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Burns' Night 2005 in the Pans - Poetry, Pipes and Haggis

Burns' First Night at The Prestoungrange Gothenburg

2005 was always going to be a special year for Burns' Night. It was after all the first occasion the restored Gothenburg had hosted the event; and the myriad works of Burns himself in poetry and music will for ever resonate with our Arts Festival's purpose.

But we were determined not to settle just for that ... after all we can paint fine murals, we have our own Poet Laureate, we have our Master of the Courts' Musick and many a visiting band, we have our own sponsored Pipes and Drums and we have an outstanding Chef. Put all those ingredients together and it was absolutely a Night to Remember.

[The day was heralded by a great sunrise incidentally captured below at Winton Hill Farm where the totem pole logs lie awaiting their destiny.The Farm was also weekend home to the Baron's house party shown enjoying a fine post-sunrise breakfast courtesy of Duncan Wills]

Click on all pictures to enlarge

Tam O'Shanter and More for Burns' Memorial Shelter

The celebrations truly began at the Burns' Shelter on the blustery south shore of the Firth of Forth, right opposite Prestongrange Church, to the treasured sound of Lindsay Davidson's pipes. Jim Forster recounted the early history of The Shelter which was erected to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Bard's birth in 1959 by public subscription led by both the town's Thorntree Mystic Burns Society and the Airts Burns Society. Sadly for too many recent years it has sat neglected and locked because of misuse. But as all will know it is one of the proud claims of the global murals' movement that art based on history can mitigate such challenges. Accordingly the Arts Festival had commissioned Kate Hunter to create another of her fine murals, and the crowds gathered at Coronation Gardens on the High Street to witness the official unveiling by the Baron.

On the walls within the Shelter a splendid depiction of Burns' tale of Tam O'Shanter, a tale of a tail so to speak, was there to behold. Kate Hunter talked the assembly through the poem and the 50 or more images created, including four mischievously hidden mice to test many a child's concentration in the years to come. And splendidly, East Lothian Council had arranged for the mural's permanent illumination and the repainting of the window bars - although still prefering the Shelter to remain closed except on high days and holy days.

Poet Laureate John Lindsay caps the Bard

The official unveiling of the mural was followed by the first declamation by our Poet Laureate of his widely acclaimed celebratory verses - Hokum Leeries: the Three Wise Men of Prestonpans - that echo Tam O'Shanter's theme, and reflect on the sadness of the town's unending Shelter LockOut.

Tam O' Shanter

The final verse of Tam O'Shanter has now been adopted as our Gothenburg 'Cry', warning as it does of the challenges of drink [... and of the lassies longitudinally deprived of their modesty in cutty sarks.]

Whene'er to drink you are inclined
Or cutty sarks run in your mind
Think! Ye may buy the joys o'er dear.
Remember Tam O'Shanter's mare

A multitude of the lassies were incidentally with us throughout the evening but alas not a cutty sark in sight!

Prestoungrange Pipes & Drums Lead Procession to The Gothenburg

Burns' Night proceeded now with a street procession back to the James Fewell Bar for a complimentary dram of whisky and the haggis, and this was accomplished in great style led by the newly formed, and Arts Festival sponsored, Prestoungrange Pipes and Drums, in their Prestoungrange tartans for the first time. The youngsters did extremely well and all took great pride in them. Lindsay Davidson, Master of the Musick, brought up the rear.

At 7.30 pm everyone in the James Fewell Bar made their choice. Did they intend to follow the Master of the Musick as he piped the way to the Grand Burns' Supper in the Thomas Nelson Suite or stay with James Fewell till midnight accompanied by the music and singing of Yard of Ale. A tough choice between two fine alternatives and the outcome was 50/50.

Poetry and Toasts with Thomas Nelson and the Chapmen Looking on

When chapmen billies leave the street
And droughty neebors neebors meet;
As market days are wearing late,
And folk begin to tak the gate;
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
An' getting fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles
The mosses, waters, slaps and styles
That lie between us and our home

Thus it was as Michael McVeigh's Chapman's Fair gazed down on us from the wall of the Thomas Nelson Suite the first stanza of Tam O'Shanter came readily to mind as overwhelmingly appropriate. The Selkirk Grace said, David Leckie piped in the haggis carried aloft by Chef Andrew Laurie.

The Ode to The Haggis was declaimed with gusto by Guest Speaker Dr Andrew Waddell, retired international football referee, Secretary of Preston Athletic which the Prestoungrange Gothenburg is proud to sponsor this season, and Managing Director of Towers Mains, a clinical research organisation. The haggis was reverently toasted then enthusiastically consumed. It was followed along by an excellent supper. Between courses guests were entertained with poetry from The Poet Laureate and pipe music from David Leckie and Master of the Musick, Lindsay Davidson. All this as a prelude to the evening's Burns' Lecture from Dr Andrew Waddell on the poetry, life and loves of the genius who is the Immortal Bard.

It fell to the Baron of Prestoungrange to toast the Lassies and Carmel Crummy responded graciously in Gaelic. Then to close the assembled company was led by Duncan Wills in an unaccompanied rendition of Burns' poem Auld Lang Syne.

...and so it was now time with a spring in our step

To think upon those lang Scots miles
That lay twixt us and our sure home,
To wend our way o'er slaps and styles
No single droughty neebor left undone

Published Date: January 29th 2005

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