President’s Blog – August 2018

“The heather was blooming, the meadows were mawn,

Our lads gaed a-hunting, ae day at the dawn”

These lines from “The heather was blooming” are listed under the 1st of September in “The Best of Burns” a book of daily quotes I mentioned in my July Blog.

I find myself composing my final blog in what has been an epic and memorable year in office.  The adventure is almost over.  It has been one I have documented in my monthly blogs which people seem to have enjoyed.  My year as President has seen us travel widely at home and abroad.  We have been overwhelmed by the welcome, generosity and kindness we have received without fail. Old friendships have been renewed and many new ones formed which will be life- long.

August is one of the quieter months on the Burns calendar of events but I have had much to do over the month in my beloved Kirkcudbright where the Summer Festivities have been in full flight.  I participate in street theatre, Maggie’s Tours, which is based around 17th Century Kirkcudbright which is performed every Friday night in August.  It is factual but fun and is popular with locals and visitors alike.  There is something eerie in the old High Street when the toll bell rings at five to seven and people appear from closes and gardens in period costume.

Bill, Marc, Jim O’Lone and I have an informal meeting with Athol Chalmers and his wife Donna at the office.  Athol is President of Canberra Burns Club and Pipe Major of Canberra Burns Club.  They are very engaging people and incredibly enthusiastic about Burns and Scottish culture.  Canberra Burns Club are keen to re-join the RBWF and we discuss ways in which we can support them.  Jim invited them to the Pacific Rim Conference later in the year.

I manage my first sailing race of the season with my good friend and Howff Club Member, Ian Meechan in Kirkcudbright Bay.  We do reasonably well, coming fifth, the first time we have raced this particular boat.  Parade day at Kirkcudbright sees the Hill Six Incorporated Trades enter a lorry, “100 Years of Celebration”.  I help put the float together and hurry off to the Harbour Square to compere the event.

Moira and I are joined by Jane Brown, Bertie Copeland and Christine Leighton, Rector of St Andrews’ School in Christchurch.  This was a link Jane made on her many travels over the year.  We have dinner and hear about the Scottish roots the school has.  This year, two of Christine’s students will come over to Scotland on a Robert Burns Scholarship, established for the first time this year.

I do a set of songs at the Scottish Night at home where I also compere.  I finish off with a rousing rendition of “Killiekrankie” the song Burns collected on his travels in the Highlands.  It always amazes me how many people know the song but don’t really know what it is about.

Faulhouse and Crofthead invite Moira and I to their 25thAnniversary celebration.  The club was of course re-formed twenty five years ago after having gone into abeyance in the First World War. We travel up with Jane Brown, principle speaker for the evening and stay with our good friends, Bobby and Karen Kane.  Davey Scott was the other speaker for the evening.  As always, Davey’s company is erudite and very entertaining. Fauldhouse and Crofthead to me is a template for a Burns Club.  The night’s entertainment comes from the floor and no fewer than 24 people contributed to the programme.  A special thanks to President Ian McDougall for making us so welcome on their special evening among so much talent.

The pace continued when we got home, attending the Kirkcudbright Tattoo in front of an audience of 5.000.  I am in the “VIP” seating, invited as RBWF President.  We are in the Company of Lord Lieutenant Sir Malcolm and Lady Susan Ross, Provost Lesley Garbutt and Fin Carson, MSP.

My guid friend Henry Cairney sends me a copy of the Calgary Claver, the Calgary Burns Club magazine to which I have contributed an article to the current edition.

I need to make special mention of the people who operate the engine room of the RBWF, Margaretann and Bev.  They have been unstinting in their support over the past year.  Without them, my job would have been impossible.  Sadly, Margaretann will be leaving us after Conference.  I wish her all the very best for the future and thank her for her hard and devoted work over the past five years.  We will make an announcement at Conference as to Margaretann’s replacement.

There are many people out there who have helped, guided and assisted me in my year in office, you know who you are, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I hand the reins over to Bill Nolan next weekend.  The RBWF is in good hands with Bill, he is an extremely experienced Director, having worked at the very highest level with the World Rugby Board.  He is tenacious, enquiring and has an eye for detail.  I look forward to supporting Bill in the coming year.

Well, I guess that’s it folks.  I have conference to look forward to where I will meet friends from all over the world and hopefully have a dram with them.