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Tuesday, 27 January 2009

250th birthday celebration

Monday 26th Jan.
Yesterday 25th, Robert Burns, the famous Scottish bard, would have been 250 years old - had he lived! Oh yeah, ha ha ha! Very funny! In fact he died at the very young age of 37, having achieved more than many in that time!

My great great great grandfather, Rev. William Inglis, and Burns became friends in the time that the latter lived in Dumfries, and apparently, according to the story handed down the Inglis generations in a manuscript of the family narrative, Burns, on his deathbed, repented of his wicked ways to GGG gf, and announced his intention to give up all his bad habits if he was spared!!!! Now that would have been something! Could he have given up all the womanising and the houghmagandie, because that's really the only thing he could be held to account for in his life - well, apart from maybe his drinking habits..... I'm not going to give you a life history of the man, you can look that up for yourself - click here -

Anyway, because of Burns living latterly in the town of Dumfries (DumFREESS, in case you wonder), a new tourist board scheme, thought up to encourage more visitors to Scotland, was launched yesterday in the town! Homecoming Scotland 2009! It all centres on the 250th anniversary of the ploughman poet! Events are taking place all over the country this year, I understand, and they all started off there in Dumfries, south west Scotland.

I drove down there yesterday to meet up with the Aussie cousins, Ian, Berny and Sally, for the beginning of this new festival, our ancestor having the connection he did with Burns. The programme outlined the events of the afternoon and evening. The main attractions were to be the processions of homemade lanterns around the streets culminating in a gathering in the centre of town, and a bonfire, actually the burning of a wicker sculpture of Burns' character Tam o'Shanter who disturbed a coven of witches and had to flee before they caught him. He just reached the bridge over the river when the youngest witch caught up and grabbed at his horse Maggie's tail. She of course couldn't cross water, but before Tam and horse managed to escape over the bridge the witch managed to pull the tail off "leaving Maggie scarce a stump!" The fantastic wicker structure was of Tam on his horse Maggie, on the bridge, and the witch pulling at Maggie's tail, all this on steel plates on a floating platform in the middle of the river just downstream of the old bridge, now a footbridge over the river Nith. We understood that there were to be fireworks too!

I would have thought that the lantern processions should have taken place when they could all have been lit up, after dark - and let's face it, at this time of year that's about 4.45 pm, so not what you'd call too late for kiddies to enjoy. If I had arranged it I would probably have had the proceedings begin with the Welcome speech from the town representative at about 4.30, then people could watch the processions of shining lanterns following the pipe bands coming along the opposite riverbank in the gloaming - or near dark. They would gather in the large car park on the town side of the river, near the stage and then there would be the short speech from the Scottish First Minister, with the lone piper on the bridge before the bonfire was lit, and simultaneously fireworks would be let off! As the bonfire was burning, and as an impressive firework display was set off there would be music from the bands, and as the evening wore on, more music and probably dancing, culminating by about 9.00 with everyone singing Auld Lang Syne - the traditional way to end any Scottish ceilidh (kayly) - and of course written by Robbie Burns - well some of it! He collected the rest and tidied it up!

Instead there was an interminable amount of hanging about waiting for things to happen. The speeches were made around 3.00 and then a couple of bands played for about an hour. Then the parade came along the river bank still in the daylight, following pipers whose music was drowned out by the rock band on the stage. Finally the processions arrived, on the street next to the carpark and no-one seemed to know what tp do next! Eventually it was announced that the bonfire was to be lit, and still it wasn't! More music from the stage. Finally when it had grown dark the lone piper on the bridge played "A man's a man for a' that", and at last the fire was lit, when someone threw a burning torch onto the base of the structure, from a boat. The wicker bridge, Maggie, Tam, and finally the witch began to burn up. A few fireworks had been hidden in the structure so they went off, but I'd have said they were hardly worth the bother. That's one to the right of the bonfire and I'm afraid that's about as good as it got! Only two small rockets whooshed up into the sky before dying ignominiously! We all stood there watching the bonfire burning down - it took a while - and I am sure I wasn't the only one who wondered when the proper firework display was to happen! It didn't! We waited and watched till the fire was almost done (yawn, bor-ing after a while) - still no more fireworks!

Finally frozen-nosed youngsters were carted off home by equally frozen parents and grandparents, while the stalwarts headed down to the stage at the far end - I'd have put it nearer the bridge end - where more music began and the by now lit up lanterns were paraded round informally, through the crowd. That was actually one of the best bits! The Aussies had already left to head back up to Glasgow - hope you had a safe journey, guys! I left soon after that so don't know how the rest of the party went. It was due to finish about 7.30 with everyone who was left joining hands and singing Auld Lang Syne, and I hope they had all enjoyed themselves.

I found though that it was really kind of disappointing, all in all! Sorry Dumfries! I really think it could have been a whole lot better!

Tuesday 27th Jan.
I've been having more computer problems! For the last couple of days, whenever I tried to upload photos the pooter froze, so I posted this without piccies or the story would have been totally out of date. However this time - SUCCESS! Photos!! Have a look at a few more of the amazing lanterns!

Talk again soon.

A fabulous dragon,

and a giAdd Imageant mouse or maybe it was a clown with big ears, on its side

Here's the world!

some yowes (ewes), there were cows and a couple of horses too! This photo was from the big screen beside the stage.

Add Image

St Michael's church
and a sailing ship
mother and baby with the Homecoming Scotland sign lit up in the background

a plane, maybe a spitfire?
and a heart.

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