Celebration to the memory of Robert Burns

It’s that time of the year when many people all over the world come together to celebrate the life and works of the immortal Scottish bard, Robert Burns. Bootle Pilgrim Lodge No 1473 were no exception as they held their annual Burns Night, with many of the brethren from the Ormskirk and Bootle Group of Lodges and Chapters supporting the event. They were accompanied by their wives, partners and friends who all came together to enjoy a magnificent Burns Night Supper, again held at the Litherland Masonic Hall.

Allan Hore, the WM and Michael Clarke, the MC.

Allan Hore, the WM and Michael Clarke, the MC.

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 and singing of his works, with 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 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; very successfully attended by 83 people, filling the dining room to near capacity. The evening started with everyone meeting in the bar area, before being called in to 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 which were decorated with all the usual flair for the night, with tartan squares, tartan napkins, cards with facts about Robbie Burns and even tartan confetti sprinkled over them. In the centre of each table was a large vase in the shape of a cocktail glass with fairy lights, Scottish flags, tartan bows and paper flowers placed within. The table decorations were again produced by Joan Skidmore, the widow of the late Roy Skidmore who had been the APrGM of the group. As an extra bit of fun for the guests a quiz sheet was placed on each table, which had questions relating to Scotland and photographs of famous Scots for them to name. The quiz was produced by John Spurr, a member of the lodge.

To one side of the room a table was set up, with a red tartan table cloth, for the address to the haggis and behind the table a banner of a stag had been hung, the banner was made by Lynne Pyne, the chairwoman of the Lunch Club and the wife of Roy Pyne, Thornton Chapter No 8008.

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, Crosby Lodge No 3714, who piped Allan to his table. Allan then warmly welcomed everyone by saying: “On behalf of the lodge, I extend a warm welcome to our annual Burns night supper, the attendance tonight is astonishing, all Masons are only too happy to add that visitors to any lodge or indeed any social event are the life blood of Masonry. It is indeed a special evening, not only for myself, but also for the reason we are gathered here tonight to celebrate the life and work of Robert Burns and I hope you all have an enjoyable evening.”

Tom Croll, ‘slashing the haggis’ during the address.

Tom Croll, ‘slashing the haggis’ during the address.

Mike then announced Peter Kelly who delivered the Selkirk Grace, with the first course of the meal then shortly afterwards being served; this was magnificent cock-a-leekie soup which received many a compliment on the night from the diners. When the soup dishes were cleared away, the waitresses went around and served the whisky to toast the haggis. Again, the sound of the bagpipes filled the air as Tom piped the haggis into the room accompanied by Sarah, one of the waitresses who had the honour of carrying the haggis suitably prepared to the table on a silver tray. Sarah placed the haggis onto the table where Tom in true Scottish tradition and in his Scot’s accent gave the address to the haggis, with the toast at the end.

As is tradition with Bootle Pilgrim Lodge and in Scotland the haggis was served as the main course with potatoes and neaps, the haggis again was produced by Graham Chambers from Crosby Lodge, Graham is a butcher by trade and has produced the haggis for the last three Burns Suppers, and each time has received many compliments on the high quality and excellent taste. The meal was finished with Cranachan for desert and was followed by tea or coffee with mints.

Once the meal was finished the return of thanks was given by Ron Elliott, with Mike then announcing Allan who gave many facts about Burns’ life, remembering some of his work and poetry. Allan also gave an account of Burn’s Masonic career, from being initiated in Lodge St. David, Tarbolton, on the 4 July 1781, aged 23, before moving to Dumfries, where he joined Lodge St. Andrew in 1788. In 1792, he was elected the senior warden and served a one-year term. This was the last Masonic office he held before his death in 1796.

With the immortal memory being concluded, Mike then gave the answers to the quiz, and then called upon Allan to perform the draw, with a first prize of £25, second of £15 and third being £10, the draw raised £255 which will be distributed to worthy causes throughout the year.

Allan then asked Tom to come to the front, where he presented him with a bottle of Glenmorangie whisky for donating his time in playing the bagpipes for the night.

Mike then announced the entertainment for the evening, an excellent comedian Tony Roscoe. Tony’s act had everyone in stiches from the start, with laughter throughout, with audience participation which brought much laughter. Tony finished his act with a magic trick, which was a bit like watching Tommy Cooper, making mistakes throughout and in the end the trick being a success; the whole of his act was enjoyed by all.

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, he in turn thanked Joan Skidmore for the work she had given the lodge in decorating the tables, Lynne Pyne for the magnificent banner of the stag she had made for the Burns night, Peter Kelly, Keith Rushton and Russell Skidmore for all their work and assistance given to the night, and finally Mike Clarke for the excellent way he performed as the MC for the evening.

Allan then thanked everyone saying: “I would like to say once again, thank you for all your support in attending this Burns night, it has been very well supported and it’s been a great success, with a lot of great company amongst friends, I hope you have all enjoyed this evening and I look forward to seeing everyone again at next year’s Burns night which has been booked and is being held on 27 January 2018, I wish you all a safe journey home.”

Some of the highlights of the evening.

Some of the highlights of the evening.