27 Jan 2009

Ma' Own Burns Day, 25th January, 2009

It was a great one -

Dollar, Alloway, Glasgow , Chicago, and Rostov-on-Don wi' some bonnie lassies!

I'll start with the best bit, and by quite some way. Indeed, I'd hazard to say that this was the best Burns anniversary event on the globe on 25th January, 2009 - and not a homecoming haddie in sight. The venue? - Glasgow Cathedral. The event? - The Glasgow and District Burns Association Memorial Service.

I arrived a little late and was immediately overwhelmed by its scale, its breadth, and its vision. Rabbie could not have scripted it better. Indeed, he could not have even imagined it, nor could any of us only a few years back.

Ably presided over by the Rev Dr Whitley , whose own father had conducted an equivalent service 50 years previous, this service had everything: The inspiring chorus of the Merchants Voices Choir; the equally uplifting sound of Eastbank Primary School; a spine tingling rendition of A Man's a Man by Leona Logan of St Mungo's Primary School , the angelic voice of harpist Carisa Bovill, the galas swagger of Stonelaw High School's 4th form choir, the passion of Holyrood Secondary's Mary Dougherty , the be-stilling magic of Joanna Gilmartin; and all topped off by a pasionate appreciation of why we were here by George Anderson, a past President of the World Burns Federation - and we could all hear why.

And all live on the Internet, courtesy of the students and staff of the city's John Wheatley College.

But they were all blown away by a, still to me, nameless young woman from the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. Through the magic of technology she, and around a dozen fellow literature students from a place I had only heard off through its brave struggle against fascism in WW2, joined in through a video link to read us one of her favorite Burns poems. And also tell us , all watching in awe and amazement, what our Bard meant to her, her classmates, and her country all those thousand of miles away.

The St Andrew's Society of Chicago Illinois ( home of Obama and proud of it) joined in through similar technology, as did the Burns societies of Virginia, and of Indianapolis-St Paul ( from an Irish Pub!)

And I had the cheek to be late for this international spectacular!

But for good reason. I'd been at Alloway on business - to help launch the Scottish Federation of Housing Association's ( who I work for) Year of the Home Coming initiative at Burns Cottage, on the very day of his 250th. The aim of this campaign is to provide rented homes for those in need. and work for those without it. And so overwhelmed was I by the warm welcome I received from the primarily Ayrshire crowd that I was late for Rabbie's own memorial service 50 miles up the Kilmarnock Road in Glasgow.

And too late to put on the seats of the cathedral - arranged in advance with the Glasgow and District Burns Association - the very same Year of the Home Coming flyers I'd just distributed to half of Ayrshire.

"But how can cope?" I pondered as the amazing service drew to a close? "500 plus people all leaving together through three exits, and just one distributor - me!"

Step forward to my rescue the official ushers of Glasgow's Cathedral , who on their own initiative sussed my dilemma and offered to help.

And the reaction of the audience , young, old, rich poor, Jocks and from further afield, including a joyous young Japanese woman , to our plans to build 10,000 affordable Burns Homes for those in need in 2009? Well, what do you think!

Then, having stopped off to leave my remaining flyers at the Jamaican Burns Night just about to kick off in Glasgow's Old Fruitmarket. up the road to my home in Dollar, a Clackmananshore village where Rabbir had a pint and romance or two

And finally, to my YouTube account. And awaiting me were Burns Day greetings from previously anonymous folks - an Obamaman in California, a Scots piper in Holland, Bonnie Kiltie from Dundee, and an Irishman in Glasgow who didnae like the Rangers too much!, All of them were responding to the A Man's a Man film - Sheena Wellington at the parly on 1st July 1999 - I'd posted earlier to help celebrate Burns day. Plus - and I kid you not - one from a guy in Moscow who used to live in Dollar and was just going out to Burns Supper in the city.

A great one I am sure. But I think I would rather have been going to the one in Rostov-on-Don - where I could have charmed those bonnie lassies wi' some of Rabbie's more memporable lines:

При всем при том, при всем при том
Могу вам предсказать я
Что будет день, когда кругом

Все люди будут братья.

For a' that, an' a' that
It's comin' yet for a' that
That man to man, the world o'er
Shall brothers be for a' that.

The Glasgow and District Burns Association came close on 25th January, 2009


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