Since 2010 I’ve been getting more involved in the Burns’ scene – performing the Address to the Haggis at various Burns’ Suppers. In early 2013 I attended one in London organised by Cousin Iain, where once again I did the Address to the Haggis. I pretty much nailed that one and was pleased with my performance – the same was true when I did it again at the Colgrain Bowling Club.
When I was done with the latter one I spoke with the lady who organises it and we both agreed that, after doing three in a row there, I’d done my bit and if I came back in 2014 I’d do something different. This was fine by me, as I’d done the Address to a Toothache at both the Helensburgh Bowling Club and the Clyde Bar Burns’ Suppers and quite enjoyed the new material.
However, in 2013, I did so many Burns events that I was struggling to maintain my enthusiasm as the season wore on. So I decided that, in 2014, I was going to attend and perform at far fewer events than had come to be the case. I would attend the local Masonic lodge Burns Supper because I’ve done that every year since I’ve been back in Scotland, but my aim was quality over quantity.
My friend Graham Hill had asked me well in advance if I could do the Address to the Haggis at a Burns Supper in aid of Breast Cancer Research. To this I’d agreed straight away, because it’s a good cause and I know that Graham is a great organiser of very professional events. It was only later that the scale of it struck me. I’d performed the Address to the Haggis in front of maybe 70 people tops, but Graham expected well in excess of 100 people at the one he was putting together!
Still, it was ages away at the time he asked me so I put it out of my head and didn’t really think about it until January rolled around. This year I had committed to performing at just four events – the Helensburgh Burns Club supper, my mate George’s Burns night, the Cancer Research event, and the Clyde Bar Burns Supper.
My Address to the Haggis at the Helensburgh Burns Club supper went really well and my friends Adrian, Paul, George and Jenny had joined me a table. We (the members of the Helensburgh Burns Club) had put this event together in a ridiculously short period of time and it went off without a hitch. It was totally enjoyable to be a part of and filled me with enthusiasm for the rest of the Burns season.
Next up was George’s annual supper. This is usually a fantastic night and 2014 was no exception – the food was brilliant and the company was superb. I had elected to perform To a Mouse as well as the Address to the Haggis just do add something new into the mix. The Address’ went perfectly, but I fluffed a few lines in To a Mouse because I’d gotten a bit drunk by that point!
A hastily arranged holiday for the middle of February meant I was no longer able to do The Immortal Memory at the Clyde Bar Burns Supper. Although disappointed I couldn’t really turn down a family holiday to do it, so Graham said he would take my place.
This meant that the Cancer Research Burns Supper would be my final Burns event of 2014, where I managed to steady my nerves and give a rousing Address to the Haggis in front of a packed Victoria Halls. Crazy Uncle John was there and reckoned it was the best I’d ever done it. I also got good feedback from the other very accomplished speakers on the head table, so that was definitely a high point for me in the 5 years I’ve been involved in performing Burns’ poems.
Having set the bar so high I’m a little nervous about what comes next for me. I definitely want to polish my rendition of To a Mouse and, perhaps, learn something a bit more lengthy.
Serious Burns indeed! 🙂