THE unmistakable blare of the bagpipes bounced off the walls of the Pringle Hall as the Burns Club Burns supper got under way with the time-honoured clapping of hands and Stuart Muir proudly carrying the haggis around the venue.
Pipe Major Brian Gillies hit every foot-thumping note with great precision, while club president and chairman for the evening, George MacDonald, duly stabbed the haggis with great vim and vigour.
Burns may never have visited Hawick during his all-too-short 37 years, but that this most famous of Scotsmen still holds such reverence among Teries, there’s litle doubt the ploughman poet would have been afforded the warmest of welcomes in the grey auld toon. Indeed, more than 250 years after his birth, his poetic legacy shines as bright as ever, and nowhere more so than in Hawick Burns Club.
In his toast to The Immortal Memory, Stuart Donaldson, a retired Pringle employee and a keen student of the Bard, gave a thought-provoking oratory on why Burns holds such universal acclaim while also giving an interesting potted history of his life which touched on Burns’ schooldays, his many romantic dalliances, and how he took Edinburgh’s literary scene by storm.
“He was the revolutionary poet of the people, but above all a humanitarian who cared for the people,” said Stuart.“No figure in world literature has ever written with such compassion for his fellow man. And it’s these things which perhaps go a little way to explaining the immortality of the memory of Robert Burns.”
Stuart had clearly done his homework and it showed, with diners responding with a hearty round of applause.
Greetings from Kindred Clubs were read by Burns Club secretary John Goldie, and included messages from Australia, Canada and New Zealand, as well as those from clubs up and down the UK.
John was also charged with giving the toast to Absent Friends, and, with lights dimmed, he announced the names of members who had died over the last year. The number of honest men the club had lost was smaller than usual, and the silence which befell the hall was a clear indication that they would all be keenly missed.
Burns aficionado Davie Scott, who lives in Duns but whose Hawick roots are an immense source of pride to the hugely popular mainstay of the Borders supper circuit, was invited to favour the company with the eagerly anticipated Tam o’ Shanter, and he didn’t disappoint with an impassioned and, at times, humorous rendition of what was this week voted the nation’s favourite Burns work.
Such is Davie’s command of all-things Burns, he again had the audience captivated when called on to give the toast to The Lassies – and his hilarious take on the fairer sex garnered raucous ovation.
Also among those to receive the warmest of applause were former Common-Riding chairman Ronnie Nichol, whose laugh-a-minute toast to Our Guests was crammed with side-splitting gags, while Pipe Major Gillies delighted diners with a toe-tapping medley of tunes, as did the youngsters from the Scottish Borders Pipe Band, whose efforts were rewarded with a £200 donation following a whip-round by club members.
No Burns supper would be complete without a recitation of Holy Willie’s Prayer, and dressed in period nightgown and night cap, Ian Rutherford shone on the Pringle Hall in his own inimitable fashion. Ian’s talents continue to be in great demand, and Innerleithen was his next port of call for a supper on the Saturday night.
Another vital component of a successful Burns supper is the line-up of entertainers, and president MacDonald and his committee hit the perfect note by securing the services of Scocha’s Iain Scott and Davie Chapman, as well as Graeme Tinlin and Ian ‘Hightower’ Scott.
And it was this talented quartet who brought the evening to a close, accompanied by pianist Dave Mackay, with a rousing renditon of Auld Lang Syne – once again ensuring the cup o’ kindness had overflowed at Hawick Burns Club.