by declaration at Milne's Inn - read more
< 2 June 1826
by declaration at Milne's Inn - read more
25 January 1926 >
< January 1971
8-min film of the 1971 Annual Celebration, with R Clement Wilson as President in the Caledonian Hall - click to view
January 2003 >
Scenes from the 2003 Annual Celebration (in the Volunteer Rooms), plus Ian Duncan making haggis, as televised in a food programme for the Chinese community across Europe - click to view
The Club is indebted to John N Hall (grandson of 1926 President John N Hall, 1876-1944) for the donation of his family's copy of the Centenary Book. John's father was Robert (1902-1990). John himself was born in 1926, lived most of his early life in Irvine until joining the Navy in 1944, and emigrated in 1951 to Canada.
(Some bold highlighting has been added in this web version)
I R V I N E B U R N S C L U B
Memorial Tablet Placed on Poet's Lodging House
Afternoon Reception in Town Hall
. . . and . . .
Hundredth Anniversary Dinner
AN EPOCH-MAKING OCCASION
The Ceremony at Burns' Lodging
The Reception (in the Town Hall)
The Centenary Dinner
(Immortal Memory, Bonnie Jean, Business, Centenary Toast, Later Toasts)
Club Officials 1826-1926
(account accompanied by a photo of Mr John N Hall, President, 1926)
One hundred years ago a dozen of Irvine's most influential men of the time, some of them intimate personal friends of the poet, founded the Irvine Burns Club. Their names were Dr Mackenzie (first Chairman); David Sillar, the poet's "Dainty Davie" (Croupier); Maxwell Dick; John Peebles, William Shields, James Johnston (Town Clerk), John Orr, Dr. Fletcher, William Gillies, Robert Wyllie, P. Blair and James Allan. The club they commenced has had an honourable history down the intervening years, successive generations of Irvineites vieing with the founders in keeping green the memory of Scotia's bard. There may be a few clubs which can claim greater antiquity, but Irvine Club's existence has been unbroken through a century and in this respect it, stands almost unique. The club was formed on June 2nd, 1826, and the first annual celebration took place on January 25th, 1827, in the Crown Inn; then occupied by Mr Milne. Dr. Mackenzie, the first Chairman was a lifelong friend of Burns. He it was who first brought the poet and his poems to the notice of Professor Dugald Stewart, one the foremost literary men of his day. There were others in the town who proved real friends to Burns, both during, and after, his few months in Irvine, and there seems good cause for the pride Irvineites take in their connection with the poet and his short stay in the town. The Burns Club possesses some almost priceless relics in the shape of manuscripts, and these are greatly treasured. It was singularly fitting therefore that the “Centenary” of the Club should be recognised in an appropriate manner and the Club are to be congratulated on the thorough manner they went about the business of making the hundredth celebration a memorable one. It was a happy thought to ask the ladies to take part in the celebrations, and as it was desirable that something should be done to mark the house in which Burns lodged when in Irvine it was singularly appropriate that one part of the day's proceedings should be the placing of a commemorative tablet on the wall of the house in Glasgow Vennel so that visitors, as well as the townspeople, should be reminded of Burns' connection with the town. The tablet, it should be added, was the gift of the President, Mr John N. Hall.
Ceremony at Burns' Lodging
Unveiling of Tablet Presented by the President
The day's proceedings opened with the unveiling of the tablet on the front wall of the Burns' Lodging House in Glasgow Vennel, and this ceremony was a happy augury for what was to follow. There was a great crowd in the street to see the unveiling ceremony which commenced with the school children singing "There was a Lad was Born in Kyle".
The President said - This ceremony marks the consummation of a long cherished desire in the hearts of all lovers of Robert Burns in the Royal and Ancient Burgh, and it is fitting that it should take place on the day on which the Irvine Burns Club celebrates its Centenary. We stand to-day on historic ground, for within the compass of our vision that man of all men most noteworthy passed the brief span of his sojourn in Irvine, and whilst wrestling with a fate, which eventually overpowered him, in the solitude of his soul, great thoughts were bestirring, which burst into poetry and song of richest and rarest beauty and grace. Irvine has cause to congratulate herself, as few towns have, when she recounts the eminent men in all the arts who claim connection with the Burgh. It is just in the order of things that Burns himself should have dwelt amongst us for a little - that he should have walked our streets and rubbed shoulders with our forebears, gleaning I doubt not some thoughts from the coterie of elect souls in literature and art, which he afterwards moulded into verse, and for all time became the expression of the people, towards what is right and generous, and condemning everything which savours of meanness and deceit. Burns came here in the autumn of 1781 to take up the industry of Flax Dressing, for which industry Irvine was noted. To this house he came as a young man of 22 years, and in that building, flax dressing was carried on. The result of his stay and his adventure in industry are written large in the life story of the poet, and I doubt not, but most of you are acquainted with that most interesting and somewhat exciting period of his life, which will be recounted by Provost Hogg in a manner fitted to the theme, but this I must say whether or not disappointment and despair cast their bonds upon him here, one wonders whether but for the advice of Richard Brown a native of Irvine - Burns would have published his poems and remained in Scotland, or passed out of the land of his birth to leave the muse behind and become part of the unknown pilgrims of the West. Think of what might have been had not Richard Brown foregathered in this very street. and from this house set out with Robert Burns to Eglinton Woods, nearby - to listen with delight to those fascinating verses of matchless beauty and glowing rapture, as they fell from the lips of that "wistful exile from some country of the soul". Although almost a century and a half have gone we can visualise, can we not, those two men - the one from the sea, and the other from the soil, rollicking along with many a guffaw from this doorway while in the pocket of the ploughman there lay treasures of richest worth and in his mind such ennobling thoughts as by his -
"Craftsman's art / and music's measure / for our pleasure, / all combine."
and which now gleam in glowing language unto earth's remotest bounds. What we have done to day will mark for posterity our humble recognition of this mighty man-of-thoughts stay amongst our forebears, and in years to come will proclaim to our children's children that he who now lives enshrined in the heart of all the world in imperishable glory, dwelt in this place which his genius has enhanced and encircled with an interest which will abide, as in spirit he emerges from his lodging place to join company with the "Wayfarers of the world" in their fight for freedom, love and right. [Applause.]
Thereafter, Mrs Hall unveiled the tablet amidst applause. The inscription reads:-
Robert Burns lodged here 1781-82. Irvine Burns Club, 25th January, 1926.
Col. Moore said he was very happy to be there and to be allowed to join in unveiling that memorial to their national bard. He called for a hearty vote of thanks for Mrs Hall for so gracefully performing the unveiling ceremony, and this was very heartily accorded.
(account accompanied by a photo of Provost R M Hogg, Secretary)
The company completely filled the Town Hall where the President again took the chair. After an examination of the various manuscripts and other relics of the poet which were on exhibition, a cup of tea was served to the ladies and gentlemen present.
Mr Hall said - I would like to refer to a matter of deep regret in having to tender apologies for Professor Mair's absence from our most interesting meeting of to-day. For months past the pleasure of being here has been a constant delight to him, but, alas, serious Illness intervened and precluded absolutely the possibility of fulfilling his promise. The best wishes of all members of the Irvine Burns Club go out to Professor Mair, and we hope that at some time not far distant we will have the great joy of listening to him who adorns his office greatly and wears his honours lightly as a flower. (Applause.)
In introducing Provost Hogg, Mr Hall said the opportunity was not very often given to one to express in public the goodwill and regard one had for a friend. That day, however, he desired to convey, not only his own, but the deep indebtedness of the Irvine Burns Club to Provost Hogg for his great kindness in undertaking the duty which he so readily assented to. (Applause.) Time would fail him to recount the many activities of Provost Hogg and the amount of work which he so admirably carried through for the Club, but let him say that he was "a man after Burns' own heart," and his humble mindedness but reflected the depth of his learning and his intimate association with the life and the works of the poet. (Applause.) It was singularly fitting, he thought, that Provost Hogg should be with them that day, and without further preamble he would ask him to address them on what must ever be a subject of unfailing interest to everyone within the burgh and for many miles around. (Applause.)
Provost Hogg, in the course of an address on "Burns and Irvine," said he was afraid he would prove a poor substitute for Professor Mair whose absence that day they very much regretted. The connection of Burns with the west began when his father William Burns, along with his brother Robert, sometime after the 45 rebellion came west seeking work, and one of them, Robert, found work in the upper part of the parish of Dreghorn. William found occupation as a gardener in the parish of Dundonald; and as shewing the times in which he lived the Parish Minister of Dundonald told them he brought with him a certificate from Kincardine, not only of good character but showing also that he was not likely to become a burden on the parish and that he had not taken part in the recent wicked rebellion. Burns' connection with the west was even more intimate, because at Fairlie, near Old Rome, there resided Mrs Allan and her sister. Wm. Burns met the sister who afterwards became his wife. The Allans were a notable family in respect that one of them became the founder of the Allan Line and it might: be of interest to Irvine men to know that their first ship "The Jean" was built in the old shipyard at Irvine, on the site occupied now by the Ayrshire Dockyard Company, Ltd. So that Burns had relations in Dundonald and a half brother of his mother's resided in the Glasgow Vennel where they had had such an interesting ceremony that afternoon. In the summer of 1781 Burns came to Irvine to learn flax dressing, or what was popularly called at the time "Heckling". He struck up a partnership with his friend Peacock and they were also told that the Provost of Irvine, Provost Cumming, was interested in the business. At that time flax was grown at. nearly every farm in the district and the market at Irvine, on the third Monday of every August was one of the largest in the West of Scotland. At that time the government in a manner subsidised the linen industry and flax-growing and they had a record that Robert Burns gained a prize for the saving of flax seed. There was a bounty for every yard of linen manufactured and it was probably in regard to this that Burns called his partner Peacock a scoundrel of the first water. The possible explanation of that was that Burns discovered that Peacock obtained a grant to which he was not entitled. This experiment of Burns ended badly, for on Hogmanay, while bringing in the new year the shop was burned to the ground, and Burns was left like a true poet, without a sixpence, He remained in Irvine for some time after, possibly until the month of April and then returned to Lochlea. In coming to Irvine, Burns made very good friends, and it was Irvine men who guaranteed the whole cost of the first edition of his poems. That was something that they in Irvine ought to be proud of. Again It was Richard Brown who first imbued him with the idea of authorship, and for that reason alone Burns gained by coming to Irvine. So far as Irvine was concerned he would almost go the length of saying that if Burns had not come to Irvine he did not think he would ever have been Scotland's greatest poet. Biographer after biographer had been at pains to explain that Burns went to the bad after coming to Irvine. He held that instead of meeting with evil influence in Irvine the reverse was the case. In the first place he was introduced to a poet whom he never heard of before, and that was Robert Fergusson, the poet-laureate of "Auld Reekie." All his poetry was in the vernacular, which was then in danger of falling into disuse owing to the fact that in Edinburgh at that time it was not considered polite to use the doric. They had Professors of elocution up from London to teach them the English language and it was considered a disgraceful thing for any person of education to speak the doric. Fergusson revived the doric to some extent, and coming in contact with Fergusson kindled Burns' torch, and while the results of Fergusson's work and Burns' bear no comparison, yet Burns himself was the first, to acknowledge the great debt of gratitude he owed to Fergusson. When in Edinburgh on that triumphant visit prior to the publication of his second edition, the first thing he did was to go to Canongate Churchyard, kneel down and kiss the grimy turf where Fergusson was buried. He also applied to Magistrates of Edinburgh for permission to erect a monument to Fergusson, which cost him something like £6. In Irvine Burns also met with other good friends. The Provost of Irvine at that time - Provost Hamilton - who resided at the Porthead, invited Burns to his house and gave him every encouragement he possibly could. Provost Hamilton's son along with the Earl of Eglinton of that time became guarantors for the printing of the first Edition. After referring to David Sillar's connection with Burns, the Provost went on to deal with Burns' church life, and mentioned that the poet was admitted a communicant of the Parish Church of Irvine in 1781. [Applause.] Another Irvine association with Burns was that the poet's brother, Gilbert Burns, married Jean Breckenridge, who was a daughter of a schoolmaster in Irvine, and it was interesting to state that their President had to read that evening a letter received from one Agnes Burns, a daughter of Dr Thomas Burns, a son of Gilbert Burns. The lady was resident in New Zealand. Dr Thomas Burns was minister in Monkton and at the disruption in 1843 came out with the dissenters. Previous to that there had been some attempt at settlement in New Zealand, and being interested in the scheme by Norman MacLeod, and being a man of practical business ability he went out with a good number of others to that colony. It was interesting to know that he was educated at the Grammar School, or the Academy, at Annan, and amongst his school companions there was Thomas Carlyle. Another connection was that the landlord of the King's Arms Hotel in 1826 was Samuel Dunlop, who was mentioned in some of his poems by Daintie Davie. His wife was one of the Ronalds of Bennal about whom Burns wrote the well-known poem. The Provost then referred to the manuscripts of Burns, which were in the possession of the Burns Club, and shewn on the table that afternoon, and stated that these were printers' copies of the first edition published in 1786, and that they had come into the possession of the club through the Rev. Alexander Campbell, Burgher minister of Irvine. They came into the possession of his wife through one Robinson, a cousin of Gavin Hamilton. They had remained in the possession of the club ever since, and he hoped they would always remain in their possession. [Applause.] There was also on the table one or two instruments used in heckling which were rescued from the fire in Glasgow Vennel by Provost Cumming and had lain at Milgarholm for almost half a century stored in an attic there. They had been secured and presented to the Club by Mr James Hogg. In conclusion Provost Hogg referred in thankful terms to the gift to the club of a complete set of first editions of John Galt, by Mr Arnold McJannet, and he made appropriate reference to the connection between the McJannet family and the Burns Club, pointing out that Mr McJannet's grandfather joined the club only two years after its beginning. (Applause). He was one of the most enthusiastic members of the Club, and was related to David McCleerie landlord of Lochlea, who treated the Burns family generously till the failure of the Ayr Bank compelled him to sue Burns' father for several years' rent. William McJannet presided at a meeting of the club when two of Burns’ sons were entertained by the club. They were then on a visit to Major Tod of the Cottage, who had served with them in India for many years. (Applause.)
In making reference to "The Donors," Mr Hall said – It is with pleasure we recall that our Club was founded by intimate friends of Burns, some of whom are still represented in the Club to-day. Throughout the years many well-wishers have shewn their interest in the Club, by various gifts bestowed, and we have still friends imbued with the spirit of good-will amongst us who have again made us their debtors by gifting the following articles to the Club, which will be handed down as priceless possessions on account of their association with Burns and Galt:-
Mr Arnold F. McJannet, Woodburn, Irvine - 64 First Editions of John Galt's Works.
Mr William Ross, Kyle Terrace, Irvine - Engraving of Burns' Monument at Ayr. (By Maxwell Dick.)
Provost Hogg - Mallets made from Oak Pillars from "Auld Brig O' Ayr."
Mr H. Lumsden, Castle Grange, Irvine - Die for Printing Block of the Poet Burns.
Miss MacMillan, Parklea, Irvine - Bible belonging to Janet Galt, Aunt of John Galt the Novelist. She was Miss MacMillan's Great-Grandmother.
It is interesting to recall that Miss MacMillan is a cousin of John Spiers, Glasgow, who gifted Burns' Monument to Irvine. She is descended also from the same branch as Daniel and Alexr. MacMillan of Irvine, who founded the famous firm of MacMillan, Publishers, London. To each we would unite in grateful thanks, and we would assure them that their kindness will be recalled when in days far hence our successors handle with pride these valuable possessions with some connection to the greatest men who walked our streets. [Applause].
Mr P. S. Clark, ex-President of the Burns Club proposed a vote of thanks to Provost Hogg, and in making reference to Burns' early biographers said Richard Brown, Burn’s Irvine sailor friend, a few years afterwards became the skipper of one of the fastest vessels sailing from Liverpool, so that after all there could not be so much wrong with him as some of the poet's biographers would like them to believe. [Applause.]
Sir Andrew Duncan in proposing a vote of thanks to those who had entertained them that afternoon, as well as to the Chairman, mentioned that Mr Hall had gifted the tablet, they had seen unveiled in Glasgow Vennel that afternoon. [Applause.] It was a wonder no-one had thought of it before, but he was glad Mr Hall had thought of it. Now when everyone was passing through the Glasgow Vennel they would see just precisely where it was that Robert Burns lodged when in Irvine. [Applause.] He humorously remarked, when speaking of the school choir, that in his school days Mr McPhail had reported him to his headmaster, Mr Mitchell, as much more likely to make progress in arithmetic than in music. [Laughter.]
Songs were pleasantly rendered by Miss Scobie and Mr McNeill Reid, Mrs Moffat playing the accompaniments; while Mr George McKelvie gave a fine rendering of Tam O' Shanter.
The Centenary Dinner
(report accompanied by a photo of Sir Andrew Duncan, M.A., LL.B., Vice-President, 1926)
It is safe to say that never in the course of its hundred years’ existence has Irvine Burns Club excelled Monday, 25th January, 1926. As it was the centenary celebration of the Club that was just as it should be, and the occasion was a memorable one. Some of the speeches will long live in the memory of those privileged to hear them and as a whole the speechmaking was of a very high class. The company present broke all records, a hundred and fifty persons sitting down to dinner in the King’s Arms Hall which was looking its best.
After grace had been said by Rev. Samuel MacNab, the new minister of Relief Church, Mr Watson and his staff served up an excellent dinner. A feature was the playing in of the haggis by Piper Dan Masson, the piper being followed in processional order by the waiters carrying the haggis.
Dinner done justice to, the Chairman (Mr John N Hall) proposed the toast of “The King”, which was followed by “The Imperial Forces”, proposed by the Croupier (Sir Andrew Duncan), and acknowledged by Colonel D M Wilkie, which gave a fine send-off to the evening’s speechmaking.
"The Immortal Memory"
(opening and closing paragraphs; the book contains the full text)
The President in submitting “The Immortal Memory” said – The toast, which is at once my pleasure and pride to propose for your acceptance to-night comes with a certain wistfulness and peculiar feeling. Down through the century predecessors of ours in this historic chair have with leal love, and loyalty culled from the innermost recesses of our hearts and minds, feelings of joyous remembrance as they pledged with us “The Immortal memory of Robert Burns”. Generations come and go, but Burns abides pavilioned in the secret places of the soul, and the passing years have but added to the unique position which he holds in the affection of the people.
. . .
We salute the glorious army of those great souls who live again in lives made nobler by their words and works. In spirit, we can visualise this host of the elect in thought and imagination. Amongst those who form this immortal galaxy, there is one clad in rustic garb, whose deep-set eyes gleam like shivering torches, and whose soul is on fire with unquenchable hope that brotherhood, democracy, liberty, laughter and song, should not depart from the earth but progress triumphantly. We behold him as one who journeying through the darkness bears a light behind that profits not himself but makes his followers wise. To this man who now belongs to the ages, we would raise a cenotaph of deathless fame, and with our kindred from the north and the south and the east and the west, pay the homage of our heart, as we pledge in the unforgetting silence of our soul – “The Immortal Memory of Robert Burns”.
(opening and closing paragraphs; the book contains the full text)
Sir Andrew Duncan, after congratulating the President on the excellent oration it had just been their privilege to listen to, proceeded with the toast of “Bonnie Jean”. He said – Besides perpetuating the memory of our great national bard, we honour with affection and enthusiasm the memory also of Bonnie Jean, who, as he puts it, shared with him the “Warld’s wrack and the warstle and care o’t.” Marriage always has its hazards; but as the mother remarked on learning that her son was lying in an Eastern prison chained to a fellow prisoner of war “God help the man who is chained to our Davie”, so may we say God help the woman who is chained to a genius.
. . .
If Burns and Bonnie Jean were denied the joy of going down the brae of life together, we of this club will, I trust, for the next hundred years, as for the past, go on doing our part to see that in travelling the longer road of history and remembrance they shall be inseparably linked.
(report accompanied by a photo of Mr Robert F Longmuir, Treasurer)
Provost Hogg, as Hon. Secretary of the Club, then submitted the annual business statement. He said that in the first place he had to state that the membership of the Club was now some 250 members. They had added to the roll this year 26 new members, and amongst that number they were proud to have Lt-Col Moore, their respected MP for Ayr Burghs. As to the financial side of the Club it never was in a more prosperous condition, but when they remembered the type of man they had as Hon. Treasurer, they would not be surprised at that. The usual fraternal greeting to the other clubs had been sent out, and this year’s was the original composition of the President. The Provost then read several of the greetings from other clubs, over 100 of which had been received; amongst these was one from Peterhead Club which claimed to be celebrating its centenary that evening. He had had a look over their minutes which showed that the meetings of the Club did not start till 1838. The folks in Peterhead, however, were very ingenious folks [A voice – That is why they are there.] [Laughter] They stated that some of the founders had met privately 12 years earlier. [Laughter]
[The report continues with:
the text of the congratulations from the Burns Federation on the occasion of the Club’s centenary celebrations,
the text of a letter from a grand niece of the Poet, Agnes Burns (dated Dunedin, New Zealand, 2nd September 1925), sent to the President - she was a grand-daughter of Gilbert Burns, and a daughter of Dr Thomas Burns, the Minister of Monkton and Prestwick before going to Otago,
the nomination of 4 new honorary members: Lord Stonehaven, Governor General of Australia, Mr Charles Murray, author of “Hamewith”, and the Hon. Secretary (Provost Hogg) and Hon. Treasurer (Mr R F Longmuir) of the Club,
and ended as follows:]
The children’s competition in knowledge of Burns’ life and works was carried out during the past summer as usual in a very successful manner, and the Club had at this time again voted £5 for prizes for competition during the present year. (Applause.)
The New President
In proposing Sir Andrew Duncan as his successor in the Presidency, Mr Hall said – Since our last celebration when I had the pleasure of heart in nominating as my successor in the Vice-President’s Chair, one who is held in much esteem by every member, honours of State have been falling on my friend Sir Andrew Duncan, with lavish hand. We welcome him to our midst to-night fresh from his important mission to our brethren in that wonderful land of vast resources, and we trust that his efforts to bring together all parties concerned in one of the greatest industries of Canada, will have an abundant reward.
. . .
Sir Andrew Duncan, in a very graceful speech, accepted the position of President, and nominated Mr Samuel Turnbull, and old Irvine boy, who is now a prominent figure in the shipbuilding circles in the Greenock district, as his successor in the Vice-Presidency of the Club.
Both of these nominations were adopted with great enthusiasm.
The Centenary Toast
In giving the "Centenary Toast" the President said - To-night, gentlemen,
. . .
We are the proud inheritors of what must be the best inheritance in all the land. Here Burns lived, and moved, and wrote! . . . To members, the torch of remembrance has been given . . . and we will pass it on to those who follow in our steps in the hope that the next 100 years will find our Club going on from glory to glory, active exponents of the best ideals which Burns so nobly expounded in his matchless verse. It is a happy circumstance which enables me to couple this toast with the name of one who has added renown to the Club and honour to himself. Mr Lumsden is held in high esteem by old and young, not only for the kindly deeds so quietly done to help another up the ladder of fame, but also for the brilliant mind and charming manner which he brings to bear on everything he undertakes. We rejoice that we can call him one of ourselves, and in asking you to pledge with me the "Centenary Toast" - our noble selves - we toast with it the name of Mr Lumsden. (Applause.)
Mr Lumsden's Fine Reply
[extracts; the book contains the full text]
Mr Lumsden, in responding, took upon himself the role of a Centenarian. He said:- I must needs confess I am a very poor substitute for our distinguished townsman, Professor Mair, whose absence from our meeting tonight we all regret very deeply. . . You must assume that I am somewhere about 125 years old. . . However much my natural force is abated, you must take it that I can recall the men who first conceived the idea of meeting on a certain birthday to pass a social evening with feasting. . . [he then at length, and in entertaining way, described the original gathering and what the Club had since achieved] . . Ask yourself if the vernacular is dead or dying. In Ayrshire it is as fresh as ever, but its continuance, particularly in literary form, must be looked to. Every Burns Club should have associated with it a local vernacular circle for the dissemination of vernacular literature and poetry and the encouragement of budding writers. Therefore, I would say, support the Burns Federation, the Vernacular Circle, the Scottish Song Society, the Scottish Text Society and other organisations with similar objects. (Applause) It means money. For you, gentlemen, I have one answer - Throw sentiment to the winds, sell your manuscripts which have lain for years in a tin box and have only been seen by a mere handful of enthusiasts. Fund the proceeds and devote the revenue to the movement. You will thus deepen the interest in Scottish literature and poetry before and after Burns' time. . . This was the very wish of Burns himself, when he wrote: "If a' the land / Would take the Muse's servants by the hand, / Not only hear, but patronise, befriend them, / . . You'll soon hae poets of the Scottish nation." [Applause]
Colonel T C R Moore, MP, proposed the toast of "The Provost, Magistrates and Town Council", in a speech in which he eulogised Irvine and what it had done in the past. He pointed out that the last Archbishop of Glasgow [but see note below], by name John Paterson, was an Irvine man. In Burns' time, he went on to say, the population of Irvine was something like 5000, and the progress the town had made since may be judged by the fact that the population of the town was now something like 12,000. The streets, lighting and cleanliness of the town were second to none in Scotland, while no other town of its size had made the same improvement in its housing. All that, had been done without any increase in the rates. [Applause.]
[Webmaster's note: We have not found evidence of an Irvine connection for John Paterson (1632-1708), the last Archbishop of Glasgow 1687-89, nor for his father, also John Paterson (1604-79), Bishop of Ross 1622-79, who seems to rather have had north-east connections. However, James Ramsay (1624-96), the last Bishop of Ross (1684-89), was born in Irvine. Did the Bishop of Ross coincidence cause confusion, or have we still to find the connection?]
The Provost, in the course of his reply, stated that all but two of the original members of the Burns Club were members of the Town Council, and at the present time of the 18 members of the Town Council, 16 were members of the Burns Club.
Ex-Provost Borland proposed the toast of "The Guests of the Evening" to which the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava made a fitting and amusing reply.
"Kindred Societies" was given by Mr John Johnston in his usual pawky and entertaining manner . . Mr Hugh McLean, of Greenock, an ex-President of Irvine Burns Cub responded by reading some poetry of an original kind.
Mr David McCall paid the usual tribute to "The Clergy" and Rev Mr Wishart, who replied, recited some original verses. [printed in the book]
Mr S M Turnbull, in proposing the toast of "Highland Mary", said:- Still retaining on our toast list the name of Highland Mary, which so many clubs have seen fit to neglect, is I think worthy of the traditions of this club. . . Electing to believe in Burns, when all others stood aside, she recreated within him hope when there seemed to be nothing left to hope for, and inspired him with a love that remained pure and constant while life itself lasted. . .
Mr Arnold F McJannet, who proposed the toast of "Montgomery and Galt" said:- . . . Montgomery left Irvine with his parents at the age of four, and returned to his native land when an old man of seventy, when he was presented with the freedom of the burgh . . The manuscript of one of his poems "The World Before the Flood", was presented by him to the town and is now in the town's archives. If I might venture to be so bold I would suggest to our Secretary that he should approach the Provost, in an amiable moment, to . . get the town to hand over this manuscript to the Club where it would at least be on view . . There is no greater exponent of vigorous Doric phraseology than John Galt, the warm-hearted good-natured (gutmuchtig) author of "The Annals of the Parish" . . He wrote a richer and fuller vernacular than Scott, and his touch was truer than either the sentimentalism of what is called the Kailyard School or the Zolaesque abysm of the "House with the Green Shutters". . .
Mr Peter S Clark, ex-President, in proposing "The Chairman" said:- Two years ago I had the great privilege of nominating John N Hall as Vice-President . . [he] would [be in] the chair during the centenary year of our existence as a club. . . Our President tonight has risen to the heights of true oratory. . .
Mr G Steedman gave the toast of "The Croupier" and Mr Wm Hall that of "The Officials".
Songs were rendered during a very happy evening by Mr Wm Hall, Mr J Kirsopp, Mr B T Tait, Mr McNeill Reid, for which Mr Sharples played the accompaniments. Mr John Armour recited "Tam O' Shanter" to the evident enjoyment of the company.
It was two o'clock in the morning before the gathering broke up.
Hon. Secretaries 1826-1926
James Johnston and
James Dobie, Joint Secretaries, 1826
Alexander Robertson, 1830
William McJannet, 1852
James Dickie, 1863
John Norval Murray, 1906
Robert Boyd, 1907
R M Hogg, c.1919
Hon Treasurers 1826-1926
Maxwell Dick, 1826
Alexander Longmuir, 1862
Robert Findlay Longmuir, 1894
Club Office-Bearers 1926
President - J N Hall
Vice-President - Sir Andrew Duncan
Hon. Treasurer - R F Longmuir
Hon. Secretary - Provost Hogg
Ex-President - P S Clark
Charles Murchland, R H B Thomson, J W Bryson, M W Breckenridge, Rev. H Ranken, Harry Lumsden, W G McAndrew, Rev. John Paterson, Wm Hall, Wm Mitchell, John Johnston
Appreciation of James Dickie, Hon. Secretary, 1863-1906
Mr Dickie became secretary of the Club in 1863 and for the long period of 43 years discharged his duties with fidelity and enthusiasm, so identifying himself with the objects of the Club and the aims of all lovers of our National Poet that he became one of the best-known and most respected authorities on Burns. The minutes of the Club are models of what minutes should be and testify his living zeal and devotion to the Club whose old-standing and unbroken record was a joy to him and whose MSS of the Poet's works entrusted to his care were the source of a pride that was very evidently sincere and deep. The personality of the man impressed itself on the whole Club in all its activities and made it unique in its character and success.
The Annual Dinner had been held in the King's Arms Hotel for 100 years.