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Maucline Burns Club

Homecoming - Scotland 2009

Homecoming Scotland 2009

Mauchline Burns Club Events

Supported by:-


All Mauchline Burns Club Homecoming Events have now taken place. Sincere thanks to all who attended, funded or helped in any way.


Mauchline Burns Club's Homecoming


In its almost 90 year history, with many memorable events to its credit, 2009 will undoubtedly stand out as a landmark and benchmark for the Mauchline Burns Club.


2009 was the year it all happened, but with all successful events, planning started much earlier, away back in 2007, when the Year of the Homecoming was first announced.

With the success of seven Holy Fairs behind us, we had a solid base and experience to build on. And build on it we did.


What could we mount? Certainly a bigger and better Holy Fair but what else?


We all agreed that with Mossgiel on our doorstep this unique location had to be the centre piece. There was the precedent of the Ploughing Match back in 1996 so that could be repeated in March. A Burns Supper at Mossgiel was tentatively proposed and agreed on. A marquee and caterers would have to be hired; but why only for one event?


And from there a whole weekend of events blossomed: two Suppers, one for locals with local performers, a corporate one with celebrities, a wreathe laying parade at the National Memorial with afternoon tea and finally a ceilidh possibly with Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham. Dreams - possibly, ambitious - certainly.


Two important factors had to be solved and overcome- permission to use Mossgiel, and large scale funding.


A small delegation was sent to negotiate with Alec Wyllie, tenant of Mossgiel itself. It was quickly apparent that the venue would not be a problem. The few conditions could easily be met. So funding next.


Contact was made with East Ayrshire Council, the Minerals Trust and of course, Homecoming Scotland. Our plans had to be firmed up, costings worked out and endless forms filled in. But success was ours here also. We were ready to go.


The Ploughing Match 29 th March 2009


Several Mossgiel fields were allocated to us; one for ploughing, one for the many and varied attractions, and two for car parking. The fine crisp sunny day served us well.


It was appreciated visitors would not stand for five hours watching the ploughing itself. We also had to cater for a wide range of ages and interests. And that we certainly did. Nostalgia was to the fore with twenty four vintage tractors and machinery all lined up. Beside them were stationed the land girls in appropriate clothes and a WW 11 field kitchen organised by our good friend Peter Scally. A huge display by the Meccano Society brought granddads and grand children together.

Elsewhere in the field, countryside skills of birds of prey and dry stane dyking proved equally popular while Stoats Porridge stall was busy all day offering a variety of flavours. All these activities were surrounded by over fifty stalls of every kind.


The main attraction was of course the horses themselves and from 11am until 2.30 pm they and their colourful masters moved diligently up and down Burns' own field. Mossgiel proved a great magnet to bring sixteen pairs of magnificent beasts to the event. They travelled from as far as Beamish, Rothesay, Montrose, Cookston Northern Ireland, as well as Dundonald and Tarbolton.

The overall winner was David Broll from Kirkcudbright with the pair Lewis and Harris. Mrs Wyllie presented the rose bowl donated by Hillhouse Quarry Company. Tom Currie of Tarbolton's input to the success of the day was invaluable.





The Homecoming was intended to attract visitors from abroad and we certainly did. Canada, Norway, France, and Zimbabwe were all represented, as well as every corner of the UK, all keen to be present at this unique day. BBC Scotland was not to be left out, as the Landward camera team with Euan Mc Ilwraith spent the day with us.


All in all a memorable occasion for the Club and the 4,000 visitors.


Media Exposure


Various media representatives paid rightful homage during the year to Mauchline's importance to Burns. One entire half hour was devoted to the village in author Andrew O'Hagan's three part series. In January Reporting Scotland's visit was shown nationally three times in one day. Newspapers such as the Sunday Herald and Guardian gave equally large coverage. We also had visits from New York and Toronto reporters. Mauchline at last was being recognised.


The Biggest Haggis in the World

Saturday 23 rd May


How could we make our eighth Holy Fair special?

Bringing outstanding acts and attractions would be a great contribution, and so we had top line entertainment in the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and High School Musical and thrills galore on the Wall of Death.

But these were not enough, we had to excel ourselves. One of our members discovered a local organisation was in the Guinness Book of Records for cooking the largest haggis in the world at around six hundred pounds.


With some apprehension we took up the challenge in a venture into the unknown.


Innumerable questions occurred. What weight would we aim at? What would we cook it in? Could we persuade a company to provide the haggis? What about the skin? How would we lift it out the container? And – what if it burst! One problem did not exist in that Peter Scally with all his experience of army field kitchens behind him would undertake the cooking.


Our first stroke of luck came when a successful approach to donate the haggis and oversee its making was made to McKechnie Jess of Greenock. These traditional haggis makers entered into the project with great enthusiasm. It required 500lbs of offal, 250lbs of oatmeal, 150 lbs of suet plus onions spices and water. The firm worked for four days to get it ready. Previously, Peter had sewn together nine ox stomachs to contain the monster.


A special trough or bath cooking pot had been made locally, and in it the monster was weighed at a Greenock weighing station.


1234 lbs—88stone!!


The same day it was transported down the motorway to Mauchline and Burns' bleaching green where the next stage of the operation was to take place.


By now we had learned the record had been broken by a New Zealand entry of 700lbs. Would their victory be short lived?


A fork lift truck moved the tank with the beached whale haggis from the lorry on to a wooden frame under which eight gas burners would burn for two days until the Holy Fair. A harness sling made by a sail maker lay around it. Peter Scally and a colleague were to sleep on site to keep an eye on the process.


Saturday afternoon came. It was cooked: so far it had not burst.


The crowds gathered. The fork lift truck raised the sail harness containing the 1234lb haggis out of the tank on to a platform. Then tradition took over; a piper piped the lowering; Secretary, Andrew Cooper performed the Address. The knife was a claymore taller than himself. Everything was filmed for verification purposes. Independent judges signed the certificate. The hungry crowd was served with tattles, neeps and haggis

Had we accomplished what we set out to do? The Ballochmyle Viaduct had already put Mauchline in the Guinness Book of Records. Would we and our haggis do the same?An eight week gap


In August our certificate arrived. Victory was ours. But not without a great deal of effort, imagination and unstinting help from others. By the way, the Holy Fair itself was again a great success.


Two events down ……..


The Mossgiel Weekend.

24 th -26 t h July



An eight week gap followed between the Holy Fair and the marquee events, but a lot had to be done. However, basic preparations had been in hand for some time. Members had visited Edinburgh and Moffat to view classic marquees in use and a booking had been made; similarly with a firm providing luxury toilet accommodation. The catering firm had also been arranged with tentative menus discussed. It was all now in the details.


Early in the week of the event the marquee was erected, complete with chandeliers and a hard floor. An avenue of flower tubs led to the entrance. The weather was kind to us, as it was to be for the rest of the week .There were to be no high heels stuck in glaur.


To our relief all the preparations came together without a hitch and by Friday afternoon everything was ready for the first Burns Supper and its 380 guests.


With President Bill Sharpe in the chair the traditional evening was a great success . Local talent provided the entire programme. The Immortal Memory was in the capable hands of Lord Weir who prides himself on being a direct descendant of “dear bought Bess “. Honorary President Ian Lyell proposed the toast to Bonnie Jean and the Lasses, while local lass Lesley Deschner replied.

Songs were provided by our own Castle folk and Janice Taylor of Borealis and poetry also by local well tried lads. Secretary Andrew Cooper addressed the haggis on both Friday and Saturday evenings. A right good night was had by all, with our caterers rising to the challenge of serving 385 meals in a field.


Saturday evening was the prestige event of the weekend and proved to be just that. As guests arrived they received Famous Grouse whisky cocktails provided by Eddringtons , the ladies also receiving an appropriate red rose Lord Galbraith chaired the evening with gusto. The principal speaker was Len Murray, a well known international Burns speaker. With two stars of the BBC “Still Game” Jane McCarry and Mark Cox doing the Toast to the Lasses and the reply the speeches were in safe hands. Karen Matheson thrilled the 200 strong audience with her wide selection of Burns' songs. Jim Malcolm on guitar and mouth organ offered a suitable contrast. Local MP Des Browne in his vote of thanks congratulated te Mauchline Burns Club members stating “We have the best Burns Club in the world.”.



Sunday - The Final Lap


We woke to a wet Sunday morning. Had our good luck weatherwise deserted us? No! Our parade was due to march off at 2.30 pm and by 2pm the sun was shining. In spite of the Johnnie Walker protest march occurring in Kilmarnock simultaneously, the turnout was impressive. Gathering outside the Burns House Museum were members of Masonic lodges, Boys Brigade, brownies Guides, Burns Clubs, visitors and locals.


Led by Muirkirk pipe band, we processed to the National Burns Memorial for the wreathe laying.

The short ceremony of address, prayer and pipe solo drew more spectators. The magnificent marquee then acted as host to all the participants with a splendid afternoon tea complete with cake stands. Local group Borealis entertained the guests with their own special arrangements of Burns' songs. A delightful way to spend the afternoon. But Sunday was not over.


The Ceilidh


A crowd of four hundred had eagerly booked places for this the final event of the weekend. The musical bill was particularly special. The dance sessions were accompanied by the local Ballochmyle Ceilidh Band. No encouragement was needed to get dancers on the floor for all the old favourites.

The highlight of course was the appearance of the stars of traditional Scottish music Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain as part of their national tour. They delighted everyone not only with their great range of music but also with their informal banter. As a final treat, bowls of stovies were served at the interval.


Around midnight, Mossgiel fields rang out to the singing of Auld Lang Syne for the third and final time on this spectacularly unique Homecoming weekend. On this occasion Burns was wrong-The best laid schemes do not always gang agley.


The members of the Mauchline Burns Club Organising Committee were;


Bob Baillie, Andrew Bell, Hugh Brown, Andrew Cooper, Jimmy Davidson, Donald Howe, Willie Jardine, Ian Lyell, Fergie McCartney, Maurice Mc Kendrick, Billy Sharpe, Tommy Scott, and John Sutherland with the help and support from many others.

Click to view larger image


Sunday 29th March 2009 -  Horse Ploughing Match at Mossgiel Farm.

This very successful event has taken place - report and pictures at end of this page.

Mossgiel Farm, Mauchline was home to Robert Burns, the Ploughman Poet, from 1782 -1784. There he wrote most of his best poetry, including 'To a Mouse'. A celebratory Ploughing Match organised by Mauchline Burns Club honoured the Homecoming year and, in particular, Burns' immortalisation of the Scottish countryside and the humble farm life of the time. 


Competition Judges D Purdie of Ochiltree, Ayrshire and R Copeland of Ruthwell, Dumfries. Commentator W Davidson of Ayr

all arranged by Mr Tom Currie, Altonburn Farm, Tarbolton, who was our main advisor.


                Supreme Champion - David Broll, Kirkcudbright with Lewis and Harris

                Reserve - George Robertson, Kilwinning with Bill and Ben.

                Sharp Top - 1. Jimmy Wilson, Castle Douglas with Bob and Joe

                Round Top -1. David Broll, Kirkcudbright with Lewis and Harris.

                                      2. David Nelson, Fife with Danny and Chick.

                General Purpose - 1. George Robertson, Kilwinning with Bill and Ben.

                                         2. Neil MacPhail, Glenbarr with Jeannie and Lilly.

                                         3. Derek Espie, Cookstown, Northern Ireland with Davy   and Major.

  Above is Winner David Broll working - Photo copyright - Peter Sandground/                                                 


 23rd May 2009 - Mauchline Holy Fair

Held in Mauchline village centre, where Robert Burns met and lived with Jean Armour as his wife from 1784-1786. This 18th Century community Festival paid tribute to one of Robert Burns' most famous poems, The Holy Fair, a poem written in Mauchline about the annual Holy Fair held during his time. In celebration of the Bard's 250th Anniversary and Scotland's Year of Homecoming, the Holy Fair lived up to it's promise of a packed programme of activity that appealed to all the family - also a world record was broken!     

Please click on The Holy Fair button above to get a flavour of the 2008 Holy Fair.


July 24th, 25th and 26th. - Our Grand Marquee Weekend at Mossgiel Farm.
Nearly a thousand people took the once- in- a- lifetime opportunity to attend our events in our luxury marquee with top class speakers and entertainment on the very field where Burns turned up the mouse, which led to the famous Poem, 'To a Mouse'.

Friday Night Burns Supper, Saturday Night Burns Supper and Sunday March to the Robert Burns National Memorial, Mauchline were followed by refreshments in the Marquee. The Grand Marquee weekend ended with an excellent Ceilidh on the Sunday Evening in the Marquee.

                                         Our Marquee at Mossgiel

Friday Night Burns Supper in the Luxury Marquee

                     Programme and Menu                            


Saturday 25thJuly - Grand 'Corporate' Burns Supper in our Mossgiel Marquee

      Saturday Programme and Menu

                Catering by Grooms

First Course:-

Second Course:-

Third Course:-

Fourth Course:-

Fifth Course:-

As an Added Attraction,

the Edrington Group donated

one of 250 Collectors Item Bottles

worth around £400 each.

This was auctioned for Charity

on the Saturday evening. Mauchline Burns Club are proud to have helped raise £1,100 for Charity, 'The Living Trust' from this.


John Byrne, above, paints Robert Burns

for limited edition whisky to mark 250th anniversary

John Byrne pictured with his commissioned artwork of Robert Burns

To mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns and the launch of Homecoming Scotland 2009, The Famous Grouse has specially created 250 bottles of 37 year old blended malt signifying every year of Burns' extraordinary life.

Renowned Scottish artist and playwright John Byrne, pictured, was commissioned by The Famous Grouse to create an original painting of Robert Burns to adorn this limited edition, making it a unique collector's item as part of The World Famous Burns Supper celebration.

The bottle has been specially selected by Edrington master blender John Ramsay from a range of casks first laid down in 1971. In keeping with the humanitarian spirit of Burns, these bottles, which are valued upwards of £400, will be auctioned at Burns suppers all over the world, helping to raise a minimum of £10,000 for their chosen charities


Sunday Grand March at 1pm from the Burns House Museum in Castle Street to the National Burns Memorial at Mossgiel.

Join us on our walk and wreathlaying to pay our respects to the Poet at his National Memorial. Below are some of the people who laid wreaths at our National Memorial Wreathlaying in January 2009.

After the March and Wreathlaying, please join us again in our Mossgiel Marquee for a light sandwich lunch together with some fine entertainment - hosted by Mauchline Burns Club.

      Sunday Evening Ceilidh in our Mossgiel Marquee

                               (Fully Booked)

                                Complimentary 'welcome' drink from Diageo

To round off the Marquee Weekend, please join us for the celebrations, marking the end of Mauchline Burns Clubs 2009 Events, by coming to our Ceilidh in the Marquee. Music in the 'Strictly' Scottish Style by the Ballochmyle Ceilidh Band and guest entertainers, Phil Cunningman and Aly Bain. Do the Gay Gordons, Eightsome Reel, Dashing White Sergeant, Strip the Willow etc. - all the ones you 'learned' at school!  Bar services available but no food in the £5 ticket price.

Other Club Projects for 2009

Cleaning Burns Family and Contemporaries gravestones in Mauchline Kirkyard.

Now Finished Upgrading and Improving of paths in Mauchline Kirkyard to help elderly and disabled.

Audio Guide for visitors to Mauchline available from Museum now. £5 returnable deposit.


Ploughing Match on 29th March 2009 Report and Pictures

'Happiness is.................'

Mauchline Burns Club President and Treasurer in the Royal Bank surveying the gate money.                                                  Is there enough there to pay the bills?

Our Horse Ploughing Match at Mossgiel

on Sunday 29 th March

Against all the forecasts, we woke up on Sunday to dry weather and some sunshine. We could not believe our luck but sincere thanks to whoever arranged that for us.

Having done as much as we could on the Saturday in strong biting winds, on Sunday morning at 7.30am, one group of members started setting out traffic cones and another group had to start setting up stalls because these had to be left on the ground overnight because of high winds. It wasn't long before people started arriving and our Royal Bank gatepeople arrived at 8.30am suitably dressed for the weather. From then it was a steady stream of people and, from our visitors books, we see people coming from as near as the Jean Armour Homes just along the road and as far as Canada, Norway, France, Calgary, Bournemouth, Bristol, Zimbabwe, Northern Ireland, Orkney and nearly everywhere in Scotland and many parts on England.

The ploughing was a real spectacle and we think that enthusiasts realised that this could never happen again We are extremely grateful to Alex Wyllie and his family for allowing us to stage this event on the historic field where Robert Burns actually ploughed up the famous mouse.

The Birds of Prey fascinated most people and the Meccano Society display took many dads back to the models that they could not afford to build in their childhood. The tractors and old implements also took a great many people back to working with them and on them, and the steam engine was also of tremendous interest. Thanks to George Wisener for arranging all this with his usual cheery grin and to ex-army cook, Peter Scally, who kept them all supplied with food from his WW11 field kitchen. Stallholders seemed happy with how they had done and the Scout Stall sold out of hot food and drinks.

We owe thanks to so many people. The main man is, of course, Tom Currie of Altonburn. Without Tom, his expertise and contacts, we simply could not have put on this event. We but must mention Strathclyde Police – from the two impressive Police Horses, the motor cycle outriders, the policemen on points duty and we can't forget the police driver who got their mobile police office stuck early on in the day. We thank the stallholders, who braved the cold, windy weather and hope they are glad they attended. Thanks to Alan with his big tractor – there was plenty work for him on the field and in the car parks! Kilmarnock & District Model Railway Club manned the car parks in their usual efficient way and we will see them again doing the same job at the Holy Fair.

All in all, a very successful day which attracted around 4,000 people. Someone (*) said, ‘Not bad for a bunch of old men!' Mauchline Burns Club couldn't admit to being a bunch of old men but we were very, very happy that all our hard work paid off on the day.

(*) Someone.                                      Field Marshall Andy Bell                  Elaine from the Royal Bank thought                                                                                                                                                  Christmas had come early!

         Has Elaine seen Fred?                                During                   Happy Royal Bank Staff have their tent blown off

               Last of the Summer Wine?                                             A couple of Mauchline Belles?

But Seriously..............       

                            The Banner Visits Mossgiel                                                            Robert Burns World Federation President

                  All above images courtesy of Elaine Weir and Agnes Cowan.

The Usual Suspects?    (Photo Roger Clark)

            Robert Burns World Federation President, Bill Dawson,

                 East Ayrshire Council Provost, Stephanie Young

                     Mauchline Burns Club President Bill Sharpe.

                                 (Photo - Roger Clark)
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