His delivery was excellent and the accompanying slides included a few video clips of Cameron preforming not only the works of Scotland’s national bard but also Russia’s, Alexander Pushkin.
Cameron answered a number of questions from the audience (though he declined to tell us if he had established a lasting friendship with the many young Russian ladies who seemed to be fascinated by this handsome young Scot wearing a kilt). After a pleasant interval when the company enjoyed tea, coffee and home baking provided by the Alloway Club Council and had the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones, everyone settled down for the second half.
Cameron started this off with a reprise of the piece he had performed successfully at the Ayrshire Music Festival. This was enthusiastically received by all and it was with considerable trepidation that some of the more senior members of the club followed him to perform their party pieces. After an excellent vote of thanks by the President of Ayr Burns Club, Bryce Weir, the evening ended, as usual, with a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne led by the Alloway club’s Development Officer, Bruce Kennedy.