Annual Dinners

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top table

Saturday, 28th January 2023 was the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Perth Burns Club, founded in 1873. A big crowd of 120 packed the Salutation Hotel Ballroom to celebrate and they were treated to a night of excellent hospitality and entertainment.

Members of the top table group. Back row [l to r] Club Secretary Elliott Boyle, Jim Allan, Donald Paton, Professor David Purdie, Alan Beck, Jim Cook, Piper Martin Bristow.

Front row [l to r] Linda Boyle, Club President Joan Allan, Dr Kate Guthrie, Lesley Cook.

elliott boyle

Club Secretary Elliott Boyle who was the chief organiser of the occasion, and who toasted Kindred Clubs and Caledonian Societies.

joan allan

Club President Joan Allan who welcomed the guests, chaired the proceedings and proposed the Loyal Toast.

Piper Martin Bristow opened proceedings by piping in the top table, who, via Secretary Elliott Boyle and President Joan Allan, toasted kindred clubs and welcomed those present. Martin had barely sat down before he was piping in the haggis, which was enthusiastically addressed by Past President Dr Donald Macgregor. Prior to dinner, Past President Ian Bett delivered the Selkirk Grace, often attributed to Burns, but now thought to be an earlier work. Ian kept the balance by reciting a Burns' grace and the Selkirk version. Ian had stood in at short notice for yet another Past President, Bill Dawson, who was unwell.

Dinner was traditional Scottish fare, excellently cooked and presented, and with a special 150th Anniversary cake served with tea and coffee. Local firm Old Perth Whisky supplied a complimentary miniature of their best known product. Before the Interval, President Joan Allan proposed the Loyal Toast, and kingly were we all.

martin bristow

Piper Martin Bristow who led in the top table, paraded the haggis and gave a post-interval recital.

dr donald macgregor

Past President Dr Donald Macgregor enthusiastically addressed the haggis.

ian bett

Past President Ian Bett gave us Burns and Selkirk graces before dinner.

professor david purdie

After Martin Bristow's piping selection, we were treated to the Immortal Memory, delivered by Honorary Member Professor David Purdie. David is our finest historian and raconteur, and he charted the Robert Burns story using coloured slides and his vast knowledge of the subject.

From the Mearns to Ayrshire; the Kilmarnock Edition; the Scottish Enlightenment and Edinburgh; the collecting of Scots songs and airs; his time in the Excise and his untimely death. Penicillin would have saved him, but the discovery of the antibiotic in the 1920s by fellow Ayrshireman Alexander Fleming was 125 years too late. Other anecdotes and insights included references to Abraham Lincoln, Cassius Clay and Ludwig van Beethoven. A veritable masterclass!

irene mcfarlane

Soprano Irene McFarlane

howard duthie

Accompanist Howard Duthie

paul vaughan

Tenor Paul Vaughan

ethan wivell

Reciter Ethan Wivell

jake paterson

Fiddler Jake Paterson

Between speeches, the big audience was entertained by a talented bevy of musicians and reciters, including keyboard accompanist Howard Duthie; tenor Paul Vaughan (There was a Lass, Mary Morrison); and soprano Irene McFarlane (Ca the Yowes, Whistle and I'll Come Tae Ye My Lad). Strathallan Deputy Head Boy Ethan Wivell gave a dramatic rendition of the Address to the Toothache. Jake Paterson, who had performed for us as a schoolboy in 2016, was a last-minute stand-in for Heather Rodger who went down with flu on the day! Jake delighted with some Niel Gow airs, waltzes, strathspeys and reels.

alan beck

RBWF President Alan Beck

donald paton

Past President and Secretary Donald Paton

There were two Keynote speeches: a Toast to the Perth Burns Club on their 150th Anniversary (given by Alan Beck of Greenock, RBWF President), and the Reply (given by Donald Paton of Vancouver, former PBC President and long-time Secretary). Alan praised PBC for hosting the RBWF Conferences in 1926 and 1990; for admitting women in 1977; for starting the St Andrews Day celebrations each year from 2004; and also the Schools' Festival from 1987. The contribution of PBC member Colin Rae Brown to the Greenock Burns Club and to the development of RBWF was also gratefully recorded. Alan, a trained tenor, and cabaret-standard humourist, kept his audience entertained throughout.

The Reply to Alan's Toast was given by Donald Paton, who recalled the work of his father in reviving the Club from its period of abeyance (1939 to 1977), and whose organisational ability did much to return the phoenix from its ashes. The trigger for the revival was the discovery of the Club's strongbox in a storeroom of the Station Hotel in 1977. Some of the artefacts from the strongbox were on display during the evening. PBC reformed as a mixed society and appointed its first Lady President, the late Ruth Lumsden, in 1987. Donald recalled the work of many presidents and committee members from 1977, including Hamish McLaren, Alex Ritchie, Michael Kidd, Stella Cormie and Bill Dawson. Although he didn't mention it, Donald was presented with a retirement gift by RBWF President Dr Peter Hughes in 2016 to commemorate his 35 years of service to the Club — 34 as Secretary and 1 as President. Still going strong!

jim and lesley cook

Jim and Lesley Cook

donald paton

Donald Paton redciting Tam o Shanter

jim calderwood

Past President Jim Calderwood gives the Vote of Thanks

The Address to the Lasses was rendered by Jim Cook of Abernethy, a Modern Studies teacher at Perth High School. Jim's gags about the battle of the sexes had his audience in stitches (an example being a bride's march on her wedding day: aisle-altar-hymn). The big man had a tender side though (his wife was giving the Reply), and his thanks for and to the Lasses was heartfelt.

beck, paton and vaughan

"We're no that fou"

A musical interlude then followed, including the unlikely trio of Paul Vaughan, Alan Beck and Donald Paton who clowned their way through "We're no that fou". Irene McFarlane sang and Jake Paterson gave us a last fiddle set.

The Lasses Reply was given by Lesley Cook, a psychology graduate and wife of Jim. We didn't hear if the marriage was part of a post-grad thesis, but Lesley's observations on her partner, their children, her work and life in general were nuanced and very funny. The closing references to "Ae Fond Kiss" were warm-hearted and they probably went home in the same vehicle.

The lights were dimmed, and the stage was set for a trademark rendition of "Tam o Shanter" by Donald Paton. Not long in, we were treated to a cameo harridan performance of Tam's wife Kate by Irene McFarlane (who probably didn't get a lift home from the Cooks). Donald returned to the script and signed out to rousing applause.

Another Past President, Jim Calderwood, had the pleasant task of proposing the Vote of Thanks to the many speakers and artistes who had graced our evening.

By divine scheduling, the clock struck midnight just as Howard Duthie pressed his keyboard and we sang "Auld Lang Syne" lustily.

A tremendous evening's entertainment and our thanks go to Club Secretary Elliott Boyle and his committee for putting in the hard hours of preparation to make it all happen!

Photographs courtesy of Irene McFarlane, Jim Cole and Duncan Campbell.
Elliott Boyle,
Perth Burns Club.
Email Elliott if you'd like a copy of a photograph.