St Andrew's Night

The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum was the venue for the club’s annual St Andrew’s Night Dinner. After a welcome from the President, Malcolm Ferguson, the toast to Scotland and St Andrew was proposed by Senior Vice-President, Andy Moynihan, and the Grace given by Junior Vice-President, Maureen Leitch.

Having enjoyed an excellent meal the company then settled down for the evening’s entertainment, though, with almost forty folk involved in providing that entertainment (just over half the company), most couldn’t afford to get too comfortable! The theme this year was a light-hearted look at the character of the Scots. We had songs from the Club Choir, the ever-popular local folk group Luath and club member Ramsay Syme as well as piping from Stewart Gaudin and fiddle tunes from Fiona McLaren. There were poems from Brenda Clelland, Bill Duncan, Bill Kerr and Maureen Leitch and a host of members took on the roles of veterans of Scottish battles, renowned emigrants and famous foreigners. There were even appearances from the “Proclaimers” AKA Bruce Kennedy and Keith Fullerton singing “Letter from America” and a member of “Scotland the What”, although he had an uncanny similarity to the club President!

The Vote of Thanks was given by Brenda Clelland and a memorable evening was brought to a fitting conclusion with the traditional singing of Auld Lang Syne.

Russians In Alloway

On Armistice Day, two young Russians, Polina Kikushina and Pavel Kereschenko, who had been successful in the Burns Federation/Russian Schools Scottish Essay Writing Competition visited Alloway. Having spent the morning at the Remembrance Service in the Primary School they then arrived at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum where a light lunch had been provided by the National Trust for Scotland for them and a number of invited guests.

Principal guest was the Russian Consul General in Scotland, Andrey Pritsepov, who attended with a colleague from the Consulate in Edinburgh. There were also representatives of the NTS, The St Petersburg Forum and our Burns Club. We were welcomed by Christopher Waddell, Learning Manager at the Museum who invited Mr Pritsepov to say a few words.

Both young people then presented their essays. Polina’s was based round the Burns’ poem “Parcel of Rogues”. She showed a real understanding of the poem and how it related to the events of the eighteenth century. Pavel&srquo;s piece was a more light-hearted look at the achievements of James Watt. Both essays were delivered in excellent English. The young people then gave their audience an illustrated talk about the history and present character of their school before describing some of the less well known attractions of their home city, St Petersburg.

Alloway Burns Club President, Malcolm Ferguson, gave the vote of thanks. The young people were then presented with gifts from the Club and from the NTS. The company finished off a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon with a visit to the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre Exhibition in the Museum.

Top 10 Concert

Alloway Burns Club’s Top Ten Concert attracted a large and enthusiastic audience to Alloway Church Halls on the 28th of October. The club had carried out a poll amongst its members to identify their favourite works by the Bard as part of the launch of the Club’s new website. All of the top ten pieces in that vote and a number of others which didn’t quite make it were performed by individual club members and the Club Choir. Each performance was very warmly received by the audience.

The programme was in two parts with a break for the cutting of two birthday cakes (two members were celebrating their birthdays that night) and a light supper which included generous helpings of the aforementioned birthday cakes. The supper break also allowed time for plenty of blethers among the members and guests.

The evening finished with a rousing chorus of Auld lang Syne (number 6 in the Top Ten). The full list of the pieces in the Top Ten can be found on the front page of the website and details of all our forthcoming events on the Upcoming Events page.

St Petersburg Stars

The three young Russians who were successful in the St Petersburg Forum “Knowledge of Scotland” competition visited Alloway on the 23rd of September. Their day started with a visit to the Varyag Memorial at Lendalfoot with Past Presidents, Margaret and John Skilling. Then in the afternoon, Senior Vice-president Andy Moynihan, gave them a guided tour of the locations in Alloway most closely associated with the Bard.

After a meal with Council member, Beth Kerr, the visitors arrived at Alloway Church Halls where President, Malcolm Ferguson, warmly welcomed them to Alloway Burns Club. The sixty members and friends, who filled the venue, quickly realised why the evening had been advertised as “St Petersburg Stars”. The three young people gave outstandingly amusing, entertaining and energetic preformances.

Firstly Gregory Katsenelson gave an excellent account of the life of Greenock born James Watt and his connections to Russia. Then Aleksey Kruchinin had everyone laughing as he retold the story of iron and steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. After the supper break, Kira Usatenko enthralled the company as she retold the story of Tam o’ Shanter from the viewpoint of his horse, Meg. All three young people then completed their contribution to the evening with a traditional Russian folksong.

In between these performances, a number of the club’s own stars performed songs. recitations and musical items including some from three of our junior members, Cameron Kerr and Calum and Rebecca Hannah. After the vote of thanks from Junior Vice-president Maureen Leitch, the evening finished with the traditional singing of Auld Lang Syne. We wished our Russian friends a safe journey home as they left Alloway each with the gift from the Club of a book on Burns.

Inter-Club Night

A warm sunny August evening was perfect for Alloway Burns Club’s annual inter-club night. It is difficult to tell whether it was the prospect of Susan Searle’s delicious Clootie Dumplings, Rebecca Hannah’s melt-in-the-mouth shortbread or the wonderful range of entertainment on offer which brought so many to Alloway Village Hall on Friday the 26th. of August. Whatever the reason almost seventy members and friends and an excellent turn-out from other clubs filled the venue.

The evening was compered by Junior Vice-president Maureen Leitch. While Burns songs and poems were well represented, including a contribution from the Club Choir and a memorable rendition of Holy Willie’s Prayer by Past President Hugh Farrell, there was a wide range of other musical and poetic contributions. A rousing song from Australia and a humorous retelling of the Battle of Hastings were among the eclectic mix of performances. As always a thoroughly enjoyable evening was brought to a close by the traditional singing of Auld Lang Syne.

Wreath Laying Ceremony

It was a wet Sunday morning for the annual wreath laying at the monument at Alloway. Despite that, there was a very good turn out of club members and representatives from other Burns’ clubs and organisations. Young piper, Daniel Nicol, led the company to the monument from the gathering point outside Alloway Church and once inside, club President, Malcolm Ferguson, thanked him, welcomed everyone to the event and said a few words about the continuing significance of the works of Burns in the world today.

Wreaths were then laid by;

Alison Wilson, National Trust for Scotland
Mary Kilpatrick, Depute Provost, South Ayrshire Council
Jimmy Gibson, Robert Burns World Federation and Prestwick Burns Club
Annie Small, Ayrshire Association of Burns Clubs
Kathleen Davey, Ayr Burns Club
Cynthia Leitch, Irvine Lasses Burns Club
Isobel Lynn, Kilmarnock Howff Burns Club
Malcolm Ferguson, Alloway Burns Club

Alison Wilson, who is the coordinator of the volunteers at the RBBM, spoke about the renovation of the monument, the present situation as regards funding and the timescale for the work. Sean McGlashan, Curator at the museum, spoke about his work and his admiration for Burns. There were also short speeches from Mr Gibson and Mrs Kilpatrick. The ceremony concluded with the company joining in the last verse of “A Man’s a Man” before being piped by Daniel to the Museum for a light lunch kindly provided by the National Trust for Scotland.

Friendship Evening

Almost eighty members of Alloway Burns Club and friends gathered at Burns Cottage on the evening of the 23rd of July to remember the very first Burns Supper which had been held there in July 1801, five years after our Bard’s death. While the skies were somewhat gloomy, the mood of the company was not and the rain that had been threatening all day never appeared. Two young musicians, Cameron May on the pipes and his sister, Zoe, on the side drum, welcomed the company to the cottage grounds. These talented youngsters will be heading to St Petersburg in 2018 as part of the St Petersburg Forum delegation. Most of the money raised in the raffle held in the course of the evening was donated to help sponsor their trip.

Once everyone had been served wine or soft drinks, the club President, Malcolm Ferguson, welcomed the company, particularly the guests and visitors to the club, and explained the significance of the event. Then he and the principal guest, Helen Morrison, laid a single red rose in the window of Burns Cottage while Cameron played a slow air. Helen, who is one of the leading Burnsians in Scotland and a key member of the St Petersburg Forum committee, then spoke of the role Burns’ childhood and upbringing in Alloway had in influencing his work and his life and how fitting a place the cottage of his birth was to remember his premature death. The first part of the evening ended with one of the club’s junior members, Calum Hannah, reciting Willie Wastle with great enthusiasm and humour.

The company then made its way across to Alloway Village Hall, where, after an excellent buffet meal supplied by the Poet’s Corner and shortbread and tablet from Council members Gillian Hannah and Beth Kerr, they settled down for sangs and clatter hosted by Senior Vice-president Andy Moynihan. There was plenty of songs, poems and musical items, much laughter and perhaps the occasional tear in the eye before the evening was brought to an end by the vote of thanks from Junior Vice-president Maureen Leitch and a traditional rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

Tarbouton: In The Footsteps Of Burns

With temperatures in the mid 20s and clear blue skies it seemed that Alloway Burns Club had headed to the Mediterranean for its annual outing. It was, however, just a normal early June day in Tarbolton which had been the nearest village to the Burns family when they farmed at Lochlea from 1777 to 1784.

Forty nine members and friends gathered at the Black Bull Restaurant in the village for a delightful lunch and plenty of animated conversation before heading off in three groups to visit two significant buildings and enjoy a tour of the village with the club’s own Tarbouton Laddie, Development Officer, Bruce Kennedy.

The first destination was the Masonic Lodge. While the present building was not constructed in Burns time, he was a member of the Lodge in the village and held a significant position in that organisation. Many artefacts and memorabilia associated with Burns are held within the premises and these were on display and explained to the club members by two gentlemen from the lodge. Both did an excellent job and the Burns Club members were made to feel very welcome.

Next was the Bachelors’ Club. This building does date from the time of Burns and is where he and some of the other young men of the village including his brother, Gilbert, came to enjoy lively discussions. The building is now in the care of the NTS and the current curator gave a very interesting account of its history and especially how it was used in Burns’ time.

The final element of the tour was a walk around the village visiting a number of locations associated with Burns and referred to in some of his works. These locations included the site of Manson's Inn, a Hostelry frequented by Burns; and the home of the Schoolmaster John Wilson who became the subject of the satirical poem Death and Doctor Hornbook. However a highlight for many was the visit to the ancient Motte and Bailey known locally as Hood’s Hill and the stunning view it offers of many places and locations frequented by Burns.

Despite the blistering heat it was a very enjoyable day and a huge thank you is due to Club Treasurer, Allan Menzies, who did all the arrangements with the Black Bull and our Development Officer, Bruce Kennedy, who not only acted as tour guide but also arranged the visits to the Lodge and the Bachelors’ Club.

Our Club Juniors Do Well

On Saturday 23rd April, The Robert Burns World Federation held its annual National Secondary Schools Festival when Ayrshire Secondary Schools were well represented. The Festival moves round Scotland each year and this year the venue was St George’s School for Girls, Edinburgh.

Those young students who were placed in the Ayrshire Association Competitions, held this year in Prestwick Academy, were invited to represent the county at the National Finals in 3 disciplines, i.e. Verse Speaking, Singing and Instrumental and at 3 levels, i.e. S1/2, S3/4 and S5/6.

Each year, at the National Festival, a trophy is awarded to the ‘Best Overall Competitor’ in each of the disciplines. This year Cameron Kerr, an S4 pupil at Belmont Academy and a junior member of Alloway Burns Club, gained this award in Verse Speaking.

There are also ‘Best Team Awards’ awarded to the Scottish District which gained most points following their performances. This year the results were;

  • Best Overall Team in Verse Speaking - Ayrshire
  • Best Overall Team in Singing - Fife
  • Best Overall Team in Instrumental - West Lothian

Two of Ayrshire’s winners in Verse Speaking who contributed to the team’s total appear in the photograph below along with representatives of the Burns Federation (RBWF). They are: L to R: Withheld, Cameron Kerr, Belmont Academy 1st in S3/4 and Best Overall Verse Speaker, (Mr Ian McIntyre, Sen Vice President, RBWF), Sophie Craig, Wellington School 3rd in S3/4. (Mr Jim Thomson, Past President, RBWF), Withheld.

Sophie like Cameron is a junior member of Alloway Burns Club.

The Burns Federation’s National Festival for Primary Schools takes place in Edinburgh on Saturday 7th May when we hope for more Ayrshire winners.

Youth Night

A very successful youth night was held in Alloway Church Hall, where an extremely talented group of youngsters sang, recited and played various musical instruments.

The evening kicked off with piper Daniel Nicol, an S1 from Belmont Academy, who plays in Alloway BB Pipe Band and won his class at the AABC regional competition and will represent Ayrshire in the Nationals. He played an excellent foot tapping set.

We had recitations from a variety of Alloway Primary pupils including: Mitchell Jardine, a P2 , who was returning for his second year to delight us with his lively rendition of Robin Reidbreist; Patrick McLaughlin a P7, who is studying acting, and gave a spirited performance of To A Louse and Molly MacLelland, another P7 who delivered an animated version of Address to the Toothache.

We also had excellent humorous and lively recitations from two of our own junior members, both pupils at Alloway Primary and who had recited for us last year: Calum and Rebecca Hannah. Calum recited a spirited version of Willie Wastle, while his sister Rebecca entertained us with Auld Farrant by JK Annand.

A particular treat was Ross Bryant ‐ a 10 year old from Kilwinning ‐ who played the violin as if he had been born to it and entertained us with two lively medleys.

Another musical treat was from Quattro, who played a lovely selection of tunes including Lord of The Dance. This, again, was a repeat performance from the string quartet ‐ Neved, Sam, Katy and Morven ‐ who, although still in Secondary School, have been playing together for 6 years!

For singers, we had a trio of extremely talented youngsters who are all trophy winners from the Ayrshire Music Festival and competed for the overall best in Festival Trophy. Firstly, Calum McCandless, who sings with the National Youth Choir of Scotland and plays violin with NYOS. In addition to singing a beautiful Burns song, he sang in German and accompanied himself on the piano.

Then we had another very talented singer, who is studying voice and French, Ines Mayhew-Begg who gave us an exquisite and emotional rendition of John Anderson My Jo.

Finally, we had a flawless performance from Sophie Craig ‐ another junior member of Alloway Burns Club ‐ who has delighted us with her singing in the past and this was no exception!

Last but never least, we had outstanding recitations from our most weel kent Junior Member: Cameron Kerr. Another multiple Trophy winner ‐ both at the Ayrshire Music Festival and in the Burns world, Cameron recited The Dumfries Volunteers and a humorous poem by Edward Lear.

The standard of performance was extremely high and everyone who attended was impressed by the confidence and talent of the youngsters.

Headstones And Tales

There was good turn out of club members for our penultimate event of this session. The interesting title reflected the content of the two presentations which formed the main part of the evening. Firstly, Past President Margaret Skilling took us on a tour of the graveyards associated with Burns, his ancestors, his descendants and his friends and associates. Inevitably this concentrated on various burial sites in Ayrshire but Dumfries, East Lothian and the ancient county of Kincardineshire were also visited. It was a fascinating journey and the quality of Mrs. Skilling’s presentation and research were clear to see.

After the Headstones part of the evening, members and friends enjoyed the supper break and a delightful selection of home-baking provided by the members of Council. At the same time, they were able to view some of the fascinating artefacts which the club holds, including the Glenriddell Manuscript borrowed back from the safe-keeping of the National Trust for Scotland for this event. Mrs. Skilling has taken on the role of Club Archivist and has carefully catalogued all our treasures. The Council has also organised the framing of some of the documents which were in danger of being damaged unless remedial action was taken. These were also on display.

The second part of the event explored the Tales. Another of our Past Presidents, Martin Cassidy, told us of the links between Burns and the City of Glasgow. This was a wide-ranging and well-researched presentation laced inevitably with large chunks of Cassidy humour. From Bonnie Prince Charlie to Alex Ferguson and dozens of personalities in between, Martin managed somehow to link them all to Burns.

The evening finished with the traditional singing of Auld Lang Syne, led by the Alloway Burns Club Choir.

Primary Seven Burns Supper

On Wednesday 3rd of February, Alloway Burns Club joined forces with Ayr Burns Club and South Ayrshire Council to organise a Primary Seven Burns Supper in County Hall, Ayr. In the past this event had been run by Ayr Burns Club for a limited number of schools from the southern part of Ayr town but this year’s event involved far more educational establishments. Representatives from all nineteen Primary Schools, which are associated with Ayr’s Secondary Schools, were invited to attend and they were all there on the night. Senior pupils from the five High Schools acted as facilitators at each table and two senior students from Kyle Academy skilfully chaired the event. Everything else from the piping to the speeches to the entertainment was done by the Primary Seven young people. All the schools played their part fully in what was a wonderful and quite emotional night.

Wreath Laying Ceremony

On the Bard’s birthday, the Club President along with the Secretary and two of our Past Presidents represented the club at the commemoration ceremony at the statue in Burns’ Statue Square in Ayr. As might have been expected on that day, the company had to withstand a number of “blasts o’ Janwar win’”.

1759 Celebrations

The afternoon of the 24th saw the club put on its “A Lad Frae Kyle” concert in Alloway Parish Church. This was a tribute to the influence of his native county, its people, landscape and traditions to the songs and poetry of the Bard. An enthusiastic audience of about 200 enjoyed the efforts of a large number of club members singing and reciting a wide variety of Burns’ works as well as pieces from Alloway Burns Club Choir and the always popular contributions of our friends in the local folk group Luath.

Anniversary Dinner

The week-end of Burns’ birthday was a busy one for our Burns Club. The programme of events started on Saturday evening with our Anniversary Dinner in the Brig o’ Doon House Hotel. After the President, Malcolm Ferguson, had welcomed the company and introduced his companions at the top table, the haggis was piped in by Sam Donnelly and addressed in fine form by Karin Stewart. The company then enjoyed a three course meal followed by coffee and petit fours before Sophie Craig entertained the company with two beautiful Burns’ songs. Senior Vice-president, Andy Moynihan, then gave the Loyal Toast and Club Secretary, Myra McLanaghan, her remarks before we had a short break. After the interval the entertainment really got under way with songs from the Alloway Burns Club Choir, recitation from Brenda Clelland, Bill Duncan and Maureen Leitch and, of course, the speeches. Dr Rhona Brown from the University of Glasgow gave a thought-provoking and very personal Immortal Memory. The Rev. Neil McNaught, in a very humorous speech, toasted and insulted the lasses in equal measure before Julie Griffiths replied in the same vein. Andy Moynihan, gave an amusing Vote of Thanks which included the presentation of gifts to the principal speakers before the choir concluded the evening with the traditional singing of “Auld Lang Syne”.