Presidents of Irvine Burns Club

( # = founder member ; ‡ = war period ; * = see notes below )
- the year shown is when, at the end of his year in office, the President chairs the Annual Celebration and proposes the Immortal Memory  -

For a few Past Presidents, there are Special Features (highlighted in blue)

At the foot of this page is a short note about most of the Past Presidents


1827 John MacKenzie, M.D. #
1828 James Dobie
1829 George Johnston
1830 Zachariah Sillar, M.D.
1831/32 Robert Montgomerie 1833 James Johnston #
1834 Captain Charles Gray - see YouTube presentation
1835 Maxwell Dick #
1836 Provost W Thomson
1837 John Dean
1839 Dr James Montgomerie
1840 Provost Salmon
1841 Captain Graham of Glenny
1842 Captain Brown
1843 John Smith - see notes below
1844 Captain Brown
1845 William McJannet
1846 Captain Charles Gray - YouTube presentation
1847 Bailie Balsillie
1848/49 Robert Montgomerie
1850 George Johnston
1851 P. Maxwell
1852 Provost Campbell
1853 James Dobie
1854 Maxwell Dick #
1855 Robert Montgomerie
1856 John Findlay
1857 Robert Montgomerie
1858 James Hutchison
1859 Hugh Conn
1860 James Dickie
1861 Dr Shields
1862 J. K. Hunter - see notes below
1863 J. A. Campbell
1864 John Armour
1865 Alexander Longmuir
1866 James Goudie
1867 William Hall
1868 Bailie Jack
1869 William Muir
1870 W. D. McJannet
1871 John White, LL. D.
1872 Robert Wyllie
1873 Hugh M. Highet
1874 Alex. Gilmour
1875 Robert Wyllie
1876 John S. Boyd
1877 Alexander Lumsden
1878 A. C. McJannet
1879 Charles Murchland
1880 Wm. Wilson, M.D.
1881 Wm Henderson (died in office) & Rev. Henry Reid


1882 Zachariah Ross
1883 Provost John Wright
1884 Rev. J. Somerville
1885 William Breckenridge
1886 James Pipe
1887 James Thomson M.D.
1888 T. R. Stuart
1889 Robert Boyd
1890 A. W. Paterson
1891 Thomas Hall
1892 James F. Longmuir
1893 W. J. A. Donald
1894 David Stevenson
1895 Rev. Henry Ranken
1896 R. J. Hamilton
1897 J. J. McNaughton
1898 Henry D. Andross
1899 John Johnston
1900 J. Norval Murray
1901/02 R. F. Longmuir *
1903 Harry Lumsden
1904 William Hall
1905 Provost Hogg
1906/07 J. W. Bryson *
1908 Hugh McLean
1909 Wm Charles Spence
and Captain Alex. Young
1910 Wm. Mitchell
1911 Wm. G. McAndrew
1912 Provost Borland
1913 Captain H Abram
1914 Rev. J. Wishart
1915 Rev. J. Paterson ‡
1916 Rev. J. Paterson ‡
1917 Rev. J. Paterson ‡
1918 Rev. J. Paterson ‡
1919 Rev. J. Paterson ‡
1920 J. Irving Moffat
1921 A. M. Watson
1922 M. W. Breckenridge
1923 Provost Walter Muir
1924 John Armour
1925 P. S. Clark
1926 John N. Hall
1927 Sir Andrew Duncan
1928 Sam. Turnbull
1929 A. F. McJannet
1930 A. B. Dickie
1931 Dr Alex. Gibson
1932 Thos. Hall
1933 George Steedman
1934 J. N. Murray
1935 George K. Begg
1936 James McCrindle


1936 James McCrindle
1937 James McCrindle
1938 James D. Bannatyne
1939 Rev. A Macara
1940 James Porter ‡
1941 James Porter ‡
1942 James Porter ‡
1943 James Porter ‡
1944 James Porter ‡
1945 Sir Thos. Moore
1946 Wm. Phillips
1947 Peter McGinn
1948 Rev. A. M. Nicholson
1949 Dr J. W. McDavid
1950 Robert Whyte
1951 A. M. Skinner
1952 Archd. Green
1953 W. G. Guild
1954 Rev. J. Hardie
1955 Wm. Lockhart
1956 H. C. Munro
1957 Rev. A. M. Beaton
1958 William Brown
1959 Dr R. B. Taylor
1960 David B. Shaw
1961 Wm. Johnston
1962 J. M. Ramsay
1963 Harry A. Gaw
1964 James Miller
1965 Dr J. Montgomery
1966 T. M. Cameron
1967 S. K. Gaw
1968 Andrew Hood
1969 Tom Caldwell
1970 Alex MacMillan
1971 Clement Wilson
1972 James Wales
1973 Wilson Muir
1974 Robert Sawers
1975 Charles Masson
1976 Provost Alex. Rubie
1977 William Cowan
1978 John Inglis
1979 Joseph Caldwell
1980 James T Foulds
1981 James Wilson
1982 James Miller
1983 Robin Whyte
1984 George W Watson
1985 Robin D Campbell
1986 Dr Jack Lovie
1987 Dr Ian H. Y. Wood
1988 Matthew Brown
1989 William A. Nolan

1990-the present

1990 Michael Thomson
1991 Dr Peter McGlone
1992 Rev. James Greig
1993 James Butler
1994 Andrew Sinclair
1995 Eric L. Park
1996 Ian J. Dickson
1997 Duncan Rennie
1998 Malcolm M Rae
1999 Robert H. Haswell
2000 Michael Murray
2001 Hugh Hutchison
2002 Hugh Drennan
2003 William McPike
2004 Andrew Howat
2005 Fr. Wm Boyd
2006 James Burns
2007 Raymond Fitzgerald
2008 Provost Drew Duncan
2009 Iain Doole
2010 W G Dickson
2011 Bill McGregor
2012 Michael Diamond
2013 Tim Swan
2014 Roger Griffith
2015 Rev Robert Travers
2016 J Derek Murdoch
2017 John Brown
2018 Allen Paterson
2019 Annie Small
2020 Archd Chalmers
 David Burns
2022 David Burns
2023 Margaret Greenlees
2024 Angus Middleton

Return to Irvine Burns Club 'About us'

John Smith (President 1843) and the Sisters of Sinai: 

Born c.1801, a 'product of Scotland's parish school system, which enabled clever boys from a modest background to enter the professions', John Smith built up a legal practice and was the owner of a fine stone house ('Hamilfield' on Kilwinning Road). Married in 1842, he lost his wife Margaret only two weeks after the birth of their twin daughters Agnes and Margaret in January 1843.

A loving parent, he educated his daughters more or less as if they had been boys, taught them to argue and reason, took them on railway travel across Britain and the Continent, and promised them that for each foreign language they would learn, he would take them to that country. They attended Irvine Royal Academy, and were encouraged in study and in exercise. A young pastor, William Bruce Robertson, appointed at 43 in 1843 to the Burgher Church (United Presbyterian Church) on Cotton Row, and his sister, living in the manse built for them next door to the Smiths, became their second parents. Meanwhile, an Irvine man, John Ferguson, rich from 1842 through a fortune made by his five unmarried maternal uncles in America, died in 1856, leaving £1.25m. (possibly £100m today). Half became the Ferguson Bequest, and several relations received large legacies, including John Smith, his lawyer and distant relation, who was left about £100,000 (=?£7m today?). John Smith left his legal practice to become the first secretary of the Bequest, moved to Kilbarchan, and sent his daughters to finishing school in Knightsbridge.

John Smith died in 1866, leaving his 23 year-old daughters alone in the world, and very rich. Their Presbyterian background encouraged them to make good use of their talents and their legacy. The above details and the subsequent story of the sisters is told in the superbly written "The Sisters of Sinai" by Janet Soskice (Knopf, New York, 2009) - they both married and were shortly widowed (Agnes Lewis 1887-91 and Margaret Gibson 1883-86), then devoted themselves, based in Cambridge, to three decades of academic research and many acts of philanthropy, their successes including their discovery of ancient Gospel palimpsests in Sinai and the several honorary degrees they received in recognition of their work.

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John Kelso Hunter (President 1862)

"The Cobbler Artist", born in Symington parish in 1802, first worked, as a young boy, on the Dankeith estate as a herd, then served his apprenticeship as a shoemaker in Dundonald, then moved to Kilmarnock to pursue that trade. There, a fellow-lodger, a young apprentice painter, first fired Hunter's ambition to be a painter. His first work, a watercolour landscape painted in 1819 at the age of 17, was a disaster, as was his first commissioned oil portrait, whose owner .... Nevertheless, Hunter spent his spare time using his workmates as sitters and in 1831 launched the Kilmarnock Drawing Academy (wound up a year later due to the cholera epidemic), leading to a mention of him in the local press as "a devoted student of Titian".

In 1838, Hunter moved to Glasgow where he doggedly pursued the profession of portrait painting, returning to shoemaking when times were hard, to support his large family (in 1868, of his 15 children, seven were still alive; he had remarried when his first wife died). He wrote the most outrageous adverts for his work ("his Vesuvius-like power, whose eruptions must fall on the connoisseurs with such irresistible evidence . . . a Phoenix-like figure to restore art to its primeval splendour") and on his calling card he described himself as "F.R.S. & C. (First-rate Shoemaker & Cobbler), Professor and President of the Cobbler's School of Art".

John Kelso Hunter, though without any formal tuition in painting, painted scores of individuals in the West of Scotland (and several beyond) and a number of works were accepted for exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy. Details are in the document linked below.

In Irvine, Hunter made many friends, incl. Maxwell Dick, printer, publisher & entrepreneur. On visits to the town, he painted many portraits, a number of landscapes (incl. views of Eglinton Castle), and enjoyed life in the town, incl. even night visits to the town jail to cheer up the unfortunate inmates. He wrote: "I set the society of Irvine above that of any place I have ever seen. I was admitted at once into good society, and there received many acts of personal kindness". In 1861 he was invited to the Burns Club Annual Dinner, where he was elected a member and appointed Chairman for the following year; at the 1861 meeting, on the proposal of Maxwell Dick, those present contributed payment to commission a full-length portrait of Hugh Conn, chairman on the occasion of the centenary of the Bard's birth in 1859. Hunter recorded that "It was the most ambitious work of my art life, and in its power and truth had the approval of all visitors"; it is described in Wylie's "History of the Mother Lodge of Kilwinning"; unfortunately, the portrait seems to have been destroyed in the 1970s due to wood infestation.

John Kelso Hunter presided at the Annual Dinner, as intended, in 1862. His autobiography appeared in 1868 and was reprinted in 1912. He died in Glasgow in 1873.

** You can download the text of the research on John Kelso Hunter (by Past President Jack Lovie). The Appendices referred to in the text can be consulted in the Club Library.

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Short notes about the Past Presidents of Irvine Burns Club

Begun by Past President George Watson, and augmented as information becomes available 

1827 John MacKenzie: Doctor, an Army surgeon from Edinburgh, married to Helen Miller, one of the ’six proper young belles’ of Mauchline (buried in Irvine Old Parish churchyard). Hugh Montgomerie of Eglinton, as MacKenzie’s patron, granted him a life rent of Seagate House in High Street and £130 per annum. A Burgess, a Baillie, Treasurer and Dean of Guild on the Council. Founder member of the Irvine Burns Club. His grave is in Edinburgh but there is a commemorative stone in Irvine Churchyard.
1828 James Dobie: of Beith, Joint Sec. to 1829.
1829 G Johnston: “In addition to the poet’s “brither Davie” [David Sillar], the meeting this year was honored [sic] with the presence of Charles Gray Esq Captain in the Royal Marines, an ardent admirer of the Ayrshire Bard, and himself an author and a Poet of celebrity. – Besides chaunting with joyous glee several songs of his own Muse, Capt Gray with much animation and in true poetical style recited an address to the Club with several stanzas prepared by him for the occasion, which afforded sufficient testimony that this son of Mars is neither a young nor a lame acquaintance of the Nine [Muses].” [His poetic address is on pp30-31 of the Minute Book.]

1830 Zachariah Sillar: Doctor, son of David Sillar. In this year, two proposals, one to hold meetings triennially, the other to hold them once every two years, were both rejected "by a considerable majority". Dr Sillar had trained at Edinburgh, where he knew the artist Alexander Nasmyth; he had property in Liverpool (in 1826) and moved there within two years, living at Shaw Street, Everton, from 1832-44, and in Pembroke Place 1845-49; there he knew Nasmyth's youngest son, James, the inventor of the steam hammer.
1831/32 Robert Montgomerie: “Banker Bob” of Craighouse, south of Beith. Agent for the Paisley Bank (later British Linen Bank) and Collector of Customs for the port of Irvine. In 1831, “Capt Gray sang his Song 'Blythe, blythe and merry are we' which was formerly [sic] voted a standing Song of the Club” and is on p.47 of the minute book. (Incidentally, Bailie Sillar did not attend, due to “severe illness”, and died later that year. Thus, by 1830, both of the leading founder members had ceased to be active.)
1832: There was possibly no anniversary meeting in 1832, probably due to the outbreak of cholera, which reached Britain (for the first time ever, from India, via the docks at Sunderland) in autumn 1831, though no Club minute is extant to confirm this probability. The authorities in Edinburgh are known to have been concerned by then, and a Dundee Board of Health report of 2 February 1832 advised "persons of all ranks to go as little out at night as possible during the prevalence of the epidemic" and "that, during the prevalence of the epidemic, all assemblages of large bodies of the working classes, unless at church, should be suspended or avoided". The epidemic reached Irvine early that year (Strawhorn, p.113), killed 3,000 people in Glasgow, and 52,000 over the UK.
1833 James Johnston: Founder Member, from Ayr, Town Clerk, lived in “Rosebank”. A meeting may have been held that year, though minutes do not survive; it is just possible that since the epidemic was still ongoing in parts of the UK, that the break continued.*
Robert Montgomerie, James Johnston(e), and J Dobie all contributed to ‘The Parish of Irvine’ in the New Statistical Account Volume 5 (1842).
1834 Captain Charles Gray: Royal Marines. We are sure a meeting was held that year also, though minutes do not survive. See special article below.
1835 Maxwell Dick: Bookseller, publisher (predecessor of the Irvine Herald), Freemason, Magistrate, inventor of a snowplough, a suspension railway tested at Gailes in 1829, collaborator with Steadman on a screw propeller design and numerous other projects. He employed a young Daniel Macmillan, later joint founder of Macmillan Publishers.
1836 William Thomson: Provost 1837-39.
1837 John Dean: not Richard Nixon’s legal Counsel, jailed for his part in the Watergate scandal, which he allegedly masterminded.
1838 James Montgomerie: Doctor (Dinner venue: Eglinton Arms)
1839 Alex R Robertson: of ‘Whitehurst’ (sic) Provost (1846-50 & 1864-66). Agent for the Liberal Parliamentary candidate Crawford of Auchenames. (Dinner venue: Kings Arms)

1840 William B Salmon: This master saddler, following in his late father's business, was a Bailie of the Burgh at the time of his Presidency, becoming Provost in 1841-1845, and presiding at the reception for the poet James Montgomery in 1841. The tea service presented to him in 1845, after his term of office, was purchased at auction by Harry Gaw on behalf of the Town Council in 1969. At the time of his Presidency of the Club, he was aged only 31. On the family stone in the Old Parish churchyard, the stonemason has, in error, inscribed his surname as Salmond. He died in Perthshire in 1882.
1841 Graham of Glenny: Captain
1842 Captain Brown. (?) Burgess 1857…rescuing shipwrecked crew. John Smith was Croupier.
1843 John Smith: Described in the 1851 census as 'Procurator, Sheriff Court of Ayrshire', he ran a legal firm, switching in 1856 to administering the Ferguson Bequest. His daughters were the 'Sisters of Sinai' (click to read more).
Note: Although the 1842 meeting had elected John Smith to be 1843 Chairman (and Capt Gray Croupier), neither were present, and the 1843 Dinner (attendance 19) was chaired by Capt Graham, the 1841 Chairman. The 1843 Dinner then re-elected, for 1844, John Smith as the following year's Chairman (and Capt Gray Croupier). John Smith, therefore, never chaired an Annual Celebration.
1844 Captain Brown:
Note: Although the 1843 meeting had re-elected John Smith to be 1844 Chairman (and Capt Gray Croupier), Smith was not present, and Capt Gray, though present, had declined to officiate as Croupier, so the 1844 Dinner was chaired by Capt Brown, the 1842 Chairman, with Wm McJannet as Croupier.
1845 William McJannet: father of A C McJannet, he presided at the visit on 15/8/1884 by Burns’ sons Major James and Colonel William, entertained by the Club at the Kings Arms. Agent for British Linen Company, tenant at Longford on Garnock. Instituted Cattle Fair on the Moor, and the Literary and Social Institute 1867.
1846 Captain Gray. See special article below. The President's “address, in proposing the Toast of the Evening, shewed the attention he had paid to his subject and displayed an affection for the departed as only a Poet could feel or express. He sung several of his own Songs in his happiest manner, and in particular one that he had composed last month & which was quite a gem. He produced also the 'Lines' written for the present Anniversary by Alexander Smart, which were with acclamation appointed to be put up with the other Memorabilia of the Club.”
1847 William Balsillie (c.1803-1879): (Dinner venue: Eglinton Arms) a Baillie on the Town Council, he was the son of Willis [sic] Balsillie, the builder who, after the iron spire on the Tolbooth was blown down by a gale in 1808, replaced it with a conical spire and surmounted by the sloop weathervane, and who leased the quarry at Duntonknoll, a trade continued by this son William, a master quarrier, who gave up the Duntonknoll Quarry lease in 1867. The charitable William Balsillie Trust, set up in 1878, provides grants to students resident in Irvine and attending a University in Edinburgh or Glasgow (2017: 4 grants of £250).
1848 Robert Montgomerie: (Dinner venue: Kings Arms) Dr Montgomerie was in the chair "in consequence of Dr Allan (who was named Chairman at the last Anniversary) having removed from Irvine."
1849 Robert Montgomerie: He continued in office because, as recorded in our minutes, there was no anniversary meeting "in consequence of the prevalence of disease throughout the country" - this was a further outbreak of cholera (Strawhorn, p.125) which had begun in the autumn of 1848 (and which, incidentally, helped drive the mandatory registration of birth, marriages and deaths from 1855, requiring the cause of death to be stated). This epidemic prompted the link between dirt and disease to be taken seriously for the first time.

1850 George Johnston: Our minutes record that there appears "not to have been any meeting".
1851 Patrick Maxwell: Too ill to attend. This gentleman was the Edinburgh author who lived a few doors along from Capt. Charles Gray, and who accepted Honorary Membership when nominated, by his friend while President, in 1846.
1852 Thomas Campbell: of “Annfield”. Conservative Provost (1850-64). Constructor of the Queen’s Bridge (to commemorate Victoria’s Coronation) over the river at Bogside, later known as ‘Campbell’s Bridge’. Campbell voted against the construction of a new prison to replace the Tolbooth, and refused to attend the official opening. The coach house at ‘Annfield’ later became the Fire Station, and the house became a Hotel.
1853 James S Dobie: compiled “The Muniments of the Royal Burgh of Irvine. Cunninghame Topographical by Timothy Pont???
There was no annual meeting in 1853 "on account of the recent death (on 13th inst. [January]) of Mr Johnston, Town Clerk, who for many years acted as Hon. Secretary to the Club, and on account of the bereavements in the families of several of the principal Members of the Club". The minuted 1853 business meeting was chaired (in the absence of J Dobie) by Maxwell Dick.
1854 Maxwell Dick: see 1835. This time his croupier was Thomas Brown, whose absence the following year led to Robert Montgomerie again taking the chair in 1855.
1855 Robert Montgomerie: His croupier was Bailie McLachlan, who did not continue through to the following year.
1856 John Findlay: (spelling in minutes: Finlay) His croupier was Wm Dobie, whose absence the following year led to Robert Montgomerie yet again taking the chair in 1857.
1857 Robert Montgomerie: (Croupier James Hutchison)
1858 James Hutchison:
1859 Hugh Conn: J K Hunter painted his portrait (see the article below).

1860 James Dickie: Secretary 1863-1906. Town Clerk.
1861 Doctor Shields: born Kilmarnock (1831-1867) Hon. Surgeon to Volunteers. “Published volumes of indifferent verse” (McJannet p.368).
The previous year's Croupier was James Grieve, a Customs officer, but he had been moved to Bradford before he could take up the Presidency.
1862 J K Hunter: John Kelso Hunter, portrait painter, exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy. See the special article below. (see also 1859).
1863 J A Campbell: Captain in Irvine Volunteers. He was originally intended to follow Hugh Conn in 1860.
1864 John Armour: Builder, Officer in Irvine Volunteers.
1865 Alexander Longmuir: Corn Merchant (see property opposite Galt House in Bank Street), Hon. Treasurer, Agent for Clydesdale Bank. Business in Bank Street / East Road. Of Roseholm
1866 James Goudie:
1867 William Hall:
1868 Baillie Jack: His son Robert Logan Jack (b.1845) became a renowned explorer; appointed geologist for Northern Queensland in 1876, he went on to become geologist for Australia. A biography of him (the explorer) was launched in Irvine in October 2008 by its author, one of his descendants, Felicity Jack.
1869 William Muir:

1870 W D McJannet: father of A F McJannet.
1871 John White: Lawyer
1872 Robert Wylie: manufacturer, living at Castlepen, Main Street, Kilwinning, age 40. His surname, unlike that of founder member Robert Wyllie, has only one letter 'l'.
H M Highet had been appointed Chairman for 1872, but, due to his unavoidable absence, Robert Wylie acted as Chairman and W D McJannet as Croupier. See also under 1875.
1873 Hugh M Highet: Solicitor (?? associated with Perceton Brickwork); aged 31 at the time
1874 Alex Gilmour: Writer, involved in attempted purchase of Montgomery’s house (McJ p229). Partner of William Christie (Gilmour and Christie) Royal Bank Joint Agents 1896 (?). (McJ p281)
1875 Robert Wylie: see 1872 - originally appointed Croupier for 1872, he had stepped in to act as Chairman that year. He therefore served as croupier in 1874 and President in 1875. He was a Sewed Muslin Manufacturer - as an article (prob. of the 1860s) in the website Electric Scotland tells us, sewed muslin was a cheap and beautiful substitute for lace, a thriving industry in the first half of the 19th century. In around 1878, Robert Wylie published the "History of the Mother Lodge of Kilwinning"
1876 John S Boyd:
1877 Alex Lumsden: ? father of Harry Lumsden, Schoolmaster
(McJ p238/240).
1878 A C McJannet:
1879 Charles Murchland: Provost,(“Murchland Way”). “Irvine Herald” (1871…) Editor of book on John Galt and on the Buchanites. Campaigned for water and sanitary improvements. Laid foundation stone for the New Academy.

1880 William Wilson: Surgeon, Lt. Colonel Volunteers.
1881 William Henderson, the chemical entrepreneur, died in London on his way home from his Spanish sulphur & copper interests, only weeks before the Annual Celebration. The committee discussed "whether, in consequence of the recent death of the President of the Club, the Social Gathering should be dispensed with" but decided to continue; as "Mr Ross [Vice-President] declines to occupy the chair", the Rev. Henry Reid agreed to chair. Perhaps Zachariah Ross was one of those who felt it wrong to hold the Dinner; he presided the following year as was originally intended.
1881 Henry Reid: Rev. Relief Church 1868-1886 , introduced Communion Cards instead of Tokens. He later went to Australia. He was chosen in place of the recently deceased President Wm Henderson.
1882 Zachary Ross: Rector of Irvine Royal Academy 1877-1883.
1883 John Wright: First Provost of the Extended Burgh. Sawmill proprietor of John Wright and Son, sold in 1910 to Wm. Breckenridge.
1884 J Somerville: Rev. Minister Old Parish 1853-93. Married Mary, daughter of Provost Campbell…fourteen children (!) 1887 Doctor of Divinity, Glasgow.
1885 William Breckenridge: Provost. Acquired Sawmill, Matthew Wright and Nephew.
1886 James Pipe:
1887 James Thomson, M.D., J.P.: Surgeon Lt. Colonel of the Irvine Artillery Volunteers. Born in Johnstone in 1855, he graduated in 1878, worked for a short time in Houston, then spent 60 years as an active doctor in Irvine until a month before his death in 1941. He was also a leading light in the Irvine Literary & Debating Society and an elder in Irvine Old Parish Church. In 1926, his then 46 years as doctor were marked by a Dinner, at which Provost Hogg proposed the Toast to the guest Dr Thomson, Harry Lumsden made a presentation to the doctor and his wife, and Sir Andrew Duncan delivered an address on 'The Profession of Medicine'. His memorial is in the churchyard and we are indebted to kirkyard reporter Billy Kerr for drawing our attention to Dr Thomson's marvellous service to Irvine.
1888 Thomas R Stuart: Rector, Irvine Royal Academy, 1883-1911. Royal Review in Edinburgh by Edward Seventh 1905. Commanding Officer Lt. Colonel First Ayrshire and Galloway Royal Garrison Artillery Volunteers.
1889 Robert Boyd:

1890 A W Paterson:

The 'Irvine Herald' of 24th Jan. 1890 reported:
The Irvine Burns Club has not elected to celebrate the Immortal Memory of the poet on the evenings of 25th and 26th Jan. in 1890. The reason is obvious. There is such a feast of wit and flow of wisdom, and the night speeds on so speedily wi' song and clatter, that the small hours o' the mornin' arrive all too soon. So Monday night has been wisely chosen for the annual escape of pent-up enthusiasm that conveys to the world that: "We a' are prood o' Robin".

1891 Thomas Hall: Deacon Convener 1878, helped revive the Incorporated Trades. He was a Master Plumber/Tinsmith and was head of the business of Thomas Hall & Sons in High Street. He served as Deacon of the Hammermen Craft for the long period of 30 years and for 12 years he filled the post of Deacon Convener of the Incorporated Trades. He died on 17 Feb 1920 and he is buried in Irvine Parish Churchyard. (info from Mike Hall)
1892 James F Longmuir: Grain Merchant, Irvine Company of Ayrshire Rifles, the son of Alex Longmuir 1865.
1893 W J A Donald:
1894 David Stevenson: (McJ p273) Tenant of Irvine Mains Dairy Farm (owned by Council), then Auchengate. Well known Auctioneer and sportsman.
1895 Rev. Henry Ranken: Rev. Minister, Irvine Old Parish (1893-1928). Author of “Burns and Irvine”. As Chairman of the School Board he was wary of “inspiring young folks with the desire for professional life, who would be far better and happier as artisans”. Ranken maintained a policy of discipline towards erring parishioners guilty of ante nuptial fornication. Father of Henry Sherwood Ranken V.C. MBChB., RAMC in Kings Royal Rifle Corps. The weather that year was extremely cold - see Rev Ranken's memory of it in his acceptance letter in our Honorary Member section, under the year 1932.
1896 Robert J Hamilton:
1897 James John McNaughton:
[For some inexplicable reason, the August 1896 Irvine Directory names the Club President as Capt John Young. Of 'Violet Bank', Irvine, he was admitted as an ordinary member in 1887. Coincidentally, a Capt Alexander Young, of the ship 'Kelton' when admitted to membership in 1891, was President in 1909. For whatever reason, when fraternal greetings were sent to 12 clubs and societies in 1893, greetings were also sent to "Capt. Young who is at present in Hamburg", though we do not know to which Capt. Young this refers. Capt. John Young is recorded as a Nautical assessor for Bute in the 1906-07 Post Office Bute Directory. How his name came to be recorded as a Club President remains a mystery.]
1898 Henry D Andross
1899 John Johnston:

1900 J Norval Murray: Town Clerk, solicitor, ? founder 1907 of Murray, Gillies and Wilson?. In 1906, he succeeded James Dickie as Honorary Secretary, but died in 1907.
1901/02 Robert Findlay Longmuir: another son of Alexander Longmuir (Pres. 1865), and a brother of James J Longmuir (Pres. 1892). As Queen Victoria died on 22nd January, the 1901 Annual Celebration was cancelled, and the office-bearers continued in office into 1902.
1903 Harry Lumsden: Deacon Convener of Trades 1910-1921 (longest term in Office), ? Clerk to the Trades House of Glasgow and author of Trades histories.
1904 William Hall: Deacon Convener of Trades 1904-1910. He was the son of the Thomas Hall (above) of 1891. Mr. Hall was an enthusiastic lover of Burns and a keen and cultured student of the poet’s works. At the time of his death in 1934, he was one of the oldest members of Irvine Burns Club. (info from Mike Hall)
1905 R M Hogg: Originally from Riccarton, Kilmarnock, he began teaching at Galston, and moved as an assistant teacher to Bank Street Primary in 1891, being appointed Headmaster there in 1913. He was Hon. Sec. of the Burns Club from about 1918 to 1930. He also took charge of the evening continuation classes at the Academy, became recognised as an authority on vocational education, was superintendent of the parish church Sunday School, and helped found an Irvine Ramblers' Field Club, modelled on the Kilmarnock Glenfield Ramblers of which he had been a prominent member. He entered the town council in 1908 and served as Provost in 1923-28, at about which time the Council donated the Sillars and Mackenzie chairs to the Burns Club.
1906/07 J W Bryson: Headmaster Irvine Royal Academy. Following the death in January 1906 of the long-serving Secretary, James Dickie (see 1860), the 1906 Annual Celebration was cancelled and the office-bearers held office into 1907
1908 Hugh McLean: of Greenock.
1909 Wm Charles Spence: This unmarried Irvine Royal Academy teacher, elected as President in Jan. 1908, died during his year of office, aged 46, on 6th March, "in the River Garnock, at Nobel's Explosives Wharf, Ardeer" (cause of death column left blank) at about 6.30pm. In May Vice-Pres. Capt. Alex. Young was elected President.
1909 Capt. Alexander Young: Captain of the ship 'Kelton'.

1910 Wm. Mitchell Jr (1866-1947): Headmaster, Loudoun Street Primary School, succeeded his father as Headmaster in 1902. (Wm Mitchell, Sr, was headmaster of the newly-built Bank St School 1875-78, and of Loudoun from 1878.)
1911 Wm. G McAndrew.
1912 James Borland: Provost 1904-07, 1910-16.
1913 Henry Abram: Captain. Referred to as Treasurer Abram (was he Burgh Treasurer?) by the 'Irvine Herald' of 1913, the papaer records that he "holds the rather unique position of being the first Welshman who has been president of the Club".
1914 Rev. J Wishart: Minister, Wilson Fullarton United Free Church. “Valuable mission work in the Harbour area”
1915/19 Rev. J Paterson: Minister of Fullarton Parish Church, 1903-37. No meetings in war years.

1920 J Irving Moffat: Solicitor. His son J I Johnston Moffat (his middle name being his mother's maiden name) followed his father as a solicitor in Irvine, working for Irvine Development Corporation.
1921 Alex M Watson: “The Cottage”, of the family of the Hosiery Manufacturing Company, but not of the Company.
1922 M W Breckenridge: The proprietor of Irvine Sawmill, he resided “Craigknowe”, Kilwinning Road (see 1885), and was Deacon Convener of the Irvine Incoporated Trades in 1924-26.
1923 Walter Muir: Provost (1916-23), Saddler in High Street, father of Wilson Muir (1973).
1924 John Armour: Architect of Irvine Royal Academy 1901, and Bank Street Primary School 1875.
1925 Peter S Clark: Councillor, joint founder of the modern Marymass, Deacon Convener of Trades 1926-28, “The Supreme Irvineite”, Customs and Excise Service.
1926 John N Hall: He wrote the lyrics of the Burgh Anthem in 1929 with music by Harry Lumsden. In his year, the Club placed a Burns commemorative plaque in Glasgow Vennel. (1876-1944)
1927 Sir Andrew Duncan: Freedom of the Burgh 1948. Founder of the South of Scotland Electricity Board? President of the Board of Trade and Minister of Supply. Plaque to Burns at the Drukken Steps was donated during his office. ????Canada.
1928 Samuel M Turnbull: of Irvine, ? Councillor, prominent in shipbuilding in Greenock.
1929 Arnold F McJannet: Solicitor, Author of “The Royal Burgh of Irvine” 1938.

1930 Andrew B Dickie: ?Solicitor, Deacon Convener of Trades 1929-31.
1931 Alex Gibson: Doctor, Bank Street, “Braidmead”?
1932 Thomas Hall: Son of the William Hall (above) of 1904, he was admitted as a member of the Incorporated Trades in 1911 when he was a Law Apprentice. He was appointed Procurator Fiscal of Irvine in 1931 at the same time as he was President of Irvine Burns Club in 1931-32. He died around 1957 in Looe, Cornwall. (info from Mike Hall)
1933 George Steedman: ? related to George SteAdman (screw propeller).
1934 J Norval Murray: Solicitor, Murray , Gillies and Wilson, Town Clerk.Clerk to Incorporated Trades 1943-54)
1935 George K Begg: Printer & Editor of “The Irvine and Fullarton Times” (later the “Irvine Times”) for 59 years.
1936/37 James McCrindle: The 1936 Dinner was cancelled following the death of Mr James Hogg, the Hon. Secretary
1938 James D Bannatyne: ? Banker. ? British Linen.
1939 Alex Macara: Reverend Minister, Irvine Old Parish Church (1928-78) Freeman of the Royal Burgh. Father of Sir Sandy Macara, Chairman of the British Medical Association. Rev. Macara's 1939 'Immortal Memory' was (Irvine Herald, 27/1/39) "an elocutionary masterpiece as well a most interesting analysis of Burns' influence on Scottish life and character and for just over half an hour he held the entire attention of a most appreciative audience".

1940 /44 James Porter: Rector, Irvine Royal Academy Primary and Secondary School (1930-53). Retained office during the War years. No meetings in war years.
1945 Sir Thomas Moore: Tory M.P. of the Ayr Burghs, ? Ulsterman, resided Monkton. Freedom of the Burgh. He was the first M.P. to serve as President.
1946 William Phillips: Club Hon. Sec. 23 years, Library benefactor. Teacher of English and History, Irvine Royal Academy then Depute Rector, Marr College, Troon. Editor of Statistical Account 1947.
1947 Peter McGinn: ? Irvine Labour Exchange.
1948 Angus M Nicholson: Reverend Minister Fullarton Parish Church (1938-48).
1949 J W McDavid: Doctor.

1950 Robert M Whyte: “Bert”, Irvine Burgh Town Clerk, 1944-72, served under ten Provosts. Father of R R Whyte (1983).
1951 A M Skinner: “Alf”, Proprietor of The Kings Arms and later the Redburn Hotel.
1952 Archibald Green: First Labour Provost (1946-50).
1953 William G Guild: Engineer and Manager, Irvine and District Water Board, Deacon Convener of Trades 1957-61.
1954 Joseph Hardie: Reverend Minister of the Trinity Church, then of Douglas Water. Preached at the disbandment of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).
1955 William Lockhart: Chartered Accountant, Treasurer of the Club, Clerk to the Incorporated Trades 1954-71 & 1973-82, Deacon Convener of Trades, Burgess.
1956 H C Munro: Hugo, Manager of the Commercial Bank (later The National Commercial Bank, which was later taken over by the Bank of Scotland) in Bank Street.
1957 Archibald M Beaton: Rev. Minister of Dundonald Parish Church, Founder President of Dundonald Burns Club. Brought The Mod to Ayr for the first time??
1958 William Brown: “Boiler Brown”, Engineer and Insurance Inspector.
1959 R B Taylor: Doctor, G.P., resided and practised at “Willowbank”, between the Trinity Church and the river.

1960 David B Shaw: Army Captain, Garage Proprietor, ‘Assistant Hon. Sec. and man about town’, Deacon Convener of Trades.
1961 William Johnston: Headmaster of Dundonald School, President of Dundonald Burns Club 1964, Church organist.
1962 J M Ramsay: “Jack”, Irvine Registrar of Births , Marriages and Deaths, Clerk to the District Council, assisted in the initiation of the Burgh Museum. Artist.
1963 Harry A Gaw: Retail Jeweller in Bridgegate, donated Burns volume to Club (?).
1964 James Miller: Company Secretary of Ayrshire Metal Products and Session Clerk of Relief Parish Church (at that time, Relief Church was in the centre of Irvine before moving out to Bourtreehill). He subsequently went on to become Managing Director of Ayrshire Metal Products before retiring from business aged 62 to become a Church of Scotland minister. He died in 1994.
The 1964 annual dinner was attended by Mr F.C Sillar, great, great grandson of David Sillar (“Dainty Davie”). The Immortal Memory of President James was unusual, in that he focussed on Burns as a song writer and illustrated his talk with tape recordings of Burns' songs using a reel-to-reel tape recorder. The Irvine Herald published details and photographs of the evening the following week, including the full text of the Immortal Memory and other speeches.
[Updated with information kindly supplied by his son Brian in 2013.]
1965 James Montgomery: General Practitioner, Head of Seagate and subsequently Townhead Medical Practice.
1966 T Martin Cameron: Irvine Burgh Chamberlain.
1967 Samuel K Gaw: Hon. Sec. and Honorary Member of the Club, President of the Burns Federation 1979. Popular reader and expert on the life and work of Burns. Youngest Baillie of the Burgh and ? youngest President.
1968 Andrew Hood: Hon. Sec. of the Club, proprietor of plumbing and electrical business.
1969 Tom Caldwell: ?Largs Newsagent, became President on early death of Vice Pres. J Lindsay Kirk.

1970 Alex MacMillan: Headmaster of Irvine Royal Academy, joint author of Sandy Thomas Ross’s “Bairnsangs”, along with Tom Limond and Ross Taylor. Burgess. Involved with the Ayr Pageant. President of the Burns Federation 1959.
1971 R Clement Wilson: Proprietor of Wilson Foods, benefactor of the Club via the “Wilforge Foundation”.
1972 James Wales: Assistant General Manager of Bank of Scotland, Deacon Convener of Trades 1984-85.
1973 Wilson Muir: Irvine Burgh Provost (1966-69), responsible for Fullarton Street ‘High Flats’. Retailer. Son of Walter Muir (1923)
1974 Robert Sawers: “Bob”, Rev. Minister of Mure Church (1969-76).
1975 Charles Masson: Professional glass blower at Ardeer I.C.I., cyclist portrayed in mural upstairs.
1976 Alex A Rubie: Independent Councillor and last Provost, Royal Burgh of Irvine. Wit and raconteur, Deacon Convener of Trades 1979-80. MBE.
1977 William Cowan: Last Burgh Surveyor, Royal Burgh. Director of Cleansing, Cunninghame District Council, Hon. Sec. of the Club (1977-89) Hon. Member.
1978 John Inglis: Detective Chief Inspector of Police, President of Burns Federation 1984, Hon. Sec. of Federation. Popular reader and well read interpreter of the works of Burns. Fabric Convener of “Wellwood”. Hon. Member.
1979 Joseph J Caldwell: Proprietor of the “Eglinton Arms Hotel”, founder of the Eglinton Burns Club, musical entrepreneur and ‘bon viveur’. Deacon Convener of Trades 1978-79. Hon. Member.

1980 James T Foulds: ICI, Hon. Secretary of Harbour Arts Centre, brother of Irvine Royal Academy Rector Ian Foulds.
1981 James Wilson: “Skelmorlie”, son of Clement Wilson (1971), benefactor of the Club. Ayrshire representative on the National Trust. OBE, Hon. Member.
1982 James Miller: Chief Executive and Director of Administration of Cunninghame District Council. Died suddenly in August 1985.
1983 Robin R Whyte: Solicitor, Gilmour and Christie, son of Robert Whyte (1950). Organiser with J.J. Caldwell of “Irvine Music Club” Musical Evenings at “Wellwood”.
1984 George W Watson: Pharmacist “The Medical Hall” etc., Hon. Sec. of the Club (1993- ). Deacon Convener of Trades 1991-92.
1985 Robin D Campbell: Assistant General Manager of Royal Bank of Scotland, Treasurer of the Club (19……)
1986 Jack Lovie: Scientific Doctor, I.C.I. Ardeer.
1987 Ian H Y Wood: Doctor, Head of Townhead Medical Practice.
1988 Matthew Brown: Scottish Nationalist, First Provost of Cunninghame (19. ) Engineer and Solicitor, Town Councillor of North Ayrshire Council. Deacon Convener 1975-76.
1989 William A Nolan ('Bill'): Public Relations, at one time with Irvine Development Corporation, at another with the Tennent's Lager. Popular public speaker. Deacon Convener of Trades 1990-91. One of Scotland's two representatives on the council of the International Rugby Board 2002-12. Vice-President of European Rugby 2013.

1990 Michael Thomson: Commercial Director, Irvine Development Corporation.
1991 Peter McGlone: General Practioner, Townhead Medical Practice.
1992 James Greig: Rev. Minister, Irvine Old Parish Church (19…..)
1993 James Butler: Art teacher, Artist and Piper.
1994 Andrew Sinclair: Science ?Mathematics teacher, Irvine Royal Academy. Deacon Convener of Trades 1989-90.
1995 Eric L Park: Quantity Surveyor, Irvine Development Corporation. Deacon Convener of Trades 1995-96.
1996 Ian J Dickson: Principal Teacher of Classics, St Michael's Academy 1972-2007, and teacher of Computing; creator of Club website.
1997 Duncan Rennie: Human Resources Consultant.
1998 Malcolm M Rae: Air Traffic Control Engineer & Manager.
1999 Robert H Haswell: Director, Human Resources, AAM Europe (Albion Automotive Ltd, Glasgow)

2000 Michael Murray, head teacher (retired), St Conval's Secondary School
2001 Hugh Hutchison, then of Scottish Water
2002 Hugh Drennan, once a professional footballer. Deacon Convener of Trades 1997-98.
2003 Willam McPike, retired policeman
2004 Andrew Howat, chartered accountant
2005 Fr William Boyd, parish priest, St Mary's Church, Irvine
2006 James Burns, air traffic controller. Deacon Convener of Trades 2001-02.
2007 Raymond Fitzgerald, pharmacist
2008 Drew Duncan, OBE, Provost, North Ayrshire Council, retired history teacher
2009 Iain Doole, project manager, British Telecom

2010 W G Dickson ('Billy'), W G Dickson & Co., Accountants
2011 W McGregor ('Bill'), past Head Teacher, James Hamilton Academy, Kilmarnock (1989-2004), thereafter General Secretary, Headteachers' Association of Scotland
2012 Michael Diamond, Social Work Co-ordinator, North Ayrshire Council
2013 Tim Swan, Head Teacher, Kilwinning Academy
2014 Roger Griffith, FSA (Scot), Countryside Ranger, North Ayrshire Council
2015 Rev Robert Travers, Minister of Irvine Old Parish Church
2016 J Derek Murdoch, formerly an Environmental Officer with North Ayrshire Council, a Past Deacon Convener of Irvine Incorporated Trades
2017 John Brown, resigned during 2016 for health reasons; past presidents I Doole & W Cowan performed his roles at the 2017 Annual Celebration
2018 Allen Paterson, Operations Manager at Ardagh Glass, Irvine
2019 Annie Small, daughter of 1976 President Provost Alex. Rubie
2020 Archie Chalmers, a Past President of Kilmarnock Burns Club
2021-22 David Burns, a Past President of Kilwinning Burns Club, two years in office due to suspension of activities during the 2020/21 Covid pandemic

2023 Margaret Greenlees, retired HR Manager, Past President of Irvine Lasses Burns Club
2024 Angus Middleton, proprietor, Angus Middleton Damp and Decay

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Office-bearers have included (this list is not yet complete):
Secretaries: 1826: Joint Secretaries James Johnston & James Dobie, 1830: Alexander Robertson, 1852-63: William McJannet, 1863-1907(ob.): James Dickie, 1906-07(ob.): John Norval Murray, 1908-c.1914: Robert Boyd, c.1918-30(ob.): R M Hogg, 1930-35: James Hogg, yrs?: John Hall, c.1945-68(ob.): Bill Phillips, 1968-82: Andrew Hood, yrs?: Samuel K Gaw, 1993-97: George W Watson, 1998-2002: Eric L Park, 2003-14: Hugh Hutchison, 2015---: William A Nolan
Treasurers: 1826: Maxwell Dick, c.1862: Alexander Longmuir, 1894-after1939: Robert Findlay Longmuir, yrs?: William Lockhart, xx-2009: Robin D Campbell, 2010---: W G Dickson

  • Wellwood Burns Centre & Museum
  • 28 Eglinton Street,
  • Irvine, Ayrshire, KA12 8AS