31 January 2018


On the evening of 27th January 2017, 53 members and guests of Emsworth Sailing Club joined with thousands of like-minded people from around the world to celebrate the birth of a baby boy on 25th January 1759 in Alloway, Scotland. The name of the boy was Robert Burns and he has become for millions the “Immortal Memory”.

The evening began with members and guests being piped to the table. Once seated, the chairman for the dinner, Cameron March, armed with his new gavel, gave a short opening address which included a warning about the dangers of drinking alcohol in small quantities.

He went on to welcome the special guests for the evening:

Our excellent piper, Dr Ian Richardson, accompanied by his wife, Hilary.

Fresh from his ESC debut playing the keyboard and leading the “Shanty Folk” at the 2017 Trafalgar Night, Jason Burcham and his wife Veryan, who incidentally kindly volunteered to be one of the judges for the Burns poetry reading competition.

Next, we were honoured to welcome the Deputy Chaplain of the Fleet, The Rev Professor Scott Shackleton as our keynote speaker. Unfortunately his wife, Gill, was unable to join us as she, like so many others this year, had succumbed to the flu. Scott is highly knowledgeable on Robbie Burns and was  able to give us new insights on “Burns the man”.

Following a first class rendering of The Selkirk Grace by Rev Shackleton, we commenced our excellent three course Burns Night dinner. Our starters duly consumed, it was that pivotal moment of any Burns dinner, the piping in of the haggis. With piper Ian Richardson in his Highland garb, followed by Ollie dressed in his best chef’s whites, the upstanding company clapped in the pair. The haggis safely delivered, it was time for the chairman to deliver the poem “Address to a Haggis”, written by Burns and published in The Caledonian Mercury in 1786. Cameron delivered a spirited rendition of the poem and at the appropriate time the haggis was duly despatched by the chairman’s trusty bayonet.

Our lovely main course of chicken & haggis ballantine followed, and prior to dessert appearing it was time for the “musical extra”, delivered by Ian Richardson on the highland pipes and Jason Burcham on keyboard. The "extra" they chose was appropriately called “The Highland Cathedral”. Highland Cathedral is a popular melody for the Great Highland bagpipe. This melody was composed by German musicians Ulrich Roever and Michael Korb in 1982 for a Highland Games held in Germany. It has been proposed that it becomes the Scottish national anthem to replace unofficial anthems “Scotland the Brave” and/or “Flower of Scotland”. Both Jason and Ian demonstrated their excellent musical skills and received enthusiastic applause from all present.

It was soon time for the highpoint of the evening, the talk on Burns. This was delivered by The Rev Professor Scott Shackleton. Being a Scotsman himself he informed us he has a family connection with the Brown family, who in turn had a close family tie to the Burns of Alloway. What followed was a thoughtful and insightful review of the impact that Burns had made on the world in general and on Scott in particular. Undoubtedly, Scott made a very impressive contribution to the evening and his talk was extremely well received by the entire company.

Next up was the “The Toast tae the Lassies”, delivered by the chairman, who touched on a wide and eclectic range of subjects prior to praising the Ladies and asking the Gentlemen to stand and join him in the toast “Tae the Lassies”.  Cameron’s wife, Maggie, despite the handicap of a sore throat, replied to his speech with an acerbic poem that won much applause and support from the ladies of the company. In conclusion, as is the tradition, the Lasses stood and toasted “The Laddies”.

As in previous years, the penultimate serial in the evening’s revels was the Burns Poetry Reading Competition. The rules are that we call on four brave volunteers to pick up an unmarked envelope and they are then required to read out the two verses of a Burns poem contained within. The winner was one of our newer Club members, Sally Hardie, who entertained us with a ferocious reading of “The Calf”. Sally received a very nice bottle of single malt, which she generously shared with her fellow competitors and members of the company.

All that was left to conclude the evening was the chairman’s farewell to the company. This was followed by the whole company joining hands and, led by Messrs Jason and Ian, singing (robustly and with great gusto) numerous verses of “Auld Lang Syne”.  An enjoyable and lively evening indeed!

For your diaries, the proposed date for the 2019 Burns Night Dinner is the 26 January ...

Cameron March







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