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Just Like Eddi

I’ve just read that Lord David Steel found it necessary, in the independence debate in the House of Lords, to refer to Eddi Reader ‘Murdering Burns songs’.

Now let me say that I rather like some of Eddi’s Burns interpretations and don’t care too much for others. However it can’t be denied that she has, perhaps more than any other contemporary singer/musician, done her bit to bring the Bard’s work to a new audience. She is to be commended for that at least.

There are Burns snobs out there who think that his work should be preserved in formaldehyde. Some comments I have heard from fellow attendees at Burns Suppers illustrate my point. Last year I heard a great ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ at the Howff Club in Dumfries, delivered by one of the members who had obviously taken great care to learn the poem (story) and put in his own wee bit of humour (just brief gestures and looks). I thought it was terrific and it was generally well received. He didn’t need any prompts in the lengthy recitation, his clarity, timing and delivery were almost perfect. Afterwards I remarked to one of the other attendees how much I had enjoyed it. His answer? ‘Too long. Tam o’ Shanter should be nineteen minutes. His version was twenty minutes and fourteen seconds!’.

My jaw nearly hit the floor. It was as if this guy had been sitting in judgement with a fucking stopwatch! I wondered, as we sat it the hostelry where Rabbie stayed when he first moved to Dumfries and a few miles from where he wrote Tam o’ Shanter, what he would have thought of this piece of criticism of delivery of his work.

Now don’t get me wrong, some criticisms can be valid. I saw one guy last year delivering the poem the Twa Dugs with the aid of two dog puppets. Despite the fact that he knew the poem well, I didn’t think the puppets or the voices that the man affected added anything to his performance or to the poem.

Anyhoo, back to Lord Steel and Eddi Reader.

Here is Lord Steel commenting on his own brief foray into the world of popular music:


And here is Eddi Reader in the political fray:


Which may bring one to the view that one is sometimes better to stick to what one knows.

Here is Ms Reader’s spirited comeback to Lord Steel, delivered via social media (cut and pasted).

‘My name is Eddi Reader I’m a singer musician. Like my great grandfather did, I sung and enjoyed Robert Burns songs. He also felt bad enough about the elite lording it over and treating unfairly, the ordinary citizen, to want to help.
Tonight, I have learned that during the HOUSE OF LORDS debate on Scottish independence, the ‘Honourable’ ‘Lord’ David Steele (a real grown up experienced politician) chose to personally attack my take on Robert Burns songs.
“We have to endure Eddi Reader murdering Robert Burns songs”
Now .. I don’t mind him having a personal opinion on my work, badger him, he’s not my audience, so what? But, to choose to… attack my work in music, because I have the AUDACITY as a citizen, to question the status quo, I feel is unnerving…
I just had to scrabble around to find the money to pay an enormous personal Tax bill this month… Some of that goes into that guys pocket. He is MY servant, a servant of the people…
If anything has solidified my HELL YEAH!! Vote that dis-honourable birkie called a lord, who struts and preens and all that, COOF has made sure I will.
I couldn’t care if scots were scratching themselves after Indy.. That self regulating ignorant elite system that insults the electorate can bugger off.’

The verse to which she refers, in A Man’s a Man For a’ That, is as follows:

Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

I couldn’t remember if Steel had an ‘e’ at the end because much of the online debate on this had it spelled that way. Google auto complete came to the rescue…


Sutch a useful resource……


Back in Time

This pocket watch belonged to Robert Burns. It was a gift from his wife, Jean Armour.



The Scotsman reported last week:

A SYMBOL of one of literary history’s most famous romances, a watch given to Scotland’s greatest poet, Robert Burns, by his wife Jean Armour, has been uncovered and is to go on public sale for the first time.

The silver pocket watch contains a delicate, hand-annotated love note written by Armour on a piece of paper hidden inside the case.

The “pair-cased” watch contains a hand-pierced paper insert with a twin love-bird and heart motifs, and the initials “R” and “J” inside them – which experts believe refer to Rabbie and Jean.

On the back of the watch, which experts say is in excellent condition, the words “Robt Burns Mauchline” and the date 1786 are engraved.

Phil Gregory, spokesman for the auctioneer Lyon & Turnbull, said the watch came from a private collection and the seller had opted to remain anonymous.

He said: “I’ve held the piece myself, and it’s in amazing condition. You would not have thought it was the age it is.

“The piece of paper that sits inside it is very pretty, and the ink that the ‘R’ and a ‘J’, is written in is really fresh.”

The rest of the article can be read by clicking on the link.

The watch came up at auction in Edinburgh today and was expected to reach a price of £2,500.

It sold for £40,000.


This is a reconstructed life sized ‘heid’ of Robert Burns we encountered at Mauchline on Saturday.


Going by contemporary descriptions and depictions of Burns, this is not what I imagined at all.

This ‘classical’ engraved image of the bard was by John Buego, a friend of Burns in 1787.


This image was commissioned for the publication of Burns’s Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, published by William Creech that year.

It is said that Burns was very pleased with the print and that he wrote to Beugo to congratulate him on it. In a copy of the book given to a friend he wrote the following lines.


This image by Archibald Skirving two years after Burns death, bears a striking resemblance to the Buego work.


One wonders what Rabbie would have thought of the ‘heid’ in Mauchline?

Thanks to the excellent Alexandria Burns Club Website

Bletherin’ Bitch

BELOW thir stanes lie Jamie’s banes;
  O Death, it’s my opinion,
Thou ne’er took such a bleth’rin bitch
  Into thy dark dominion!

Robert Burns writing about his friend James Humphrey.

Epitaph on a Noisy Polemic

In fact Humphrey outlived Burns by 48 years so the epitaph was written well in advance of the event of Humphrey’s death in 1844.

I was at the Mauchline Holy Fair yesterday and noticed this in the churchyard:


Humphrey, a stone-mason from Mauchline who was employed at both Lochlie and Mossgiel.

He was interviewed by Allan Cunningham in 1834, and recalled Burns with affection, indeed he was flattered even to have been on the receiving end of his poetic dig.

Humphrey had a degree of education and would sometimes engage Burns in debate, hence the subject of the epitaph.

It was also included as one of the epitaphs in the Kilmarnock edition.

I found this on a search:


Oh Wad Some Power the Gift tae Gie Us

The term ‘Mosaic Profiling’ came up in conversation recently. I’d never heard of it but it is a system invented by credit and demographic company Experian which divides us all into 15 groups and 67 types. Their techniques are apparently used by business in deciding where to locate.

My first port of call to understand the concept was Wikipedia (click on the image for a clearer view):


I thought the Wiki page looked as if it could have been hacked. Surely this wasn’t serious?

Then I found the Mosaic Brochure and realised that the Wiki page was pretty accurate in its translation.

What about this?


Who knew that ‘hardworkingfamilies’ (see BLFP passim) was anything more than a New Labour epithet coined to attract disgruntled voters?

I’ve pored over the brochure and haven’t yet found a pigeon hole for family Bigrab yet.

Here are some of the fifteen groups:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And I still don’t know where to open my new nail bar……


This is yours Truly, flanked by two freens at Dumbarton Burns Club on Friday



Burnt Oot!

Can there be many more beautiful or evocative verses of poetry than this?

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You sieze the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white–then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.–
Nae man can tether time or tide;
The hour approaches Tam maun ride;
That hour, o’ night’s black arch the key-stane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks the road in
As ne’er poor sinner was abroad in.

Robert Burns – Tam O Shanter.

I was fortunate enough to attend the Howff Club Burns Supper at the Globe Inn in Dumfries with my friend Colin the piper on Thursday night. We had to pick up a fellow attendee at Ellisland Farm. Ellisland was where Burns lived during his time at Dumfries and was where he wrote Tam O Shanter.


Ellisland – by taxi light!


The Globe was the howff (pub) that Burns frequented when he lived in Dumfries. He also lived there for a while before settling at Ellisland. His room is much as it was in those days. He etched some poetry on the window glass (allegedly with a diamond ring). The originals have now been taken away because of their delicate state but these facsimiles are identical, albeit a bit stronger.


The night itself was sensational. Nearly a hundred folk crammed into the old pub – a long, narrow room. There was an Immortal Memory from well known folk singer and hillwalker Jimmie McGregor. Jimmie is in his eighties now but looks as if he’s having a wee go at the immortality himself as he appears much younger than that physically and mentally. Former BBC broadcaster and MEP Alasdair Hutton delivered the Toast to the Lassies entirely in rhyme. There was a fantastic rendition of Tam O Shanter from one of the club members Donald Shamash
and several ‘sangs’ from well known folk singer Ian Bruce.


Jimmie McGregor delivers his Immortal Memory speech at The Globe Inn

The chairman set the tone for the evening by declaring the beginning of the sacred religious festival “Ramadram”.

Twenty four hours later I was at the Dumbarton Burns Club supper where I was performing a few sangs with some freens. The Toast to the Lassies there by retired Bonhill minister Ian Miller was one of the best and funniest I’ve heard. Really though, everyone was great at that supper too. I thoroughly enjoy the whole thing. The friendship, the food, the entertainment….not to mention the single malt whisky!

That’s two down and several more to go, at one of which I’ll be doing the Immortal Memory speech.