The President’s Lot is indeed a happy one!
Since Conference, I have been incredibly busy at home and abroad. A word about Conference first. May I thank everyone from the Burns’ World and beyond for the messages of congratulation and support in my appointment as President of The Robert Burns Federation. Goodwill and friendship were in great abundance at Peebles, the weekend was one of Burnsians at their absolute best, “ Brithers a’ “. As always a good number of people travelled long distances from Australia, Canada and the USA for our Annual get together. The commitment shown year after year is indeed humbling.
My heartfelt thanks go out to Bobby Kane, our outgoing President. Bobby has made an indelible mark on the RBWF, his strong leadership allied with good humour has allowed a smooth transition for me into the chair. I am delighted to have him as IPP to provide some mentorship and guidance for me. We welcome Brian Goldie as JVP. Brian is a weel kent face in Burns circles and will bring his own particular strengths to the role. My thanks go to Jane Brown and the Conference Committee for making this year’s event so memorable. Jane tells me that the only complaints about the weekend was about the enormity of portions at dinner.
Moira and I had the chance to relax at Peebles on the Sunday night with friends who had travelled from all over Scotland for the weekend. We had a quick turnaround and flew to Canada on the Tuesday immediately after Conference. We had a 24 hour stopover in Toronto to visit Moira’s family. We arrived in a humid 30 degrees c. The following day, landing in Edmonton, we found the temperature had dropped to 8 degrees c.
I had the honour of being the first RBWF President to visit Edmonton Burns Club. The club’s centenary year is imminent. I met President Cam McDonnell and members at their first meeting of the year. The club looks in good enough shape to carry on for another hundred years. Our hosts in Edmonton were Scott and Sherie Montgomerie. The Montgomerie’s went out of their way to make us feel welcome and organised various events and visits, including the Parliamentary Building in the city and of course the Burns Statue outside the McDonald Hotel where the club holds its dinners.
From Edmonton we travelled to Drumheller by car to the Tyrell Museum in the desert. The world’s largest find of dinosaur skeletons is housed here in the Badlands. We were collected from Drumheller by Henry and Shona Cairney, originally from Irvine. We were hosted in Calgary by Henry and Shona. A very memorable and enjoyable few days saw us have an informal meet and greet with a number of the Calgary Burns Club and wives. We attended a club meeting the following night in the Danish Canadian Club in the city. Greetings were exchanged and harmony followed. Highlights of this stay included a visit to Lake Louise, a glacier lake, the Rocky Mountains and Banff. Scott Montgomerie had arranged us to meet with Brian Hodgson, Sergeant at Arms (Black rod) for the Alberta Government. Brian had kindly arranged the visit to the Parliament Building.
We travelled the 4 hour journey by car from Calgary to Medicine Hat for the Jolly Beggars Dinner. The vastness of the country never ceases to amaze me. Henry drove us, our wives riding as shotgun! A meet and greet was arranged at the home of Ken Montgomerie of the Medicine Hat Burns Club. Ken is a remarkable character with a ‘man cave’ complete with bar and Burns memorabilia is a site to see. On the wall of his cellar was the toilet seat with Burns image which had once been on display in my local hotel in Kirkcudbright!
I had the honour of proposing the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns at the Jolly Beggars Dinner. It is a glittering affair, now in its tenth year. The attendees comprised of Burns Club members, Dignitaries from the city and Officers from the local army base.
President Bill Cocks and VP Andy Harrower took us for a day’s tour to the Cypress Hills above Medicine Hat on the Sunday. Our visit to Medicine Hat ended with an overnight stay at the Last Chance Saloon in Wayne near Drumheller. A real wild-west saloon, it had bullet holes in the walls and was frequented by miners before the mines closed in 1957. A memorable end to our Canadian tour.
We stayed with the Cairney’s for one night before flying home, exhausted but feeling very satisfied with our trip.
The generosity, friendship, hospitality and kindness we encountered in our visit to Canada was exceptional. We were greeted warmly wherever we went and a large number of people went out of their way to ensure our trip was one of a lifetime. On behalf of Moira and I, please accept our thanks for the many kind gestures made.
Since we arrived home last weekend, the unrelenting pace has continued. I attended a dinner on Saturday night where Jane Brown and I proposed toasts to the Galloway Association of Glasgow, Howff Club meeting on Monday, the RBWF office on Tuesday, meeting with David Smith on Wednesday, official portrait on Thursday and Presentation of Certificates at the Association of Scottish Literary Studies in Glasgow on Saturday!