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Irvine Lasses Burns Club Fed No 936

A Brief History (by Anne Gaw, in 2012) - followed by the list of Past Presidents, a list of Burns Suppers, and the earliest reports

The club was formed in 1975 but the seeds of conception go back a bit farther than that. The main instigator of the idea was an English lady, Rosalind Keyte, a lady who admitted to having been born within the sound of the Bow Bells. She and her husband Howard lived in the South of England and had one son who met a Scots girl, married her and came to live in Ayrshire. Rosalind and Howard came to visit them about 1969 and visited Burns Cottage. It can only be said that Rosalind fell madly in love with Robert Burns - so much so that she bought a book of his poems , took it back to England and proceeded to read them, looking up the glossary for words which she did not understand. That is more than many a Scot would do. Soon after they moved to Irvine buying the shop and house beside it in Thornhouse Avenue.

I met Rosalind purely by chance in 1973-74 at Election time. She recognised the name GAW and asked if I was related to Sam Gaw P P of Irvine Burns Club. She went on to tell me that, before moving, she had written to Andrew Hood Secretary of Irvine Burns Club asking for her name to be put forward to join the club. Being the gentleman he was, Andrew wrote back politely telling her that I B C was a male only club.

“Can’t we start a Burns Club for Ladies?” was her question to me at that first meeting. There were at that time five Burns Clubs in the town, I B C, St Andrew’s Cronies, Eglinton Burns Club, Stanecastle Burns Club and Ayrshire Metal Products Burns Club who all held annual Burns Suppers. The crunch came in 1975, on the evening of Ayrshire Metals Burns Supper. Rosalind’s husband Howard had been invited and as he got ready to go asked an outraged Rosalind, “Are we going to commemorate his birth or his death?” Rosalind phoned me to repeat her earlier request “CAN’T WE START A BURNS CLUB FOR LADIES?”

Rosalind had written a letter to the local paper and asked if she could add my name to hers. Before agreeing I asked her read me the letter and then to her next question “How many more names will we need?” I replied “another ten as daft as we are!” I asked her to phone me by 6pm and by 7pm we had almost 20 names. The publicity from the newspaper hastened events and the first meeting was held on 5th February 1975 in Woodlands Community Centre. 28 ladies attended.

We began with a wide range of members with three being under 20, and were delighted to receive a telegram from Charlie Masson President of I B C wishing us well in our new venture.

Membership fees were £2.00 and £1.00 for Senior Citizens, weekly payments of 10p per member and 20p for visitors was established. This was to prevent people cherry-picking the meetings they wanted to come to rather than pay the membership fee. It was reckoned that after two meetings they would know if they wanted to join or not, and that rule still stands.

The name was chosen by the membership – Irvine Ladies Burns Club sounded a wee bit too posh and highfaluting for some – and eventually they decided they‘d rather be LASSES , without the “i” as they felt Burns would have spelt it. It was also agreed that everyone should be addressed on first name terms considering the age range of our members that was not so common in 1975) but unmarried ladies felt it gave them equality. One elderly and much respected townswoman was shocked when I continued to call her Mrs Somerville. “Am I not a member of the club?” she asked. I found it so hard to call her Greta as I had been brought up to show respect for people like her. Greta went on to celebrate her 90th Birthday with us.

A small raffle was held each month to raise funds. WE HAD NO MONEY! At first we met for 2 hours, from 7 till 9 (the let was paid by the hour) and it was decided, again by the membership, that we didn’t have tea, because they did not want to waste time when they could be learning! Letting charges were waived to give us a start but after 2 months we decided we should pay our way. In May 1975 the time was extended to 7.15 until 10.00pm. Every speaker was offered expenses as the club reckoned if they were good enough for us to want them; they shouldn’t be out of pocket for coming.

At our first AGM in February 1976 - one year after the inaugural meeting – the attendance was 55. We met in Woodlands, with a few meetings being held elsewhere for different reasons, until September 1976 when we moved to Wellwood thanks to suggestion of Andrew Hood.

We didn’t have a chain of office to start with but in May 1975 we received a gift of £50.00 towards a badge of office. It took a while to get. A sketch was produced by a Glasgow company, but did not meet with our approval. Robert Brown of Coventry Joly Beggars Club offered to enquire about one for us and whilst the first draft drawing did not satisfy us the second did and our badge and a collaret were made up and received by us in September 1976. The cost was £117.63. At the St Andrew’s Night Dinner a raffle was held which raised £92.50 and it was agreed that this should be added to the Council’s £50.00 to pay for the badge... Among prizes donated by members that night were a ½ gallon of whisky and a Moulinex Food Mixer and many more. This shows how keen the first members were to get the club established.

Over our 37 years we have held some unusual events from Concerts to Mannequin Parades, Coffee mornings and Trips. We have been invited to joint meetings with most of the Ayrshire Clubs but also to Bowhill Peoples’ Burns Club in Fife and to Coventry Jolly Beggars and in every case Irvine Lasses have had a great time. We have attended conferences all over Scotland, in London Leicester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Carlisle as well as London Ontario, Winnipeg, Calgary and Atlanta. We have many gifts from other Burns Clubs and our special silver loving cup which was gifted to us by Professor Toshio Namba. The Professor gave us a donation of £100 and a monetary gift also came from his wife Shizuko when we conferred Honorary Membership on her. The cup was fashioned by a silversmith in Dalry at a cost of £114.00 plus £15.00 for engraving. This very unique and beautiful cup is used at our Burns Suppers for the Principal Toast.

We are now well recognised in the town and invited to take part in all Civic affairs. We parade with the Burns Club and other organisations to the Parish Church for the Burns Service, the Kirkin of the Deacon Convenor of Incorporated Trades and at Marymass for the Kirkin of the Captain of the Carters the week before Marymass and the Kirkin of the Queen and her Marys the day after We also Parade to St Mary’s for a Marymass evening Service. Our President is an official guest at the Marymass celebrations and at the prestigious Irvine Burns Club Burns Supper.

Our Founder President Anne Gaw brought honour to our Club when she was appointed President of the Robert Burns World Federation in 1988 and took over the Presidency at the conference in Ontario Canada. Anne also served for a spell as Secretary to the R B W F

Margaret Cook brought honour by winning the Tam o’ Shanter competition in Dumfries in 2009.

The club is flourishing at the present time and we hope that the new members have the enthusiasm of the old so that we go from strength to strength for the next 30plus and more years.

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Past Presidents:

1975 - 1979: Anne Gaw
1979 - 1981: Mae McEwan
1981 - 1983: Margaret Cook
1983 - 1985: Margaret Rae
1985 - 1987: Helen Bell
1987 - 1989: Betty Herbertson
1989 - 1991: Mae McEwan
1991 - 1993: Anne Gaw
1993 - 1995: Ellen Hunter
1995 - 1997: Betty Duncan
1997 - 1999: Jessie Gray
1999 - 2001: Diana Pattinson
2001 - 2003: Margaret Cook
2003 - 2005: Moira Ewing
2005 - 2007: Ellen Hunter
2007 - 2009: Anne Gaw
2009 - 2011: Anne Kennedy
2011 - 2013: Joanne Wilson
2013 - 2015: Annie Small
2015 - 2017: Cynthia Leitch
2017 - : Margaret Greenlees

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Irvine Lasses Burns Club Burns Suppers

Year Venue Immortal Memory Toast to Laddies Reply
1976 Eglinton Arms Don Whyte   Sam Gaw
1977 Caledonian Hall Margaret Parker Mrs Wales Jim Wales
1978 Caledonian Hall Rev Moffat Margaret Cook Rev J Cook
1979 Caledonian Hall Sara Cockburn Rosemary Foy David Smith
1980 Redburn Hotel Anna Blair Margaret Rae Bob Fraser
1981 Redburn Hotel Countess of Eglinton Anne Gaw Andrew Hood
1982 Redburn Hotel Mollie Rennie Helen Bell Norman Brown
1983 Redburn Hotel Catherine Czerkawski Madge Smith Tom Raffel
1984 Grange Hotel Major John Weir Betty Herbertson John Elliot
1985 Woodlands John Inglis Maureen Leitch Harry Bull
1986 Woodlands Tom McIlwraith Mae McEwan Jack Lovie
1987 Woodlands Jay Gould Betty Duncan Matt Brown
1988 Woodlands W Millar Anne Gaw Mike Thomson
1989 Woodlands Anne Gaw Jean Bell David Smith
1990 Stanecastle Hotel John Roddie Margaret Cook Jim Greer
1991 Golf Hotel Jim Campbell Anne Gaw Dan McNeil
1992 Golf Hotel Rev James Greig Elsie Watt Hugh Drennan
1993 Golf Hotel Margaret Cook Jinty Barr Jim Gibson
1994 Golf Hotel Betty Herbertson Janet Harkins Jim Craig
1995 Golf Hotel Murdo Morrison Mae McEwan Tom Raffel
1996 Golf Hotel George Duncan Jessie Gray Bill Cowan
1997 Golf Hotel Willie Morrison Diana Shedden Bill Cowan
1998 Golf Hotel Andrew McKee Margaret Rae James Clements
1999 Wellwood Bob Dalzeil Margaret Cook Harry Bull
2000 Wellwood Joe Campbell Marie Somerville John Young
2001 Wellwood Jack Lovie Karen Scott James Hazlett
2002 Wellwood Hugh Drennan Aileen Howie Bert Thomson
2003 Wellwood Willie McPike Maggie Magee Hugh Hutchison
2004 Wellwood Andy Howat Lesley Diack Rev J Smith
2005 Wellwood Fr Willie Boyd Carrie Wilson Angus Middleton
2006 Wellwood Donald Reid Jennifer Dale Alistair Dale
2007 Golf Hotel Angus Middleton Dr P Whiteford Andy Howat
2008 Irvine Winton B C Bob Dalziel Jean Hillhouse David Baird
2009 Vineburgh Lesley Richardson Janey Grier Gordon McConnell
2010 The Puffer Iain Doole Marie Somerville Rev A Black
2011 Menzies Hotel Drew Duncan Martha McCrae Robert McCrae
2012 Menzies Hotel Jim Boles Carrie Boax John Boax
2013 Menzies Hotel Michael Diamond Rosemary Murdoch D Murdoch
2014 Menzies Hotel Tim Swan Pat McPhee Fr Willie Boyd
2015 Menzies Hotel Joe McGinty Anne Clark Martin Cassidy
2016 Menzies Hotel Robert Travers Tracy Moynihan Andy Moynihan
2017 Menzies Hotel Derek Murdoch Lynne Bradley Gordon Mckinlay

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Inaugural meetings of the Club
(provided by Corinne Buivenga)

 

Inaugural Meeting Feb. 1975 ::: Secretary's Report AGM Feb. 1976

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World Burns Federation # 936