IN the year of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Helensburgh once again has a Burns Club.
In the weeks prior to Burns Night on January 25 2009, a group of local people got together, formed a steering group, and revived Helensburgh Burns Club which had ceased to exist in about 1951.
The original club was first registered with the Burns Federation in Kilmarnock on November 17 1913.
One of the group, Councillor David Kinniburgh, said: “The original charter issued by the Federation was found in the loft of the Masonic Hall in West Princes Street, and since then the members of the steering group were determined to reconstitute the club — with the 250th anniversary of the bard’s birth making it an ideal time.”
The result was that Helensburgh Burns Club was re-registered with the World Burns Federation in December 2008, using the original number, 225.
The members held their first Burns Supper on January 24 in the Masonic Hall, when a letter from the Federation confirming the re-registration was read by interim president Les Reynolds — whose idea it had been.
“This event marked the beginning of a new era for the club, with the next stage being to hold a meeting for all club members to formally elect a committee and discuss plans to hold another few events throughout the year,” said Councillor Kinniburgh.
“Hopefully the club can only go from strength to strength, with 60 people being recorded as founder members.”
The steering committee currently has five members. They are Les Reynolds, Councillor Kinniburgh, who kept pestering Les to put his idea into action, John Young, a past president of Dumbarton Burns Club who was in on the idea from start, Walter Snedden, a well known face on the Burns circuit, and William Reaney.
At the dinner the Haggis was addressed by John Hardie after being piped in by Colin Lawrie, whose father is thought to have carried out the same duty for the original club. The haggis bearer being William Reaney.
After the Selkirk Grace had been given by Dr James T.Schultz the assembled company enjoyed the Hamely Fare put before them. After the meal chairman for the evening John Young invited the guest of honour, Provost Billy Petrie, to say a few words and the Provost wished the club every success in the future.
Les Reynolds proposed The Immortal Memory, David Kinniburgh recited Tam O'Shanter, the Toast to the Lassies was performed by Bobbie Brodie, and an excellent reply was given by Maggie DePledge, John Hardie recited A Man's a Man, George McCaughey proposed the toast to John Barleycorn, and Robert Phillips recited Holy Willie’s Prayer.
Musical entertainment was provided by John and Lesley Young, and Colin Lawrie performed a rousing piping selection. After the Toast to the Artistes and Stewards was given by William Reaney, the evening was rounded off in traditional fashion with the assembled company singing Auld Lang Syne.
“An each took aff his several way,
Resolv’d to meet some ither day.”
The steering committee is trying to find out more about the original club. Its last entry in the Federation’s Burns Chronicle of 1950 noted that the president was J.A.Gibson, secretary Thomas Ferguson of West Princes Street, and treasurer Alex Goodlet of East Princes Street.
Councillor Kinniburgh added: “We are hoping that maybe a relative of one of these three gentlemen might be able to provide us with some information, but so far we have not been able to find anyone who can tell us any more about the early years of the original club.”
One contact they have had was from a Mr Marsland, whose father was presented with a small book of poems written in 1929 specially for and performed at Helensburgh Burns Club. The picture shows (from left): Walter Snedden, William Reaney, Les Reynolds who is holding the original charter, David Kinniburgh and John Young.
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