Bootle Pilgrim holds annual Burns Night

The brethren of Bootle Pilgrim Lodge No 1473 and many members from the Ormskirk and Bootle Group of lodges and chapters, accompanied by their wives and friends enjoyed a magnificent Burns Night at Litherland Masonic Hall, in celebration of the life and poetry of Scotland’s immortal bard, Robbie Burns.

Mike Clarke, the MC (left) and Allan Hore the WM.

Mike Clarke, the MC (left) and Allan Hore the WM.

Robert, also known as ‘Rabbie’ Burns, was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire and is generally known as the national poet of Scotland and is celebrated for his work worldwide. Rabbie died in Dumfries, 21 July 1796 at the age of 37.

On the fifth anniversary of Rabbie’s death in 1801, nine men who knew him met for dinner in Burns Cottage in Alloway to celebrate his life and work. The men had shared Masonic brotherhood with Rabbie and devised an evening which looked a bit like a lodge ceremony, centred on the haggis; with recitations, singing of his works and a toast to the memory of their friend. The evening was such a success, that all agreed to meet again in the January to celebrate Rabbie Burns birthday; inventing a global phenomenon that we now know as the Burns Supper.

With Rabbie’s popularity growing rapidly after his untimely death, the idea of meeting annually to share his poems and songs in the bonds of friendship caught the public’s imagination. The supper is traditionally held to celebrate the poet’s birthday. Burns Suppers have changed very little over the past 214 years since the first was held in 1802 in Greenock by local Ayrshire merchants.

Bootle Pilgrim Lodge’s Burns Night is an annual part of their social calendar and was again this year a very successful event. The evening started with everyone meeting in the bar area, before being called into the dining room by the master of ceremonies for the evening Michael (Mike) Clarke, lodge secretary, who was suitably dressed in full Scottish attire.

When the diners entered the room, they were greeted with the tables being decorated with all the usual flair for the night, with tartan squares and in the centre of each table were statues of a deer, bedecked with Scottish flags and tartan butterflies. The table decorations were again produced by Joan Skidmore, the widow of the former Assistant Provincial Grand Master Roy Skidmore.

To one side of the room a table was set up, with a red tartan table cloth for the address to the haggis and on another wall a banner of a stag had been hung up. The banner was made for last year’s Burns Night by Lynne Pyne, the Chairwoman of the Lunch Club and the wife of Roy Pyne, Thornton Chapter No 8008.

Tom Croll, toasting the Haggis during the address.

Tom Croll, toasting the Haggis during the address.

Once the diners had taken their places, Mike asked everyone to rise to receive the lodge’s WM Allan Hore. Outside of the room you could hear the bagpipes, played by Tom Croll of Crosby Lodge No 3714, who piped Allan to his table. Once Allan was seated, Mike then announced George McDonald, the lodge’s chaplain, to give the Selkirk Grace, with the first course of the meal then shortly afterwards being served. This was a magnificent cock-a-leekie soup which received many a compliment on the night from the diners. When the soup dishes were cleared the waitresses went around and served the whisky, with which to toast the haggis. Once again, the sound of the bagpipes filled the air as Tom piped the haggis into the room and once it was placed on the table, Tom in true Scottish tradition and in his Scottish accent, gave the address to the haggis, followed by a toast.

As is traditional at Bootle Pilgrim Lodge and also in Scotland, the haggis was served as the main course with potatoes and neaps. This year the haggis was again produced by Graham Chambers, Ormskirk and Bootle Group Vice Chairman. Graham is a retired butcher by trade and has produced the haggis for the last four Burns Suppers; each time he has received many compliments on the high quality and excellent taste of his efforts. The meal was finished with cranachan for dessert, followed by tea or coffee with mints.

Once the meal was finished the return of thanks was given by George, who continued by giving the toast to the immortal memory, which detailed many facts about Burns’ life including memories of some of his work and poetry as well as his Masonic career. With the immortal memory being concluded, the draw for the raffle was held with a prize of £50, which was won by Graham Chambers. The draw raised £260 and the profits from the evening will be distributed to worthwhile causes throughout the year.

Mike then announced the entertainment for the evening; an excellent comedian Denny Walters. Denny’s act had everyone in stiches from the start, his performance coupled with audience participation was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.

Following the entertainment, it was time to draw a close to the evening, with everyone standing to sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’. Mike then called upon Allan to say a few words and he took the opportunity to thank Joan Skidmore for the work she had done for the lodge in decorating the tables. Grateful thanks were also expressed to Peter Kelly and George McDonald for all their hard work and Mike Clarke received appreciation for the excellent way he had performed as the MC for the evening.

Allan then thanked everyone who had attended and concluded by saying: “I would like to say thank you for all your support in again attending our Burns Night, it has been very well supported again this year and it’s been a great success with a lot of great company amongst our friends, I hope you have all really enjoyed this evening and we look forward to seeing everyone again at next year’s Burns Night and I wish you all a safe journey home.”

Some of the highlights of the evening.

Some of the highlights of the evening.