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President’s Blog – October 2017

‘Some merry, friendly countra’ folk

Together did convene

To burn their nits, an’ pou their stocks

An haud their Hallow’een

Fu’ blithe that night


Hallow’een is here, October has flown past as quickly as September did!  My year in office will be over in a blink if this pace continues.  I have been surprised at how long it has taken Moira and I to get caught up with various things since returning from Canada.  I catch up with emails and to my dismay find that both BBC radio and STV news have been looking for interview opportunities after conference.  We shall make alternative arrangements in the near future, all publicity is good publicity for the RBWF!


There are a number of ongoing issues, not least my official portrait for the Chronicle.  The Burns Howff Club kindly offer to pay for it. Their gesture is very kind and greatly appreciated.  Brian Sherman is the consummate professional and the photo shoot is over in a few minutes.  The finished article is rushed off to the printers for this year’s Chronicle, out in November.


I have meetings with Murdo Morrison and Naomi Brough , convener of the Kirkcudbright Food Festival. Our arrangements for the ‘Best in the West’ Haggis Address competition, finally coming to fruition.


I met with Margaretann and Bev at the office over the month to catch up and do some future planning, diary dates etc.  I do not know how we could manage without them!


David Smith contacts me to let me know that I am in DG Life magazine this month.  A friend of mine who is a journalist with them has arranged to do a feature article for the January edition.  I make no apology for using every opportunity to spread the word as far as the RBWF is concerned.  David has been a great friend and mentor to me over the years and as most of you will know, has devoted his life to the Bard.


I have been researching the Rev. Thomas Blacklock for a talk I will do at the Howff Club at the end of the month.  He was the ‘Blind Poet’, minister and confidant of Burns. He was minister here in Kirkcudbright before being run out of town by ungrateful parishioners!  Ah well, you can’t win them all.


‘The storm without micht rair an’ rustle’ and it did.  Seventy mile an hour winds buffet Kirkcudbright and the South West.  At the last minute the food festival is moved from marquees to the town’s Academy.  The process goes surprisingly well.  Murdo and I have a good weekend, promoting Burns and the haggis.  The ‘Best in the West’ Junior winner was Andrew Durham from Kirkcudbright, a very talented young man.  The winner of the Senior section was Rosemary Dempster from Twynholm.  A large number of competitors appeared from all over Scotland.  The competition was popular with spectators and would be worth repeating next year.


My talk on Dr Blacklock seems to go down well, I have a few slides to illustrate my talk.  If you look at the painting of The Duchess of Gordon’s drawing room in Edinburgh by CM Hardie, you will see Blacklock sitting at the front of the picture on the right hand side.


Moira and I are invited to a civic reception at the Municipal Chambers to meet the students from School 61 in St Petersburg.  Moira and I visited the city and the school last year and were delighted to meet up with Frieda, a teacher at the school who hosted.  Pupils are on a Scottish tour, performing their interpretation of ‘Tam O’ Shanter’.  Provost Tracey Little is very welcoming and engaging to all our visitors.  The day ends with the students putting on a performance of their play in the Brig’ End theatre.  Moira and I are unable to attend but will do so when they perform in Motherwell in early November.


The Burns Howff Club Hallow’een Supper is always a great night of sangs an’ clatter.  This year is no different, Jim Brown from New Cumnock Burns Club, father of Dr Rhona Brown who spoke at Conference, is our speaker for the evening.  The programme is supplemented with in house talent.


Finally, I meet with Susi Briggs, a story teller and children’s author who has put together a story for 3-7 year olds and the illustrator, Ruthie Redden.  It is an impressive piece of work and shows a progressive approach to teaching the Scots Language to very young children.

Susi tells me her great influence in the Scots Tongue was Wilson Ogilvie, her former Headteacher, well known Burnsian and of course Past President of the RBWF.


October has been varied and interesting in many ways, not least the diversity of contacts and activities I have been involved in.