2020 – Annual Celebration
On Saturday the 25th of January, 2020, Greenock Burns Club (The Mother Club) met in the Tontine Hotel, Greenock for their 218th Annual Celebration.
The Top Table guests were piped in by Billy McCready, Past President. Thereafter, Club President Alan D Beck chaired the proceedings and warmly welcomed everyone.
The Revd David Burt, minister of Old Gourock and Ashton Parish Church then said Grace.
The haggis was then piped into the room with the President, giving a spirited rendition of “Address To a Haggis” before drinking to its honour and dispatching the beast back to the Tontine kitchens.
After a very enjoyable meal, renowned tenor (a Greenock man, by the way) Dennis Haggerty entertained the company with his rendition of “The Lea Rig” and “Of A’ The Airts”. Later in the evening he gave a stirring rendition of “A Man’s A Man”. All songs were sung magnificently and were expertly accompanied by Mrs Polly Beck, wife of the club President and a club member in her own right.
The President then had the pleasure of introducing the principal speaker of the evening, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, to propose the Toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns. Lord Wallace is better known as Jim Wallace, former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and former Deputy First Minister and MSP. Lord Wallace’s Immortal Memory covered numerous aspects of Burns’s life and his works, referencing his poetry and his letters. He also spoke of Burns’ influence being worldwide and how proud he was to have represented Scotland at the United Nations inaugural Robert Burns dinner in New York. At the conclusion, Lord Wallace rightfully received a well-earned standing ovation for his tremendous efforts.
The Toast to The Mother Club was proposed by HM Lord-Lieutenant of Renfrewshire, Col Peter McCarthy who made detailed reference to it only the club’s history but also to its present and its future and how it had played an integral part in Greenock life for over 200 years. In particular, he spoke of his admiration for the Greenock Burns Club Exhibition and Archive room within the Greenock Custom House. He also praised the work carried out by our members, who volunteer so readily to keep the club at the forefront of the Burns Movement.
Senior Vice-President Mrs Christine Currie thanked Col McCarthy for an excellent toast and spoke warmly of the pride that the members feel in the club and its history.
The Toast to the Lasses was proposed by Ruth Davidson MSP, the former leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. Ms Davidson entertained us with her extremely well-researched and witty observations, interspersed with knowledgable facts and Burns verses to illustrate her case.
Replying to the Toast to the Lasses was BBC Weather Presenter Ms Judith Ralston who took great delight in pointing out all possible flaws in the male character – especially those of President Alan Beck whom she has known for 35 years. Both Ms Davidson and Ms Ralston received well-deserved standing ovations from the company.
As the evening continued, we were well entertained by the Brothers Forrest, Ross and William who gave us tremendous renditions of ”The Libel Case” and “Tam O’Shanter” respectively.
As is the tradition at The Mother Club, the President thanked the principal speaker for delivering the Immortal Memory toast and thereafter installed him as Honorary President for 2020 by investing him with his badge of Office. Lord Wallace was also presented with a certificate, which showed the names of all those who have proposed the Immortal Memory since 1886. In reply to the occasion, Lord Wallace expressed his delight at receiving the honour.
At the end of the programme, Iain White, Junior Vice-President, gave a very comprehensive and sincere Vote of Thanks to all who had made the evening a resounding success … in rhyming couplets!
The evening came to a close with Dennis Haggerty and Polly Beck leading the company in singing Auld Lang Syne.