2020 – Burns Symposium

20200314 Burns Symposium 0499ASaturday the 14th of March, 2020 saw The Greenock Burns Club (The Mother Club) hold a seminar in the newly-refurbished and award-nominated Watt Institution in Greenock’s west-end.

President Alan D Beck, in one of his last duties in the Chair of the ancient club, and in the presence of Lord-Lieutenant Col Peter McCarthy, RBWF IPP Bill Nolan, SVP Marc Sherland and President and Vice-President of Bridgeton Burns Club (respectively Iain T Gordon and Robert Shaw) along with several local councillors, welcomed the many members and non-members to the very well-attended event and thanked everyone for their attendance and for their use of the hand-sanitizers, necessary at the moment due to the spread on the covid-19 virus.

The event began with the unveiling by Club Secretary Margaret Dickson PP, of the new maquette of Robert Burns by HM Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland, Alexander Stoddart FRSE. President Alan then introduced Mr Stoddart who spoke with both passion and elegance of the inspiration and creative process of this new work, which, it is dearly hoped, will one day grace a prominent place in the town as a magnificent 9ft bronze statue on a 10ft stone plinth.

After a Q & A and then some official photographs, the event was turned over to Professor Gerrard Carruthers, Francis Hutcheson Chair of Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow and a co-Director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies within the University. Prof Carruthers spoke a little of the CRBS and the poet’s connections with Greenock before introducing the first speaker, Prof Kirsteen McCue who gave an absorbing talk on “Songs for George Thomson” – a topic which has been taking up a large amount of her time of late as it is a significant part of the new Oxford University Press Edition of Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century, currently being published.

After a light lunch of sandwiches, pork pies, pastries … and more hand-sanitization, Prof Carruthers introduced Kevin Gallagher, a student of the CRBS who is currently undertaking a PhD entitled “Editing Robert Burns in the 19th Century” – the subject of his lecture on the day. Mr Gallagher discussed “Lines on Stirling” as it appeared in a number of publications in the 19th Century and explained how the political stances of the various editors had affected the editing of the work.

Professor Carruthers then gave an in-depth and truly fascinating talk on “Robert Burns in Kirk and State” which is the subject of his new book. In this talk he examined the Great Disruption of 1843 and how its seeds were sewn with the warring factions in the Church of Scotland during Burns’ lifetime with particular reference to Burns’ view on the matter contained in his writings.

The event was rounded-off with a Vote of Thanks given by SVP Christine Currie to the speakers, the club members and to the Watt Institution, much to the approbation of the assembled Friends of The Poet.


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