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President’s Blog – November 2017

‘The wintry west extends his blast,

And hail and rain does blaw,

Or the stormy north sends driving forth

The blinding sleet and snaw

Wild-tumbling brown, the burn comes down,

And roars frae bank tae brae;

And bird and beast in covert rest,

And pass their heartless day.


Winter; A Dirge reminds me of how the weather has changed in the very short time I have been President of this wonderful old organisation.  From 30 degrees in Canada only a short time ago to the snell winds of a Scottish winter, all in a day’s work I guess!

November has continued in a very brisk manner.  I visit the office weekly if time allows and at the beginning of the month paid a visit in the company of Margaretann to our new office premises in John Dickie Street, Kilmarnock.  After many months of false dawns, it was encouraging to see the building covered in scaffolding and a large number of tradesmen working on both the interior and exterior of the building.  The works programme is six weeks, this should see us in at some point early in the new year.  This is a particularly exciting time for the RBWF as it allows easy access for the public and the opportunity of passing trade.  I will tell you more about our ideas in the next few weeks.

I signed a few new member certificates and one for a school in the Ukraine.  Jane Brown and I have a chat about two New Zealand University students who will be visiting for a few weeks next year.  I reassure her that we will be delighted to support them during their visit by accommodating visits and attendance at events.  My old pal David Smith gets in touch to let me know that I have been featured in DG Life magazine and one of the local newspapers.  It must have been a poor news day! But any publicity is good publicity.

Many of my invitations to speak or attend events are directly linked to the Burns world, but this month I have invitations to speak after dinner at Powfoot Golf Club near Annan and at Kirkcudbright Pie Band’s 90th Anniversary Dinner.  The band are very close to my heart as I work with them as their compere during each summer.

Moira and I attend a performance by the St Petersburg Forum students in Motherwell as guests of the Lanarkshire Association.  A night of incredible talent on display.  The students took opportunities to take photographs of each other wearing the Presidential chain.  I do a couple of songs to fill in but gold is more attractive than an auld man with a guitar!

Some of us rue the day of electronic communication but emails are such a fast and efficient way for keeping in touch.  I wonder how folk managed years ago!

Our Business Board Meeting sees the approval and signing off of the new membership application form.  Marc has been like a breath of fresh air in his role as Non Executive Director and I am delighted with his input.

As always, I attend the Remembrance Sunday Parade in Kirkcudbright.  I wear the RBWF chain of office with pride and make no apology for doing so.  Many fine Burnsians world wide have lost their lives in the two world wars.

Our friends at Ayr Burns Club had intimated their resignation from the RBWF a couple of months ago.  I was shocked and concerned that a club of such standing would be lost to us.  Moira and I were invited to their monthly meeting where I was given the opportunity to outline the Board’s vision for the future.  As a result, I am delighted to welcome them back to the fold!

Our first Executive Committee Quarterly meeting of my tenure took place at Edinburgh on 18th November.  We had a good turnout of members and delegates from around the country including some new faces.  I thank all who give up their time to help run our organisation, it is a big ask.

Last week sees me a bit under the weather with a virus.  By Friday I am firing on all cylinders again.  I visit the office and find Margaretann and Bev literally up to their ears in next years Chronicle!  I must admit, that regardless of whether I phone or visit the office, the welcome is wonderful.  On Friday night Moira and I attend Dumbarton Burn’s Club St Andrew’s Night Dinner. It is an excellent evening despite the contribution of yours truly!

I write a short St Andrew’s Day message for the local press and begin to prepare my toasts to Auld Scotia at the Howff Club on Thursday Night. There is nothing more nerve wracking than addressing your home club!