The 2020 Annual General meeting of the Robert Burns World Federation, held on Saturday the 19th of September was a historic one to say the least: for the first time in the history of the RBWF the AGM took place virtually, on the platform Zoom, due to the current Covid-19 restrictions. Much advance planning had gone in to ensure that the event ran as smoothly as possibly on the new medium and we must thank Henry Cairney, Senior Vice President for his absolutely sterling efforts in this.

Around sixty-five members had registered to attend and it was noted that members from North America and Australia, as well as a number from other parts of the UK were there in number to witness this historic event.

Despite the unfamiliar situation, the meeting followed the same format as previous AGMs with the President, Brian Goldie in the chair to call the meeting to order and welcome the members.

I was honoured to read the list of obituaries, which despite my sadness at the length of the list, I took great pride in doing. As is the tradition, the President called for a minute’s silence at the conclusion of the list.

The various committee reports, which had been previously sent out, were added to and commented upon by the various convenors, with a few questions from the members, as is the norm. The international directors from Canada, the USA and the Pacific Rim were introduced and the President gave a special welcome to John Menzies, the new Pacific Rim Director, who spoke of his plans to engage fully with other Scottish societies in the region.

Thereafter the office-bearers were confirmed by acclamation and Marc Sherland was duly installed as President of the Robert Burns World Federation for the year 2020 -2021. In a heartfelt speech Marc spoke of his plans to take the RBWF forward and spoke of his New Directions paper in which he maps out a long-term plan for the organisation. He also congratulated outgoing President Brian Goldie on the excellent and dignified job he had done, navigating the RBWF through the previously uncharted Covidian waters. The new Senior Vice President, Henry Cairney and the new Junior Vice President, Alan D Beck joined the President in taking an oath to advance the objects of the RBWF. This was an innovation for the organisation and judging by the comments received by members at the time, a very welcome one.

The convenors also took up their posts and mention was made of the welcome return of Margaretann Dougall as Conference and Events Convenor and also of Ken Dalgleish who joined the board as Treasurer (although, in line with current practice, under the title of Finance Director). Both Margaretann and Ken spoke of their delight at being involved in the organisation.

The meeting moved to AOCB and the opportunity to submit questions in advance allowed this section to move the formal part of the meeting to a swift conclusion.

After a short comfort break, the assembly was treated to a recital of songs by Glasgow Haggis Club member, Euan Russell and poems by Young Burnsian Liam Kearney. Two previously recorded videos from Holly Osborne of Glasgow Academy and Junior Burnsian Amber Fraser also delighted the members.

All in all this was a hugely successful AGM, despite the multitude of pitfalls which seemed to lie ahead, and even without the normal trappings of the weekend conference it has successfully ensured the continued smooth running of the organisation: after all, better a wee bush than nae bield!

Alan D Beck

Junior Vice President