On Wednesday I attended a Burns Supper as a special guest. The event was held in Aileymill Primary School in Greenock.
I wasn’t the only special guest, there were many others, each invited by one of the school’s primary seven pupils who would be providing the entertainment for the evening.
The event was held in March due to a clash of dates, but what I and the other guests were about to enjoy captured everything that makes Burns’ nights so special. It was doubly enjoyable given that the whole event – speeches, singing and dancing – was performed by the local lads and lassies from the Larkfield and Branchton area of Greenock.
This is my area you see, the area I grew up. Most of my family still live in the surrounding area and my own niece was taking part in this special evening – and what an evening it turned out to be.
From the moment we were piped into the hall by nine year old Ruaridh, the late stand in after the original piper had to call off, things got better and better.
11 year old Megan Louden was Chairwoman for the evening as she confidently introduced her fellow pupils, each carrying out their own respective roles to perfection.
Shelley Gilmour gave an inspiring Selkirk Grace, Demi Inglis performed the address to the haggis with remarkable aplomb. Rebecca Rush and Aimee Provan excelled in their version of the Immortal Memory.
The audience were told of Abraham Lincoln’s passion for Burns and how his wife visited Greenock after Abe’s untimely death.
There was laughter as the kilted boys from Primary 7 toasted the lassies, with several mothers, teachers and sisters having their shopping habits and fondness for shoes gently mocked. The reply from Morgan McLatchie and Carla Adam was equally humorous with loud guffaws resounding as the boys’ and fathers’ fondness for football, computer games and spiky hair causing a few to shift uncomfortably in their seats.
Interspersed were Scottish country dancing and renditions of Scots Wha Ha’e and Afton Water. There were a few tears shed when the pupils touched on Burns’ lasting love for Highland Mary, to whom he penned ‘To Mary in Heaven’ on the anniversary of her death. Her grave is in Greenock cemetery.
The evening culminated with a quite extraordinary rendition of Tam O’ Shanter by all of the pupils, that had everyone on the edge of their seats.
Kayleigh English gave a vote of thanks.
By the end of the evening it was easy to forget that the performances we had just witnessed had come from primary school pupils, many of whom were just 11 years old. The wee piper himself was just nine years of age.
Each was a credit to their parents and teachers – and especially school head mistress Isabella Lind whose passion for Burns, Greenock and Scotland shone through and was reflected in the performance from each young person.
I drove the forty miles home feeling inspired and proud of my area of Greenock. I haven’t live there for nearly thirty years, but like many, it will always be where I’m from.
If the confidence and ability shown by these youngsters is replicated across Scotland, we are indeed in good hands.