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  • Rob Marrs

When chapman billies leave the street...

Updated: Feb 23, 2020

Ah the introduction to Burns’ best loved poem “Tam O’ Shanter”. The full poem was recited by Donald Rowantree with great gusto and enthusiasm at our annual Burns Dinner on Saturday the 25th January. It was an absolute treat.

The assembled crowd before too much imbibing of the Uisge Beatha!

Probably the best Burns Dinner in England, we had a fantastic meal provided by Horseradish Catering at Chester Race Course. It was, as usual interrupted by a series of toasts, the most unbelievable was “The President would like to take wine with all those who support a team with Thistle in its name”. As Partick Thistle supporters, the President and Mike Martin were drinking together!

The Haggis was addressed enthusiastically by Rob Marrs, who followed his academic background by going into a rant half way through. Emeritus Professor Ian Campbell of Edinburgh University provided a short, but particularly incisive Immortal Memory, based mainly on Burns’ correspondence. Ben Walton toasted the “Land we live in and the Visitors”, the Lord Mayor of Chester Mark Williams replied partly in sign language (Chester is a “MAKATON—friendly” City) and Professor Tim Wheeler, newly-retired Vice Chancellor of Chester University toasted the Land ‘O Cakes and the Chester Caledonian Association in his usual witty way.

Our President, Emeritus Professor Sandy MacLennan (and Partick Thistle supporter) presenting an engraved decanter to Emeritus Professor Ian Campbell, who delivered the Immortal Memory.

Our President, Emeritus Professor Sandy MacLennan with Professor Tim Wheeler.

Particular highlights of the evening were the musical entertainment. The piping by Niall Rowantree from Banchory was, as ever, superb. No Chester Caledonian Burns night would be complete without the incomparable fiddle playing by Paul Anderson of Tarland; his rendition of “A Lament to King George VI” was spell-binding and the evening was rounded off by the singing of Bruce Davies from Fife. An unexpected bonus was an unscheduled, impromptu jam session after “Auld Land Syne” by all three at the end – a great finish to a superb evening.

Paul Anderson and Bruce Davies in full-flow

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