All Mauchline Burns Club Homecoming Events
have now taken place. Sincere thanks to all who attended,
funded or helped in any way.
Burns Club's Homecoming
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.
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.
the success of seven Holy Fairs behind us, we had a
solid base and experience to build on. And build on
it we did.
could we mount? Certainly a bigger and better Holy Fair
but what else?
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?
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.
important factors had to be solved and overcome- permission
to use Mossgiel, and large scale funding.
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.
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
Ploughing Match 29 th March 2009
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
in all a memorable occasion for the Club and the 4,000
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.
Biggest Haggis in the World
23 rd May
could we make our eighth Holy Fair special?
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.
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.
some apprehension we took up the challenge in a venture
into the unknown.
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.
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.
special trough or bath cooking pot had been made locally,
and in it the monster was weighed at a Greenock weighing
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.
now we had learned the record had been broken by a New
Zealand entry of 700lbs. Would their victory be short
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.
afternoon came. It was cooked: so far it had not burst.
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
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
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.
events down ……..
th -26 t h July
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”.
- The Final Lap
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.
by Muirkirk pipe band, we processed to the National
Burns Memorial for the wreathe laying.
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.
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
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.
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
members of the Mauchline Burns Club Organising Committee
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.