BRIDGETON BURNS CLUB ANNUAL OUTINGOn Sunday, 29th October, thirty-three members and friends participated in the Club’s annual outing, this year to that most quintessential of Burns locations, Mossgiel Farm, where he wrote so many of his most famous poems and the bulk of his Kilmarnock edition: poems such as ‘To a Mouse’, ’The Twa Dogs’, ’The Cotter’s Saturday Night’, ’To a Louse’, ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’ and many more. The Bard was ‘Rab Mossgiel’. (His father had died and Rab was the owner and manager). Mossgiel lies between Mauchline and Tarbolton. Sadly, today, it is no longer a working farm but the Club was allowed to wander round the old outhouses which Rab would have used and to observe the adjacent field where he penned ’To a Mouse’ (see 'Favourite Quotes' below).
Before the farm visit, we visited the Burns Monument on the outskirts of Mauchline, a red sandstone tower from the top of which one has a panoramic view of ’Burns Country’. Next to the Monument sit the Jean Armour Burns Cottages, originally built by the Glasgow and District Burns Association for those of the area in need. Mossgiel farm lay half-a-mile further along the road.
From the farm, we travelled the five miles to Tarbolton where we were very well received in Lodge St. James, another quintessentially Burns venue for this was the Bard’s own Lodge of which he was once the Master. At the Lodge, we enjoyed high tea, staged our very own brand of ceilidh and enjoyed a hugely privileged visit to the (meeting) lodgeroom where we were able to view the seat and gavel used by the Bard to chair his meetings plus the many entries in the Attendance Registers in the Bard’s own handwriting. This was highly tangible living history.
The huge success of this visit was largely down to our guide, Mr John Shirkie, a Mauchline man, (member) past master and secretary of Lodge St James No 135 and a walking encyclopedia on the Bard. At the Club's Anniversary Dinner on 25th January, 2018, in the Glasgow Marriott, 650 members and guests will have the privilege of hearing John deliver the ‘Immortal Memory’.
For all Conservationists (and other human residents of this planet)
I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor earth-born companion,
An' fellow mortal!
From: 'To a Mouse'
And for managers everywhere:
But, Mousie, thou are not alone
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o' mice and men
Gang aft agley (off the rails)
An' leave us not but grief an' pain
For promised joy.
Still thou art blessed, compared wi' me;
The present only touches thee;
But Och! I backward cast my e'e
On prospects drear!
An' forward, though I canna see,
I guess - and fear!
From: 'To a Mouse'
To all who hide behind rank
The rank is but the guinea stamp.
The man's the gold for a' that.
From: 'A Man's a Man.'
Eric is a Past President of the Bridgeton Burns Club, which, with around 1,000 members, is one of the largest in the world and famous for its Schools' Competition in the East End of Glasgow. It also provides bursaries and grants for East End children studying the arts at tertiary level. The Club is currently in its 148th year, it's initials BBC, pre-dating the British Broadcasting Corporation by a very long way.
One of the great attractions of the Club is that it draws members from all walks of life in the greater Glasgow area with the sole intentions of helping the schoolchildren of the East End of the city and preserving the Burns heritage in its widest sense - good and honest company.
More details of the Club may be found on its website: www.bridgetonburnsclub.org
'Ally Shanter', my favourite party piece, which won the BBC Scotland Burns Poetry Competition, is a very faithful parody of the Burns comic masterpiece, 'Tam O'Shanter', but set in the context of Rangers and Celtic in the great City of Glasgow. I have performed this at Celtic's Parkhead Stadium but still away an invite to perform it at Ibrox, the Rangers' Stadium.
(A Youtube link to 'Ally' being performed will be added to the website in the near future.)
The words of Robert Burns have relevance today. His brilliant social satire, The Twa Dogs, is a dialogue between the wealthy laird's Labrador gun dog and the poor shepherd's working Collie. When serving in the Clyde Submarine Base, I used to pass the anti-nuclear protest camp outside the main gate and could not help imagining a conversation between the Commodore's Labrador (not mine, I had an Alsatian) and a peace-camper's Collie. The social and political gulf between the nuclear peacekeepers and the anti-nuclear protesters was just as great. (See below for my full parody of the Burns' masterpiece)
.......and their conclusion? They rejoiced, 'they were na men but dogs'.
HM Naval Base Clyde in 1998. The anti-nuclear protest camp is just off camera bottom right.
Burns’ satire 'The Twa Dogs' recounts a solemn discussion between a laird’s dog and the shepherd’s collie on the relative merits of a rich or poor lifestyle. The poem was adapted to reflect a similar discussion between two dogs at the Clyde nuclear submarine base at Faslane, one being the Commodore’s dog and the other belonging to one of the anti-nuclear protesters from the adjacent Peace Camp. This version was written and performed for a mess dinner in the Wardroom (officers’mess).
THE TWA DOGS O’ FASLANE
Twas in that place of Scotland’s Pride
That bears the name of auld COMCLYDE (1)
Upon a bonnie day in June
When wearin’ through the afternoon
Twa dogs, that werena missed frae hame
Foregathered once upon a time.
The first I’ll name, they ca’d him Caesar,
Was keepit for the Commodore’s pleasure;
His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs,
Show’d he was none o’ Scotland’s dugs,
But came frae some place far abroad
Where sailors go to fish for cod.
His locked, letter’d, braw brass collar
Shew’d him the gentleman and scholar;
But though of highest pedigree,
Nae hint of pride, nae pride had he.
But wad hae talked wi full proprieties
To a’ Heinz 57 varieties.
The other was a protester's collie,
A rhyming, ranting, Peace Camp wallie
Who for his friend and comrade had him
And in his freaks, had Luath ca’d him.
He was a rough and faithful tyke
As ever leapt a ditch or dyke
His honest, sonsie, bawsent face
Aye gat him friends in ilka place.
Nae doubt these dogs were thick thegither
And unco fond o’ one anither.
Wi social noses, sniff and snuffle
They’d watched the police and campers scuffle
Until wi’ pleasure weary grown
Upon a knowe they sat them down
And there began a long digression
About the lords of the creation.
I’ve often wondered, honest Luath
What life poor Peace Camp dogs like you have.
The Navy life is such a skive
But how do Peace Camp folk survive?
COMCLYDE gets rich remuneration
And house supplied by gratefu’ nation.
He rises when he likes himsel’
Whilst Reggies (2) give his ratings hell.
He calls his car, he calls his driver,
Another state enlisted skiver,
And at the Base he turns up late
But’s aye saluted at the gate!
From morn till e’en the chefs are toiling
At baking, roasting, frying, boiling;
And though the Wardroom (3) eat like kings,
The junior rates are well fed things.
Police alsatians, blasted bullies,
Get food that floods there mooths wi’ droolies
But what about a Camper’s diet?
I’ll vow my master wouldnae try it.
Truth, Caesar, his life is tough.
His tents and vans are truly rough
But his is a Council aided mess
Subsidised by the DSS (4)
Himsel’, and wife, he thus sustains
And now he’s even having weans!
Ye must well think, a wee touch langer
And they must starve o’ cold and hunger;
But how it comes, I never kent yet.
They’re maistly wonderfu’ contented.
Ah, hairy men and burly hussies
Are bred in such a way as this is.
But then to see how ye’re neglected,
How cuffed and kicked and disrespected.
Lord, man, COMCLYDE treats his yellow wellies
Wi’ more respect than Peace Camp smellies.
I’ve noticed on their break-in days,
And they’ve breached yon fence in many ways,
Peace Camp laddies short o’cash,
Get apprehended just like trash
And ta’en away by Strathclyde Police
And fined for breachin’ o’ the peace!
I see how folk live that hae riches;
But surely Camp folk maun be wretches.
They’re no sae wretched’s ane would think
Though constantly on breadline’s brink.
They’re sae accustomed to the fight
The Navy gi’es them little fright
An’ though fatigued wi’ unemployment
They find that rest’s a sweet enjoyment.
They lay aside their private cares
For international affairs.
They sacrifice to gain attention
For Britain’s good is their intention.
Haith, lad, ye little ken about it:
For Britain’s good! - good grief! I doubt it.
Say rather, simple fools
Used as politicians’ tools,
Manipulated for the gain
Of leaders far from squalor’s pain.
Who’d soon forget these faithful minions
To suit a shift in mass opinions.
Sheridan and Galloway,
They only turn up on the day
To get their photies in the press
Then leave you to your filthy mess.
Ha! For Peace on Earth with Trident trifle!
They’d also have to ban the rifle!
Hech man! Ten million pounds for yonder fence!
Is that what your lot call Defence?
But will you tell me, Master Caesar?
Sure Wardroom life’s a life of pleasure.
Nae cauld nor hunger e’er need stir them.
The very thought o’t needna fear them.
Lord, man, were ye whyles where I am
The Wardroom - ye wadnae envy them!
It’s true they neednae starve or sweat
Thro’ winters cauld or summer’s heat
They’ve nae rough work to craze their bones
And fill auld age wi’ gripes and groans,
But human bodies are such fools,
For a’ their colleges and schools
That, when nae real ills perplex them,
They find the stress enough to vex them.
And aye the less they have tae pain them,
In like proportion, less will hurt them.
The gentlemen, and ladies worst,
Wi’ downright want o’ work are cursed.
They loiter, lounging, lank and lazy
With duties which are pretty hazy.
Their days insipid, dull and tasteless;
Their nights unquiet, long and restless
And e’en their sports, their balls and races,
Their gadding about in public places.
There’s so much fuss, such pomp and art
The pleasures scarcely touch their heart.
The men dress up like high class dames
Then rip their clothes in daft mess games.
Ae night their mad wi’ drink and whoring
Next day their life is past enduring.
There’s some exception, man and woman,
But this is Wardroom life in common.
By this the sun was out o’sight
And darker gloaming brought the night
When they got up and shook their lugs,
Rejoiced they werena men but dugs.
And each took off his separate way
Resolved to meet some other day.
1 COMCLYDE - Comander of the Faslane nuclear submarine base
2 Reggies - Naval Regulators (i.e. police)
3 Wardroom - Officers’ Mess
4 DSS - Department of Social Security
THE GLOBE INN
The Globe Inn in Dumfries, one of Robert Burns favourite watering holes and home of the Burns Howff Club: Members of the Burns Howff Club gathered in the Globe Inn, Dumfries to celebrate St. Andrew’s Night. After dinner, the toast to 'Auld Scotia' was proposed by the principal guest, Commodore Eric Thompson MBE, RN(Rtd) from Helensburgh. In a lively and witty address, the speaker catalogued the inventiveness of Scots and the Scottish Nation and quoted widely from his own verse. Commodore Thompson illustrated his toast with musical interludes on what he referred to in naval parlance as an 'Organ, Mouth, Small' and occasionally burst into song to emphasise a point. The speaker quoted from Kipling’s view of the Scots and poked some fun at our southern neighbours by stating that St. Andrew was a historical person and a known Apostle but St. George was not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. Commodore Thompson praised some great Scotsmen of the past, citing such geniuses as James Clerk Maxwell, Alexander Fleming and countless others in the field of engineering, arts and medicine. Robert Burns himself had redefined and exported the ethos of the Scottish Nation in words, which still resounded through the centuries. The speaker received a standing ovation and was presented with a commemorative tankard by president Bill Welsh.
Note: It was in the Globe Inn that the Bard acted as a pamphlet writer for the Tory campaign team in the General Election of 1790. Entering wholeheartedly into the spirit of the campaign, he also managed to get the barmaid, Anna Park, with child, his last illegitimate bairn. His song, 'Yestreen I had a Pint O' Wine' is dedicated to her.
'Yestreen I had a pint o' wine,
A place where body saw na;
Yestreen lay on this breast o' mine.
The gowden locks of Anna.' (golden)
'The Kirk an' State may join, and tell.
To do sic things I mauna: (such, must not)
The Kirk an' State may gae to Hell,
And I'll gae to my Anna.' (go)