Honorary Members

Sean Connery Connery letter John Galt

Since 1828, Irvine Burns Club has invited many individuals to accept Honorary Membership. Pictured above are Sean Connery (1989) and John Galt (1828). The preservation of acceptance letters over almost two centuries is remarkable for a small club and Irvine can be rightly proud of this inheritance.

Nominees must be persons eminent in the literary world, or eminent in other fields, or must have given particularly outstanding service to Irvine Burns Club. 

Honorary members are listed below by year.

Listen to Adam McNaughtan reading his acceptance 'speech'

For the letters and lives of nominees from 1828 to 1924, follow the year-group links below to the pdf documents.
The notes on early honorary members offer insights to the literary circles of the time.


1828 - Read mini-biographies 1828
John Galt
James Montgomery
Read about the Sheffield Cup
1829 - Read mini-biographies 1829
William Motherwell
William Tennant
Rev. David Landsborough
James Stirrat
Allan Cunningham
Also nominated but no extant acceptance: >William Dobie
1830 - Read mini-biographies 1830
Nine nominees without filed acceptance letters: Sir Walter Scott, John Gibson Lockhart, Prof. John Wilson ('Christopher North'), James Hogg, Hugh Ainslie, David Vedder, James Thom, Dugald Moore & James McGavin
1836 - Read mini-biography 1836 
Sir James Shaw
1837 Read mini-biographies 1837
13th Earl of Eglinton & Winton
see also: portrait & notes on portrait
other nominees, but no filed acceptance letters: John Shaw, Rev. Campbell
1838/39 Read mini-biographies 1838/39
Nominees without filed acceptance letters: Robert Chambers, William Chambers, Lord James Stuart, Alexander Rodger & Robert Gilfillan
1840 Read mini-biography 1840
Major James Glencairn Burns
1845: Mentioned: Mr Forrest, "who presented to the Club the Picture of 'The Auld Farmer and his Auld Mare Maggie'.
1846 Read mini-biographies 1846
Patrick Maxwell
Alex Smart
Thomas C Latto
1851 Read mini-biographies 1851 
William Howitt
Dr Charles Mackay
Charles Dickens
1854 Read mini-biographies 1854
W Edmondstoune Aytoun
William Makepeace Thackeray
Archibald T Boyle
Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay
Benjamin Disraeli
Alexander Smith
Bulwer Lytton
Also nominated, but without filed acceptance letters: Sir Archibald Allison, Douglas Jerrold & Richard Doyle
1863 Read mini-biographies 1863
14th Earl of Eglinton & Winton
Henry Glassford Bell
Thomas Carlyle
Alfred Tennyson
Samuel Lover
1868 Read mini-biographies 1868
Theodore Martin
Lord Ardmillan
Sir Arthur Helps
Prof. J S Blackie
David Masson
Lord Stanley
1869 Read mini-biographies 1869
Charles Kingsley
Henry Kingsley
Sir Norman Macleod
P Hately Waddell
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
General Giuseppe Garibaldi
1870 Read mini-biographies 1870
David Dunbar
Karl Blind
Robert Browning
1871 Read mini-biography 1871
William Jack
1872 Read mini-biography 1872
Edward Jenkins
1874 Read mini-biography 1874
Sir Bartle Frere
1875 Read mini-biographies 1875
James McKie
Rev. George Gilfillan
1880 Read mini-biography 1880
Sir James Salmon
1881 Read mini-biography 1881
John White
1886 Read mini-biographies 1886
Earl of Rosebery
Dr Rob. Morris
1887 Read mini-biographies 1887
Sir J Henry B Irving
Sir William Muir
Robert William Cochran-Patrick
1888 Read mini-biographies 1888
William Black
David Christie Murray
1889 Read mini-biographies 1889
Andrew Lang
Walter Besant
1890 Read mini-biographies 1890
A J Balfour (Viscount Traprain)
James A Froude
1892 Read mini-biographies 1892
J M Barrie
Thomas Hardy
Alfred Austin
1893 Read mini-biographies 1893
Leslie Stephen
Augustine Birrell
Henry Craik
John Speirs
1894 Read mini-biographies 1894
Sir Donald Matheson
Lord Roberts
John Veitch
William Morris
John Nichol
1895 Read mini-biography 1895
Samuel Rutherford Crockett
1896 Read mini-biography 1896
Alexander Longmuir
1897 Read mini-biography 1897
Lord Kelvin
1898 Read mini-biographies 1898
Hall Caine
Lord Wolseley
1899 Read mini-biographies 1899
Sir Alexander C Mackenzie
Sir Archibald Hunter
Rev. Alfred Ainger
Lord Balfour of Burleigh
1900 Read mini-biographies 1900
Francis C Burnand
The Marquis of Dufferin & Ava
Rudyard Kipling
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
1901 Read mini-biographies 1901
John Tenniel
7th Earl of Hopetoun
1902 Read mini-biography 1902
Lord Milner
1904 Read mini-biography 1904
Andrew Carnegie
1906 Read mini-biography 1906
Henry Campbell-Bannerman
1907 Read mini-biographies 1907
Lord Young
James Bryce
Lord Loreburn
1908 Read mini-biographies 1908
Theodore Roosevelt
Earl of Cromer
George Bernard Shaw
1909 Read mini-biography 1909
Sir Donald McAlister
1910 Read mini-biography 1910
Sir George B S Douglas
1911 Read mini-biography 1911
Sir Herbert Maxwell of Monreith
1912 Read mini-biography 1912
Lord Haldane
1913 Read mini-biography 1913
D T Holmes
1914 Read mini-biography 1914
Robert Bridges
1918 Read mini-biography 1918
Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig
1919 Read mini-biographies 1919
Admiral Sir David Beatty
David Lloyd George
Woodrow Wilson
Marshal Foch


1920 Read mini-biographies 1920
Andrew Fisher
Prof. Robert S Rait
1921 Read mini-biographies 1921
Andrew Bonar Law
Sir Andrew Duncan
1922 Read mini-biographies 1922
Duncan McNaught
Robert Bruce Mantell
Sir David Paulin
1923 Read mini-biographies 1923
Viscount Younger
Dr W A Craigie
Col. John Buchan
1924 Read mini-biographies 1924
Sir Frederick Macmillan
Dr J Pittendrigh Macgillivray
1925 Read more
Sir Robert Bruce
Prof. Alexander Mair
1926 Read mini-biographies 1926
R F Longmuir
Provost R M Hogg
Lord Stonehaven
J M Bulloch
1927 Read mini-biographies 1927
Stanley Baldwin
Sir James Crichton Browne
1928 Read mini-biographies 1928
Lord Irwin
Col. Walter Scott - his 1932 donation
1930 Read mini-biographies 1930
Sir Oliver Lodge
Jan Smuts
1931 Read mini-biographies 1931
John Masefield
James Brown
1932 Read mini-biographies 1932
Rev. Henry Ranken
Harry Lumsden
1935 Read mini-biographies 1935
Lord Macmillan
1936 Read more
Prof. Adolphus A Jack
Sir Harry McGowan
1937 Read more
Prof. Robert Dewar
1938 Read more
Neville Chamberlain
Harry Lauder
1939 Read more
John White
Frederick Niven
1940 Read more
Edward Raczynski
1941 Read more
John N Hall
1946 Read more
Field Marshal Montgomery
Thomas Johnston
Winston Churchill
1947 Read more
Dwight D Eisenhower
1948 Read more
James Bridie
James Barr
1949 Read more
Ian Whyte
1950 Read more
Alexander B McDonald
Lord John Boyd Orr
1951 Read more
Sir Hector Hetherington
1952 Read more
Prof. David Daiches
The Duke of Edinburgh
1953 Read more
Sir Alexander Fleming
Sir James Ferguson
Col Bernard Ferguson
1954 Read more
Sir John Hunt
1955 Read more
Dr Roger Bannister
Lord Bilsland
1956 Read more
Anthony Eden
Douglas Bader
1957 Read more
17th Earl of Eglinton
Earl Mountbatten of Burma
1958 Read more
Sir Compton Mackenzie
Lord Strathclyde
Harold Macmillan
1959 Read more
Lord Cameron
William Phillips
Lord Douglas of Kirtleside
Sir Vivian E Fuchs
Norval Murray
1960 Read more
Samuil Marshak
Margaret M Hogg
John Grierson
Albert Schweitzer
1961 Commander Sir Stephen King Hall
Tom J Honeyman
1962 Read more
A Bernard Lovell
Prof J De Lancey Ferguson
1963 Read more
Christopher Murray Grieve
('Hugh MacDiarmid')
W D Cocker
1964 Read more
Sir Alexander Gibson
William Ross
1965 Read more
Sir Alex Douglas-Home
Harold Wilson
1966 Read more+
Duncan Macrae
Maurice Lindsay
Rev James R Dow
1967 Read more
Thomas W Dalgleish
Frederick C Sillar
Clement Wilson
see also: Wilson Room page
Edward Odling

see also: Murals page
Yehudi Menuhin
1968 Read more
Sir Francis Chichester
Sir Thomas Moore
1969 Read more
Prof. William Barclay
James Kinsley
1970 Read more
Lord Reith of Stonehaven
1971 Read more
Lord Macleod of Fuinary
James MacPhail
Rt Hon William Ross
1972 Read more
Rev. Alex Macara
Edward Heath
Lord Dalkeith
Herr Willy Brandt
1974 Read more
Read more
Winifred Ewing
Wendy Wood
1975 Read more
David Murison
Alex. MacMillan
1976 Read more
Nigel Tranter
Prof. Ian A Gordon
G Ross Roy
Dr Robert B Taylor
1977 Read more
Sir John Betjeman
Jane Burgoyne
James Callaghan
Maurice Roeves
Professor Toshio Namba
Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani
Henry A Kissinger
1978 Read more
Andrew Hood
1979 Read more
Prof. Christiaan N Barnard
Ian Douglas Smith
Don Whyte

1980 to the present day

1980 Read more
Yvonne Helen Stevenson
Mohamed Anwar El Sadat
Margaret Thatcher
1981 Read more
Harald R Leslie, Lord Birsay
Jack Nicklaus
J C Stormonth Darling
1982 Read more
William Lockhart
1983 Read more
Johnny Beattie
1984 Read more
William Golding
R L C Lorime
1985 Read more
John Prebble
'Manny' Shinwell
1986 Read more
George Mackay Brown
1987 Read more
Jack Webster
Ted Hughes
1988 Read more
Naomi Mitchison
1989 Read more
Hamish MacInnes
James Loughran
Samuel K Gaw
Sir Sean Connery
1990 Read more
Kenneth McKellar
William McIlvanney
1991 Read more
Bill McLaren
1993 Read more
John Major
Terry Waite
1994 Read more
David Smith
1995 Read more
Iain Crichton Smith
Douglas Fairbanks Jr
1996 Read more
Tony Harrison
Prof. Tom Sutherland
Sir A W ('Sandy') Macara
1997 Read more
John Inglis
Earl of Elgin & Kincardine
1998 Read more
Jackie Stewart
Dr Anne Lorne Gillies
Rt Hon Tony Blair
1999 Read more
Sir Jimmy Shand
John Mason
2000 Read more
Donald Dewar
Andrew Motion
Seamus Heaney
Arnold Palmer
2001 Read more
Jim Telfer
Michael Martin
J J Caldwell
2002 Read more
Tony Benn
Henry McLeish
Craig Brown
Eric Caldow
2003 Read more
Rhona Martin & Olympic Curling Team
Adam McNaughtan
David Steel
2004 Read more
Willie Young
Jack McConnell
2005 Read more
Robert Fisk
2006 Read more
Ian Rankin
2007 Read more
William Cowan
Michael Marra
George MacDonald Fraser
2008 Read more
James Wilson, OBE
Phil Cunningham, MBE
Rt Hon Gordon Brown
Rt Hon Alex Salmond
2009 Read more
Andrew O'Hagan
Janet Elsie-May Coom
Nov.: (at the Homecoming Finale)
Giovanni Benedetti
Nicola Benedetti
Nicola Sturgeon
Baroness Ford of Cunninghame
Eddi Reader
Janice Galloway
Sir Tom McKillop
Viscount Weir
Graeme Obree
2010 Read more
Tim Smit
Sir Christopher Hoy
Carol Ann Duffy
2011 Read more
John McCormick
Jimmie Macgregor
Jim Butler
2012 Read more
Rt Hon David Cameron
Prof. Tom Devine
Bobby Lennox MBE
Cardinal Keith O'Brien
2013 Read more
Alastair McHarg
Sir Drummond Bone
2014 Read more
Prof. David Purdie
Anne Gaw
Prof. Nigel Leask
Rev. Lorna Hood
2015 Read more
Michael Murray
Prof. John R Hume
2016 Read more
Alex F Gilroy
Brian Cox
Brian Taylor
2017 Read more
Prof. Gerard Carruthers
Dr Ian Green
2018 Read more
Rab Affleck
Margaret S Cook
Annie Lennox, OBE
Prof. Liam McIlvanney
Prof. Sir Geoff Palmer
2019 Read more
Ian Campbell
Kirsteen McCue
W A ('Bill') Nolan
2020 Read more
Provost Ian Clarkson
Dr Joseph Morrow
Sir Boyd Tunnock

Prof. Murray Pittock
Rose Reilly, MBE,
Kirsty Wark,
Ian J Dickson

Research into the Honorary Members letters was begun by Past President Jack Lovie in about 1990 - reading and transcribing them, and cross-checking nominations recorded in past minute books against the letters held by the Club - he found that "although it was fascinating, it was also very time consuming". In 1998, Past President Ian Dickson continued the task, creating, for each honorary member, a record, held on the website, of the date, the nominee's life and works, the text of the acceptance letter, and additional notes where required to explain references in the acceptance or any special circumstances prompting the nomination. Only one word in all the 19th century letters eludes decipherability! Most of the potted biographies have been written. Irvine Burns Club invites you to dip into the roll of Honorary Members and have as much pleasure reading about them as those two Past Presidents had in researching them.

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