President’s Blog – March

‘Again rejoicing Nature sees,

Her robe aasume its virtual hues,

Her leafy locks wave in the breeze,

All freshly steep’d in morning dews.’


A few lines from ‘Composed in spring’, 1786. I resisted the temptation to add a few lines from ‘Ode to spring’ which appears in the Merry Muses.

As I write the March blog, spring has made only a fleeting appearance and nature must be confused with range of temperatures we have had this month.  As I put this article together, I am looking out at snow falling!

March has been an historic month for us.  We finally moved into our impressive new premises in John Dickie Street, Kilmarnock.  It has been a slow train in coming, but well worth the wait.  I had much fun in helping Margaretann and Bev settle into the offices during and after the flit.  The weather in the lead up to the flitting was inclement to say the least.  Margaretann found herself like many others, trapped at home with snow.  A good number of engagements I had were cancelled at the beginning of the month; they included Annan Ladies 90th Anniversary Dinner, Bridgeton Burns Club Schools Concert, Cumbernauld Burns Club Schools Competition and an event I compere with the Gallovidian Fiddle Orchestra.  Frustrating and disappointing for the hard working organisers behind the scenes.

The move went ahead in good weather and was efficiently carried out by our removal company.  It took four sturdy types all day with two vans to move us.  There is still much to be done in the coming months to make our headquarters something of a showpiece.

We have Business Board on 9th March at John Dickie Street.  It must be said that Margaretann and Bev were quick off the mark to have the office habitable in only two days!

I hear from David Smith that there are plans in place to have a civic reception for me in Dumfries in June.  I find this very humbling.  It does mean that the RBWF is very much on the radar of Dumfries and Galloway Council.  I am grateful for that.

I got an unexpected phone call from Lorrie Headley of Kilmarnock Burns Howff Club asking if I can help out with their Burns Supper at Ellisland on 21st March.  Their original supper had been cancelled, again due to snow, in January.   The event was held in the atmospheric setting of Ellisland Farm.  I was delighted to deliver the ‘Immortal Memory’ in the company of many distinguished Burnsians.  The hospitality was of the highest order and of no mean generosity!  The evening’s proceedings were particularly poignant for me, I held my retirement bash in the same room, four years ago, almost to the day.  Among those attending four years ago was a well-known Thornhill businessman and friend, David Marchbank.  Just before I left home for Ellisland, I heard the news that David had lost a long battle with illness, he was only 52.

Saturday 23rd March saw our first Quarterly Meeting at John Dickie Street.  Again Margaretann and Bev had worked hard to make every inch of space work for us.  Among the highlights of the day were the bust presented by John Skilling, made from stone along with a plinth.  It dates back from the end of the nineteenth century and requires a wee bit of tlc.  It will eventually take pride of place in our entrance hallway.  My auld mucker David Smith tells me the highlight for him was the delicious Kilmarnock Pies served for lunch!  There are a large number of obituaries read out at the meeting, but for the first time, the number of applications for membership exceeds those sadly lost. Margaretann reminded us of the need to get membership fees in promptly as we are behind in monetary terms on this time last year.

I attended the Lanarkshire Schools Competition in Wishaw on 27th March.  It never ceases to amaze me how much talent we have in our schools.  This competition was aimed at primary school age groups.  I had a delightful night watching young competitors perform with broad smiles on their faces.  I had the pleasure of the company of Jamie Chapman whose family business have been generous supporters of the Lanarkshire Schools Competition for over 20 years.

Another early start for us on Saturday, we drive to Glasgow where Marc Sherland has been running various events in the ‘Good Shop’ in Buchanan Galleries over the past week.  Included in this was a membership drive and small RBWF merchandising shop.  The irrepressible Peter Hughes was there and he and I performed with a ukulele band from Barrhead in the morning.  In the afternoon, there was an event called ‘Tapsalteerie’ held which saw an eclectic group of poets, writers, performers and story tellers strut their stuff.  A highlight was a bus driver who was heading for work popping in and reciting ‘Tam O’ Shanter!  The event was a tremendous success and is only the beginning of ‘pop up’ events we will carry out around the country with a view to recruiting members. Marc has brought new energy and momentum to the RBWF and is a welcome addition to Board.