MAY 2018 Newsletter

Dear Fellow Caledonians,

April saw us welcoming the Federation Chief Jane Dyer, on her official visit. We had a Ceilidh event on the Friday evening at the Border Hockey Club House, which was well attended. This was followed by the ever-popular Tartan Day River Cruise and a committee dinner held at Dot-Com Café.

Fed

The weekend also allowed us the opportunity to present Sandra Rankin and Callum and Beryl MacIver with Honorary Life Membership in recognition of their long, faithful and dedicated service in upholding and promoting all that is best in Scottish Culture and Tradition. Below are the citations read at the presentation:

“Our first recipient has been a member of the society for 44 years having joined the society in 1974. Except for Margaret Murray, she is the longest standing member of the Society and has served the Society in every role – committee member, treasurer, secretary, lady president and chief. In recent years, she has been fondly referred to as our ‘Chief of Protocol’ – reference to the endless guidance she provides to those of us with far less experience and knowledge, and her willingness to pass this on and uphold the traditions of our Society.

HLM

Our new Honorary Life Members Sandra Rankin and Callum and Beryl MacIver together with Chief Roxanne Piderit

She has been chief of the ECHG, manager of the ELCSPB and a Scottish Country Dancing Teacher. She has also served the Federation in various roles – as provincial lady president, provincial chieftain and chief of the federation. In all these roles, Sandra Rankin has worked tirelessly and tackles every task with enthusiasm. She has demonstrated strong leadership qualities and organisational skills. Her vision, foresight and dedication have been key to the ongoing success of our Society. It goes without saying that Sandra has made a real, positive and lasting impact on the Society and its members. It is indeed a great honour to award honorary life membership of the ELCS to Past Federation Chief, Sandra Rankin.”

“Our second recipients have been members of the society for 40 years having joined the society in 1978. They have twice served the society as Chief and Lady President, and have represented the Society at Congress on numerous occasions. They have also served the Federation as Provincial Chieftain and Lady President of the Cape Province – twice. Importantly, during their long and active service to the Society, they have become the official suppliers of the Haggis for our Burns celebrations – a role from which they have graciously retired this year. In all these roles, Callum and Beryl MacIver have given invaluable service to the society and always had its interests at heart – and we know they will continue to do so for years to come. It is indeed a great honour to award honorary life membership of the ELCS to Past Chief and Lady President, Callum and Beryl MacIver.”

As I have said before, the committee is always looking for new ideas and entertainment options. I hope you will join us for the Quiz Evening on Saturday 12 May. Get a group of four people together, or join up with a group when you get there.

NEWS OF MEMBERS

Firstly a warm welcome to Peter and Anne McLeod, who have joined the Society as Country Members. While on the subject of membership, many congratulations to Sandra Rankin and Callum & Beryl MacIver – our new Honorary Life Members (see photo on front page). Linda Herman’s nephew, Sean Cameron won the Junior 100 Guineas Solo Piping Competition. Ken Scott and Linda Herman have been in Johannesburg visiting Ken’s son and Linda’s niece. Maureena Middleton is attending family celebrations in Johannesburg. The Middleton twins’ hockey team has been ranked 4th in the country. Roxanne Piderit will be travelling to Durban with the Border Hockey team. Dave Rankin received an award from SA National Blood Service for 150 donations. Finally many condolences to Sue and Roxanne Piderit, on the passing of their father and grandfather, Graham Turner.

ENTERTAINMENT

12 May 2018             Scottish-themed Quiz evening at the MOTH Hall. Bring & share. Cash bar. R10 pp. Members from the Society and from other organisations will be encouraged to form teams of four. 6.30pm for 7pm.

13 June 2018            AGM at the Border Hockey Club. Please bring plate of eats to share. 7pm

PIPE BAND

The band paraded during the Federation Chief’s visit on 6 & 7 April; but unfortunately “Music in The Park” was cancelled due to rain. The Band also played at the Bowling Championship finals at Comrades Club on 28 April and 5 May, at the East London Agricultural Show on 1 May and at the Diesel Depot Run. Looking ahead, the Band will be at the SPCA Bikers’ Breakfast at Hams Club on 12 August. The band also featured in an article in “The Rising Sun” newspaper of 10 April.

LADIES GROUP

The Ladies meeting on 4 April at ‘Breath of Life’ was enjoyed by all. The Ladies next meeting will be at 9.30am Tuesday 8 May at Oak Room, Parklands. This will be a ‘Cuppa for CANSA’ tea at which a DVD of the Edinburgh Tattoo will be screened. A minimum donation of R20 per person is requested.

S.C.D.C

 Weekly meetings continue at the Hams Club from 4pm – 5.30pm on Tuesdays. The club’s performance during the Federation Chief’s visit was well received. The Federation Chief expressed her pleasure that such a club is active in East London.

 HIGHLAND DANCERS

Dancers performed for the Federation Chief and at the Border HDF on 14 April. The Eastern Cape Highland Gathering Dancing Competition will be held at Port Rex Technical High School from 9am on Saturday 19 May.   All welcome to come and support our dancers.

CONGRESS           

The dates for the next Congress have been confirmed as 5-7 October 2018 in Durban. East London is pencilled in for the 2020 Congress. Task Team is busy refining proposals for Congress and will meet before the next Committee meeting on 10 May.

BIRTHDAYS

April 2018 May 2018
Date Name: Contact: Date Name: Contact:
9 Sandra Rankin 043 726 1500 8 Sheila Sanderson  
13 Liezel Cilliers 083 518 4009 13 Hannah Paterson  
19 Roxanne Piderit 082 455 8661 14 Linda Hermann  
19 Hannah Weymouth 076 572 9390 15 Andrew Weymouth 083 604 3912
28 Dennis du Plessis 082 375 8250 18 Estelle King 082 477 1983
30 Rose Thompson 072 431 7391 20 Beryl MacIver 043 722 0875
  22 Tanya Macdonell 074 446 0480
26 Ken Scott 083 274 3349

SUBSCRIPTIONS

The Committee is proposing that subscriptions will increase for next year to: Full Members: R85, Country Members: R60; Junior Members: R30. Members paying in advance of the AGM will pay at the current rates.

COMMITTEE

Next Committee Meeting will be at 7.30pm on Thursday 10 May 2018 at the home of Roxanne Piderit, 7a Dartnell Road, Cambridge West.

Yours aye,

Roxanne Piderit (Chief)

FORTHCOMING EVENTS:

DATE EVENT VENUE START NOTES
12 May 2018 Scottish Themed Quiz BB Country Club 18.30 R10pp. Bring & share
13 June 2018 AGM Border Hockey Club 19.00 Chance to join Committee !
3 Nov 2018 Halloween McClelland TBC  
1 Dec 2018 St Andrews Dinner Beacon Bay Country Club TBC
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MARCH NEWSLETTER

Dear Fellow Caledonians,

We have had a very busy start to 2018, with two well-supported functions.  Burns Nicht in January had an exceptional number of members attend – we hope you enjoyed a new venue and a ‘fresh’ approach to the tribute to Scotland’s Bard.  Our February function was a Valentine’s Tea in aid of the Pipe Band’s efforts to raise funds towards their centenary in 2020.  Again we had a fantastic turnout, kicking off the fundraising in style.  As ever, my grateful thanks to Past Federation Chief Sandra Rankin for all her help and guidance in making these events a success.

haggis

Your Chief addressing the Haggis at Burns

Looking forward, we have a Putt Putt event this weekend – this is part of our continued efforts to keep the Society in the public eye and hopefully generate some interest and gain new members.  Please don’t forget to wear some tartan (feel free to interpret this creatively!). See the Entertainment section for details

In April we will welcome the Federation Chief, Jane Dyer, on her official visit.  We have a Ceilidh event planned for the Friday evening at the Border Hockey Club House.  This will be followed by the ever-popular Tartan Day River Cruise – tickets are limited, so please contact the committee to reserve your place asap. We hope to see as many members as possible at these two events.

NEWS OF MEMBERS

Firstly a warm welcome to Dean Klopper, who has just joined the Society – we look forward to seeing him at future functions. News from the Doctor’s Surgery …. Jean Sansom is home from hospital after falling and breaking her arm, Elliot Murray is recovering from complications after undergoing knee surgery; Iris van der Zee has had dental surgery and Agnes Cowie has not been well. Travel News – George and Margaret Bruce have returned from holiday.  School News – Britney & Emily Middleton are settling in well at their new school, Clarendon; while Tumi Macdonell has started at Stirling High School and was elected class captain.  Finally congratulations to Dave Rankin, who has completed his dissertation.  In Sports news – Sue and Roxanne Piderit participated in the Tomato Trot Fun Run.

ENTERTAINMENT

10 March 2018         Putt-putt Golf Outing at the Beacon Bay Crossing.  17.00 for 17.30.

No charge – but members to pay for themselves. Tartan to be worn

6 April 2018               Visit of the Federation Chief. Ceilidh/Bring & Share at Border Hockey Club. 18:30

7 April 2018               Tartan Day River Cruise. Wear a touch of tartan. R100 per person

PIPE BAND    New practice venue – Gonubie Montessori School is working well.  Band played at Burns and Valentines Tea. Upcoming Parade: Music in the Park on 18 March 2018.

LADIES GROUP   The first meeting of 2018 held at the Dot Com Café was enjoyed by all. Ladies have decided that future meetings of the group will take place at catered venues and each of the members will pay their own way.  Next Meeting: 9.30am Weds 4 April at ‘Breath of Life’ in Dawson Road.

S.C.D.C   A good turnout on the first practice of the year. Weekly meetings continue at the Hams Club from 4pm – 5.30pm on Tuesdays.  

HIGHLAND DANCERS   Dancers performed at the Valentine’s Tea and at the Knysna Celtic Festival on 24 February.  During mid-March there will be qualifiers for the Interprovincial competitions.

CONGRESS               The provisional date for the next Congress is 5-7 October 2018 in Durban.  East London is pencilled in for the 2020 Congress.

BIRTHDAY

March 2018 April 2018
Date Name: Contact: Date Name: Contact:
6 Nadege Rankin 082 773 9549 9 Sandra Rankin 043 726 1500
11 Nookie Middleton 084 693 2836 13 Liezel Cilliers 083 518 4009
14 John Stoddard 082 466 7095 19 Roxanne Piderit 082 455 8661
16 Edgar Willis   19 Hannah Weymouth 076 572 9390
28 Claude Macdonell 084 742 8156 30 Rose Thompson 072 431 7391

COMMITTEE    Next Committee Meeting will be at 7.30pm on Thursday 12 April 2018 at the home of Dave & Maureen Rankin, 9 Nelson Ave, Cambridge.

Yours aye,

Roxanne Piderit (Chief)

FORTHCOMING EVENTS

DATE EVENT VENUE START NOTES
10 March Putt Putt Social The Crossing. Beacon Bay 17.30 Pay your own way!
6 April Fed Chief Visit Border Hockey Club 18.30 Bring and share / ceilidh
7 April Tartan Day River Cruise Nahoon River (TBC) TBC R100 per person
12 May Scottish Themed Quiz BB Country Club TBC  
13 June AGM Border Hockey Club (TBC) TBC Chance to join Committee!

 

JUNE 2017 NEWSLETTER

Dear Fellow Caledonians,

What a wonderful sight it was to see the “Caledonian Barge” cruising down the Nahoon River under blue skies, when we recently welcomed our Federation Chief, Fred Brokenshire, to East London.  With two pipers and a drummer in the bow, Fred and 30 Caledonians on board and the St Andrews Saltire flying overhead, we were quite a sight. Little wonder that people on the banks waved and cheered as we went past.1

With a Ceilidh on the Saturday evening, it was a busy weekend with plenty of fun and entertainment.  However on the Saturday morning, the Federation Chief and your Committee did find time to meet at Pine Creek for a ‘working’ breakfast.  Our focus was on the future of the Caledonian Movement and it was a most productive meeting. Unless every Society and Caledonian pulls together, we may see an end to the Caledonian Movement and the preservation of our Scots heritage for future generations.2

We have since put together a memorandum and have sent it to the Federation Chief for consideration by Central Council. We look forward to receiving their response.3

But as you will know from our Newsletters, we do not rest on our laurels and there is always a Caledonian ‘happening’ in the pipeline.  On Thursday 25 May at 6pm, we will be having a Games Evening at the MOTH Hall.  Please join us for an evening of fun (and hotdogs!).

Finally we are coming to the end of our Caledonian year and I remind you to diarise the AGM on the 14 June 2017 at 19.00 in the Oak Room.  Please make a point of attending.

This is your opportunity to make a contribution to the Society and to vote in the Chief and Committee you would like to see in charge for the coming year.

NEWS OF MEMBERS  Congratulations to a number of our younger Caledonians, who continue to excel on the sports fields.  In particular, well done to the Middleton twins, Britney and Emily, who have been awarded their Border Hockey colours. Swimming South Africa have just released their national rankings for 2016 and Tumi Macdonell has been ranked number 4 in her age group for the 100m freestyle. Tumi has also been made the Stirling Primary U13 Netball Captain – well done, Tumi !

A “Get Well” message to Callum MacIver, who has had a second knee operation.  He is now home and recovering.  Finally Agnes Cowie will be going to Sedgewick for a week.

ENTERTAINMENT

Thursday 25 May            Games Evening.  Hot Dogs (with a Cash Bar) at the MOTH Hall

R25pp.  5.30pm for 6pm

PIPE BAND   The Band played on the barge for the Fed Chief and at the Diesel Depot Run.   The Band will have a very busy day on Saturday 27 May as they will be playing at (1) McClelland Bazaar (9.30am) (2) Mother and daughter tea at George Randall High School (10.45am) (3) Stirling Primary Games Day (11.30) and (4) Airfest at Wings Park (13.30).  They have every right to be out of breath after that lot …  Finally looking further forward, the Band has been invited to the re-opening of Drill Haĺl on 24 June and to the Komga Show on 7 October.

LADIES GROUP    April meeting at hosted by Sandra Rankin went well.   Next meeting will be at 9.30am on Tuesday 6 June 2017 at Nookie Middleton’s home, Cottage C5 Parklands.

S.C.D.C   Country Dancers danced for the Fed Chief. Weekly meetings continue on Tuesdays at the Hams Club from 4pm – 5.30pm on Tuesdays.

HIGHLAND AND IRISH DANCERS   A very productive dancing workshop was held on 26 April and well done to all the dancers who competed at the East Coast Dancing Festival on 20 May.  Unfortunately it was not possible to arrange a group to go to the South Coast Dancing Festival. Like the Band, the dancers will also have a busy day on 27 May at the McClelland Home, George Randall High School, Stirling Primary School and the Airfest (See Band Entry for times).

BIRTHDAYS

May 2017 (Remainder) June 2017
Date Name: Contact: Date Name: Contact:
20 Beryl MacIver 043 722 0875 11 Jean Sansom 043 735 2788
22 Tanya Macdonell 074 446 0480 20 Margaret Murray 043 726 1157
26 Ken Scott 083 274 3349 23 Ralph Anley 082 469 9424

COMMITTEE    Next meeting of the Committee will be on Thursday 8 June 2017 at 7.30 pm at Nookie Middleton’s home, Cottage C5 Parklands.

UPCOMING:

Saturday 20 May 2017: East Coast Dancing Festival. Time: 0930. Venue: Clarendon Primary School

Thursday 25 May 2017: Games Evening. Time 1730 for 1800. Venue: MOTH Hall. R25 pp. Hot dogs &cash bar.

Saturday 27 May 2017: Pipe Band & Highland Dancers will appear at:
0930 – McClelland Bazaar. 10145 – George Randall High School mothers & daughters tea. 1130 – Stirling Primary School Bazaar. 1330 – Airfest at Wings Park, East London.

Wednesday 14 June 2017: AGM. Time: 1900. Venue: The Oak Room, Parklands

MAY 2017 NEWSLETTER

Dear Fellow Caledonians,

The visit of the Federation Chief, Fred Brokenshire, this weekend is one of the most important events in our Caledonian year and, as you can see under “Entertainment”, we have planned some exciting entertainment.  It will however not all be fun, as on Saturday morning your Committee and the Federation Chief will have a business breakfast to discuss matters of importance to the Caledonian Movement.  We hope this discussion will improve communication between Societies and the Federation with the ongoing aim of upholding Scottish traditions and increasing membership.

Another exciting development in our Society is that Senior Chieftain, Roxanne Piderit will be re-instating the Junior Society in the near future.  East London is very fortunate to have a number of very talented young members and we wish Roxanne every success with this grand idea.  After all, our young members are the life blood of the Society and we will give our full support to the Junior Society.

Finally I would also like to especially wish Callum MacIver a very speedy return to good health after his operation.  Callum is one of our oldest active members (and the only Gaelic-speaking Scot in the Society) and has served our Society in every capacity for many years.

NEWS OF MEMBERS

Firstly a warm welcome to new members, Lynette Adkins and Dennis du Plessis.  We look forward to seeing them at Society functions. However as members arrive, sadly others leave … a farewell to Edgar Willis and Corinne Gellatly, who have left due to work commitments.

On the sports field, congratulations to Sue Piderit, who has been appointed as Manager of the Border Ladies Hockey Team and to Roxanne Piderit, who has been selected for the same team.  Other hockey news is that Britney and Emily Middleton had a successful tour with the Stirling High School 1st Hockey team, winning in Graaf Reinet and finishing 3rd out of 28 teams in a Cape Town Competition.  In the swimming pool, Tumi Macdonell did extremely well at the South African Junior National Championships in Durban.  Tumi qualified for two finals – coming 7th in both the 50m and 100m Freestyle Finals against the top U12 girls in the country.

 

Members that have recently returned from travels include Sandra Rankin (from New Zealand), Sheila Sanderson (from Australia) and Nookie Middleton (from Johannesburg).  In news from the doctor’s surgery … Callum MacIver has just had a knee operation, while Sue Piderit’s broken arm is now mended.  Finally congratulations to Sarah Middleton, who has just graduated with an Honours Degree and to Roxanne Piderit on moving into her new house.

ENTERTAINMENT

Saturday 22 April            Federation Chief Visit.  Barge Trip on the Nahoon River at 15.00 followed by a “Bring and Share” Ceilidh at Parklands at 18.00.  (BYOB)

Thursday 25 May            Games Evening.  Hot Dogs (with a Cash Bar) at the MOTH Hall (TBC)  R25pp.  5.30pm for 6pm

PIPE BAND   Band practice continues at the new venue of Hudson Park High School. The Band played at ‘Music in the Park’ on 26 March and will be at the Urban Run on 21 May.

LADIES GROUP    April meeting at Coelacanth Café (hosted by Jean Sansom) went well. Next meeting will be at 9.30am on Tuesday 2 May 2017 at Sandra Rankin’s home, 102 Parklands.

S.C.D.C   Weekly meetings continue on Tuesdays at the Hams Club from 4pm – 5.30pm on Tuesdays.   The Club has been practising for the visit of the Federation Chief.

HIGHLAND AND IRISH DANCERS   Dancers performed at “Music in the Park” (see photo of Kristen in her Ultimate Performer outfit) and will be competing at the South Coast Highland Gathering.  A dancing workshop is scheduled for 26 April and the East Coast Dancing Festival will be held on 20 May 2017 (not 13 May as previously advertised).  Congratulations to Emily Frauenstein, who achieved 5th place in the senior section at the Protea Awards.Kristen

BIRTHDAYS

April 2017 May 2017
Date Name: Contact: Date Name: Contact:
9 Sandra Rankin 043 726 1500 8 Sheila Sanderson
13 Liezel Cilliers 083 518 4009 14 Linda Hermann
19 Roxanne Piderit 082 455 8661 15 Andrew Weymouth 083 604 3912
19 Hannah Weymouth 076 572 9390 18 Estelle King 082 477 1983
28 Dennis du Plessis 082 375 8250 20 Beryl MacIver 043 722 0875
30 Rose Thompson 072 431 7391 22 Tanya Macdonell 074 446 0480
26 Ken Scott 083 274 3349

COMMITTEE    Next meeting of the Committee will be on Thursday 11 May 2017 at 7.30 pm at Dave & Maureen Rankin’s home, 9 Nelson Avenue. Cambridge.  However note that the meeting will be preceded by a Gathering “Wrap-up” Meeting at 7pm.

Yours aye,

Maureena ‘Nookie’ Middleton (Chief)

FORTHCOMING EVENTS:

DATE EVENT VENUE START NOTES
22 Apr 2017 Fed Chief Visit Nahoon River / Parklands 15.00 / 18.00 Barge trip / Ceilidh
25 May 2017 Games Evening MOTH Hall (TBC) 18.00 R25 per person
14 Jun 2017 AGM Oak Room, Parklands 19.00

 

Burn’s Nicht 2015

002 003001

The Scottish Referendum on independence being a little less than 6 months ago, this may be a good time to ask ourselves how Burns might have voted.  Of course, if Burns had been able to vote in the referendum, he would have been 255 years old and probably senile.

Had he been born in 1959, rather than in 1759, the age problem falls away as tonight he would be celebrating his 56th birthday.  The gutterpress and paparazzi would have ensured that he would not become Scotland’s national bard, but his Facebook status (In a relationship. It’s complicated) would be interesting; especially when the spellcheck tries to cope with “Fair fa’ yer honest sonsie face”, or “Wee sleekit, coo’rin’ tim’rous beastie”.

When Burn’s wrote ‘Scots Wha Hae’ he published it anonymously.  Patriotic song or not, it is an incitement against the crown and, therefore, treason.  Burns was, no doubt, familiar with the story of James Reid – the Jacobite piper hanged, drawn and quartered for his part in the 1745 rebellion.

While it is debatable that the court ruled that the Great Highland Bagpipe is a weapon of war (4 other Jacobite pipers were, respectively, banished, imprisoned, freed and fate unknown), art critics of the day obviously had exceptionally high standards and martyrdom for the sake of your art is not a career path with a pension scheme; not even 72 virgins waiting in Paradise.

In 1790, Burns asked “What are the boasted advantages which my country reaps from the Union that can counterbalance the annihilation of her independence, and even her very name”?

It is difficult to overstate the poverty and the hardships of the ordinary people in 18th century Scotland and much of Burns’ popularity as a poet stems from his identity with the common man and his ability to write of their lives in their vernacular.

He also, in A Parcel of Rogues in a Nation, criticised some of the tactics used to persuade the Scottish Parliament to accede to the Act of Union of 1707.

Up to this point we can confidently say that Robert Burns would have voted ‘yes’ for an independent Scotland.  And probably be completely wrong.

As Alexander Pope famously observed: A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again

Robert Burns’ public persona as the ploughman poet was carefully and deliberately crafted and enabled him to enter levels of society, both high and low, from which he might otherwise have been excluded.

Burns was well educated and, while his farming venture was not sufficient to support a family, it must be remembered that the soil was poor and crop rotation a poorly understood concept.

The romance of his poetry hides that Burns was pragmatic and a realist.  Among the options he considered was emigrating to Jamaica.  Had he done so, would he, like Thomas Jefferson, have struggled with the contradiction of declaring, as a self-evident truth, that “all men are created equal”, while living in a slave-owning society?

As Samuel Johnson noted in the years before the American Revolution, “Why do we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?” Perhaps this conundrum persuaded him against the move.

Of more immediate interest to us; if Robert Burns had crossed to the West Indies, would Burns Nicht still be celebrated with tartan and haggis, or would we be wearing Rasta beanies and puffing ganja?

In the end, needing to provide for his family, he became an Exciseman, a career that even tax collectors could find problematic.

This position, at least in UK, has its own interesting story.  Following a poor harvest in 1644, Charles 1 placed a tax on whisky and the Scottish Parliament restricted the right to distil to upper and noble classes.  The result, quite naturally, was the proliferation of illicit stills.  As you probably know, this is also the origin of the shebeen, a Gaelic word that South Africans have adopted as their own while retaining the original meaning.

After the Union Act of 1707, parliament created the Excisemen, whose task it was to end illicit distillation and the smuggling with which it had quickly become associated.  It was a difficult and dangerous, often fatal, undertaking as the Excisemen were generally outnumbered and inadequately armed.  There was also a certain sympathy towards the illicit stills and the smugglers.  Consider Rob’s poem “The De’ils awa’ wi’ the Exciseman”, with the fourth verse, as an example, reading:

There’s threesome reels, there’s foursome reels,

There’s hornpipes and strathspeys, man,

But the ae best dance ere came to the Land

Was, the deil’s awa wi’ the Exciseman.

Burns was not a supporter of the Stuarts and, writing to London’s The Star newspaper in 1788, said of the 1715 and 1745 rebellions “That they failed, I bless God, but I cannot join in the ridicule of them.”

He also endorsed the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when William of Orange deposed James VII & II.  Or, more accurately, he supported the bill of rights that finally, at least in Great Britain, forever ended absolute monarchy.  Writing to Robert Graham in 1792, Burns said “I look upon the British constitution, as settled at the revolution, to be the most glorious on Earth, or perhaps that the wit of man can frame.”

Politically, Burns was a supporter of Charles James Fox, the Whig politician who opposed Pitt the Younger in parliament.  His waistcoat was even in the same colours as Fox’s, which in turn were the colours of General George Washington and the American colonists.  Burns supported the colonists’ call for independence.

At the same time, he never called for the dissolution of the Scottish / English Union.  Scotland’s economic hardship after the failed Darien Scheme (the ill-conceived, ill-planned and badly executed Scottish attempt at colonisation on the Isthmus of Panama) played an important role in uniting the parliaments.

England was prepared to rescue its northern neighbour, but the price was Scotland’s independence.  A. G. Macdonell in “My Scotland” notes the Scottish tendency to flamboyance and the irrational belief that a glorious defeat is preferable to a pedestrian victory.  We probably caught it from the English.

Incidentally, the Macdonell to whom I refer is not the Chief of the Society, but is famous for another book “England Their England” and especially his description of the village cricket match. If you have not read it, your education is incomplete.

I like to think that Burns, carefully considering all the factors, would have concluded that the ‘yes’ campaign was an invitation to yet another Darien Scheme.  Or maybe to display the reckless courage that drove the clansmen to attack the government army at Culloden, when the Redcoats clearly held all the advantages.

When France declared war on Britain in 1793, Burns let go of his intellectual support of the French Revolution and joined the Royal Dumfries Volunteers when it was formed in 1795. As much as he criticised the union, he was prepared to risk his life in its defence.

Burns’ eldest son, also Robert, became a civil servant in the Treasury in London, while sons William and James both achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the East India Company’s army.  There is much truth in the story of the Scot who visited London.  Asked on his return what he thought of the English he replied “I didn’t meet any. I only dealt with management.”

That the Scottish National Party timed the referendum to coincide with the 700th anniversary year of the Battle of Bannockburn shows a praiseworthy grasp of good marketing. Perhaps they should have remembered the (most likely apocryphal) story of the Royal Navy as it lay off Trafalgar.  When Nelson flew his famous signal, an English sailor nudged his shipmate and said “Do you hear?  ENGLAND expects that every man shall do his duty”.  To which he received the reply “Aye.  Scotland’s lads do not need reminding.”

Yes for independence or yes for the Union.  Which what Robert Burns have seen as his duty?