Dumfries Burns Howff Club Mark 128th Anniversary

President William Johnston welcomed members to the 128th anniversary dinner of the Burns Howff club held in the Globe Inn, Dumfries on Wednesday, January 25.

The atmosphere in the Globe enjoys a matchless gift and following grace by honorary president, Dan Cook, Howffers were rewarded when Callum Watson piped in the haggis, which was enthusiastically addressed by the president.

Songs throughout the evening from John Caskie and John Young with occasional support of the assemblage were heartily applauded as was the expressive musical selection from James Coutts, accordionist and Roddy Matthews, fiddler.

A highlight of the dinner for many Howffers is when secretary David Smith announces the greetings the club has received from Burns’ societies around the world. This year showed no diminution of good wishes. These salutations leave little doubt about how highly regarded and prestigious in stature the Dumfries Howff club is venerated.

The significant part of the evening, The Immortal Memory, was given by Dave Scott. A native of Duns. A big moment for him came in 2010 when he won the Tam O’ Shanter World Championship held in the Globe Inn. And more recently he gave an inspiring toast to Auld Scotia at the Howff’s St Andrew’s Night.

His witty warm-up was coloured with the language of the Borders tongue but Scott swiftly distanced himself from the amusing comic when he touched on the humanitarian words that Burns wrote and which sadly are still relevant today. Much of his toast was centred around the poem “A Man’s A Man” and despite his slipping into the patois of Duns the message he delivered was none the less diluted when he pleaded like Burns that peace and harmony should triumph in our troubled world.

The first recitation “The Holy Fair”, a satirical poem written by Burns in 1785 was delivered by Bobby Jess. This 27-verse tale reveals the characters present at the annual religious festival in Mauchline. The main thrust of this gathering was to prepare the righteous for communion and as Jess sauntered and galloped through this tale he captured with brilliant impression the hypocrisy and pretence of the characters.

Howffer Brian Taylor is best known as the BBC’s political editor, regularly appearing on television news with his reports from Holyrood. He is a respected speaker on Scottish politics but with his focus on a toast to The Lassies, O’ would it be possible to ignore the ladies that perform in the Scottish parliament’s debating chamber?

Political rectitude did prevail and rather than illuminating on any indelicacies of Holyrood, Taylor focused on the words that Burns had written about women and some of the relationships he had. He especially concentrated on the language of the love letters that passed between Burns (Sylvander) and Nancy McLehose (Clarinda).

Further songs and community singing preceded past-president Jim McCambley’s narration of Willie Wastle. The hapless Willie had the ugliest, inelegant, vulgar and uncouth wife imaginable and as McCambley skipped through the verses he revealed the nimble wit of Burns in a most descriptive language that sadly has now died out.

The evening drew to a close with junior vice-president Bill Graham giving the club’s appreciation to the artistes and immediate past-president Callum Watson thanking the chairman for his skilful handling of the anniversary dinner. There followed a boisterous performance of Auld Lang Syne and as Howffers departed in different directions from the Globe Inn’s close they had been given many thought-provoking observations on which to ruminate.

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