Honorary members 1978 to 1986

1979 Prof. Christiaan N Barnard, Ian Douglas Smith, Don Whyte, Andrew Hood
1980 Yvonne Helen Stevenson, Mohamed Anwar El Sadat, Margaret Thatcher
1981 Harald R Leslie (Lord Birsay), Jack Nicklaus, J C Stormonth Darling
1982 William Lockhart
1983 Johnny Beattie
1984 William Golding, R L C Lorimer
1985 John Prebble, 'Manny' Shinwell
1986 George Mackay Brown


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Andrew Hood (c.1933-1982) Honorary member 1978

His life & work:

Andrew Hood's untimely death at the age of 49 was a profound shock to the many friends he had in business, in the Royal Burgh of which he was a Burgess and Guild Brother, and the many from all over the world who met and respected him as a fellow Burnsian. It was only in the previous autumn that Andrew was appointed the Burns Federation's representative for Africa, a post in which ill health prevented his full participation. Ironically, "Afric's burning zone" figured memorably in Andrew's life.

His National Service was spent in Kenya's Mau-Mau campaign. He was guardian of the later President Jomo Kenyatta while he was being taken to his island exile and it was while returning from Lagos in 1978 where he had just proposed the Immortal Memory to Robert Burns that he was stricken by an illness that enforced his retirement from active participation in the Burns movement and Irvine Burns Club.

Director of a successful business engaged in building services, Andrew was better known for his promotion of Robert Burns. President of Irvine Burns Club in 1967-68, and stepping into the breech as Secretary of the Irvine club in 1968 on the death of Bill Phillips, Andrew assiduously devoted his energy to creating in the museum a suitable tribute to the poet. His expertise developed not only the bricks and mortar, but also the educational aspect. With his bonhomie and original wit, he reminded all with whom he came in contact that Burns was the poet who enjoyed and loved life to the full - the poet of people.

His pursuits were pleasurable but not always successful. The waters of the Tay and Girvan will hide their stately salmon; the racehorse he owned and stabled in his yard was missed only in a horticultural sense. His proudest possession was Gavin Hamilton's copy of the Kilmarnock Edition - a fitting memento.

The Burns movement mourned a worthy exponent.


His letter, written from Chamberhouses, Irvine, on 25th Jan. 1978


Dear Bill,
     There is no one more than I know, respect and appreciate the significance of Honorary Membership.
     It is therefore, with great pride and humility I accept the honour of having my name added to that illustrious list of men and women.
     It is my fervent hope that I shall give many more years service to Irvine - the greatest of Burns Clubs.
     To President John Inglis, to you, to the Directors and Members my sincere thanks for the honour bestowed upon me.
     Yours sincerely,
     Andrew Hood

The letter is to Hon. Secy. Bill Cowan

Christiaan Barnard (1922-2001) Honorary member 1979

His life & work:

Professor C N Barnard, M.D. M. MED., Ph.D., F.A.C.S, F.A.C.C., D.Sc. (Hon. Causa) was the first surgeon to carry out a heart transplant - on Sat 2nd / Sun 3rd Dec., 1967. When interviewed soon after the operation, he said "The actual transplant was not really a problem; the question of tissue rejection is the important one". His work has saved innumerable lives since.

His letter, written from the University of Cape Town, Dept. of Cardiac Surgery, on 13th December 1978:


Dear Mr Caldwell,
     People usually consider the 13th as an unlucky day but the 13th of December 1978 is my lucky day in that I have the pleasure today to accept your very kind offer to become an Honorary Member of the Irvine Burns Club.
     I write to thank you very much for the honour and to wish you a Happy Xmas and health for 1979.
     My very best wishes
     Yours faithfully
     Chris Barnard

The letter is written to J J Caldwell, President 1978-79

Ian Douglas Smith (1919-2007) Honorary member 1979

His life & work:

Ian Douglas Smith was Prime Minister of Rhodesia 1964-1979. The President who nominated him as an Honorary Member writes: "he did a marvellous job of keeping the peace between rival factions and preserving 'The Empire' ". His various top level meetings with Prime Minister Harold Wilson on board ship are well-known. Born and educated in Rhodesia, he went to Rhodes University in South Africa to study commerce, but put them aside to volunteer for service in 1939, joining the British RAF, and being badly injured in a Hurricane crash in 1943, though continuing active service to the close of the war.

In 1962 he formed the Rhodesian Front party with Winston Field to thwart the plans of the British government for Rhodesia, and became Prime Minister in 1964; he imprisoned Robert Mugabe for 10 years as a "terrorist" aiming at a one-party dictatorship. In 1965 his government made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, then slipped into isolation, then civil war. After an internal agreement was reached with the moderate black nationalist leaders, the election of 1979 brought a Government of National Unity (under the leadership of Bishop Abel Muzorewa), in which Ian Douglas Smith served as a Minister without portfolio until expelled by Robert Mugabe in 1986. Despite their bitter differences, both Smith and Mugabe regarded Britain as a meddling colonial power. He spent his final years in Cape Town. If agreement had been reached sooner, Ian Smith might have handed over to the more moderate Nkomo rather than Mugabe.

His letter, written on his Prime Minister's headed paper from Salisbury, Rhodesia, on 11th December 1978:


Dear Mr Caldwell,
     I have received your letter inviting me to join the roll of Honorary Members of the Irvine Burns Club. When I consider the names of those distinguished gentlemen associated with the Club, this is indeed a great honour.
     I thank you for your kind attention to me, & regard it as a privilege to accept your invitation.
     My kind regards,
     Yours sincerely
     I Douglas Smith


Don Whyte (1926-1996) Honorary member 1979

His life & work:

John Donaldson Whyte, ex-brother-in-law of that year's President, was a distinguished writer and reporter with the Daily Express, Glasgow Herald, etc., and wrote a memorable autobiography 'On The Lonely Shore'. He arranged that Irvine Burns Club should have his father's Bechstein Grand piano - his father Ian, founder and conductor of the BBC Scottish Orchestra, accepted Honorary Membership of the Club in 1949.

Jack Webster (also an Honorary Member (1987), wrote of "the sheer beauty of his prose" and the "music of his language". Don Whyte was most appreciated as a journalist, but also created Bran the Cat on BBC Children's Hour, and even managed to conduct his own orchestral work on radio. Polio, calling for an iron lung, had struck him at the age of 12 on the golf course at Duddingstone, and much was done from his wheelchair, but he sought no favours in his crippled condition. Jack Webster again: "He would climb mountains and sail in dangerous waters, savouring life as a balm to the regular pain of his condition." His main public role was as a brilliant feature writer on the Scottish Daily Express from 1950 onwards.

His first wife Nan (nee Caldwell) played violin in his father's orchestra, and their three children are Eileen, Iain and Stewart. His second wife was Anne, also a polio victim. Before polio struck him, while still a healthy little boy, he had, on Deeside, raised a threatening hatchet to a girl of his own age who came looking for worms to go fishing - luckily he did no harm to the future queen, then Princess Elizabeth!

His letter, written from Glasgow, on 4th June 1978:


Dear Joe,
     In reply to your kind letter may I say how delighted I am to accept Honorary Membership of Irvine Burns Club.
     The knowledge that so many illustrious names adorn your roll of honorary members makes me very conscious of my own shortcomings in the halls of fame.
     I therefore count the honour you have bestowed on me as something of a challenge - to help in furthering the cause of 'sense and worth' in Scotland and the rest of this uneasy world.
     I know how much work Irvine Burns Club has put in over the years to foster friendship and the real brotherhood of mankind, and I am proud to have been recruited to your corps.
     During the years to come you may count on me for my support.
     Yours sincerely,
     Don Whyte.

The letter is written to J J Caldwell, President 1978-79

The following declined honorary membership in 1978/79:

The Pope (John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla): The following letter was sent from the Secretariat of State at the Vatican, on 5 May 1979:

Dear Mr Caldwell,
     The Holy Father was pleased to receive your letter and has asked me to send you this acknowledgement on his behalf.
     Although His Holiness is very appreciative of the sentiments which prompted your invitation, it is not his practice to accept honorary membership of societies.
     The Holy Father invokes God's blessings upon you and your colleagues.
     With every good wish, I remain,
     Yours sincerely,
     Mgr G Coppa, Assessore

Mohammed Ali: The then President of the Club, Joe Caldwell, spoke to Mohammed Ali, Cassius Clay, when he was in London for a fight. He verbally said that he would be accepting, but this did not materialise.

President Anwar Sadat (1918-1981) Honorary member 1980

His life & work:

Anwar El Sadat was the third President of Egypt, serving from 15 October 1970 until his assassination by fundamentalist army officers in 1981. In his eleven years as president, he changed Egypt's direction, departing from some of the economic and political principles of Nasserism by re-instituting the multi-party system and launching the Infitah economic policy.

He succeeded President Nasser in 1970. He led Egypt in the October War of 1973 to re-acquire Egyptian territory lost to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, making him a hero in Egypt and, for a time, the wider Arab World. Afterwards, he engaged in negotiations with Israel, culminating in the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty.

The Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty was signed by Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in Washington, D.C., United States, on 26 March 1979, following the Camp David Accords (1978), a series of meetings between Egypt and Israel facilitated by US President Jimmy Carter. Both Sadat and Begin were awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize for creating the treaty. In his acceptance speech, Sadat referred to the long awaited peace desired by both Arabs and Israelis: "Let us put an end to wars, let us reshape life on the solid basis of equity and truth."

The Irvine Burns Club nomination followed both the award of the Nobel Peace Prize and the successful signing of the subsequent treaty. The treaty also made him unpopular among some Arabs, resulting in a temporary suspension of Egypt's membership in the Arab League and eventually his assassination.

His letter, written from Cairo on Sept. 11th, 1979:


Dear Mr Foulds,
     I received, with a deep sense of recognition, your kind message through which you expressed to me your desire to respond to you and accept the Honorary Membership of Irvine Burns Club in Scotland.
     I wish to thank you for your noble sentiments and for that very kind gesture of you and to get you informed "I gladly accept the Honorary Membership you were kind enough to offer me".
     I avail myself of this opportunity to hail the great works and production of Robert Burns, the National Poet of Scotland who, undoubtedly deserves the best appreciation and honour.
    Thanking you once again, I wish you and the Club members the best of health and happiness.
    Mohamed Anwar El Sadat

His letter is on his official notepaper, as The President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

The letter is, apart from the signature, typed.

James Foulds was President in 1980.

Margaret Thatcher (1925-) Honorary member 1980

Her life & work:

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS, née Roberts was the longest-serving (1979–1990) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the 20th century, and the only woman ever to have held the post. A Soviet journalist nicknamed her the "Iron Lady", which became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style. She served as MP for Finchley from 1959 to 1992.

One of her most famous comments is sometimes misunderstood. When, in 1987, she commented "There is no such thing as society", a following sentence was "It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to look after our neighbour". Community was a crucial part of her vision - an antidote to those who assumed that something nebulous and impersonal called 'society' would take care of them.

As it was by now customary for Irvine Burns Club to nominate the incumbent Prime Minister for honorary membership, the approach and her acceptance are within seven months of her achieving that position. That her reply is entirely in her own hand is typical - she preferred the personal touch to the impersonal acknowledgement.

Her letter, written from 10 Downing Street on 21st October 1979:


Dear Mr Foulds,

     When he received an invitation, Robert Burns replied

     "The King's most humble servant, I
     Can scarcely spare a minute,
     But I'll be wi' you by an' bye
     Or else the deil's be in it."

     I can only reply to your kind invitation in very much more prosaic language - as an admirer of Burns poetry I am very happy to become an honorary member of the Irvine Burns Club.

     Yours sincerely
     Margaret Thatcher

Mrs Thatcher's letter is on paper headed with the crest, the address and the words "The Prime Minister".

The poem quoted is Burns' "Address to an Invitation". Mrs Thatcher was known to occasionally use a suitable quote from the Bard.

The acceptance, to Jim Foulds, President 1979-80, was announced in January 1980.

Yvonne Helen Stevenson (1897-1988) Honorary member 1980

Her life & work:

Miss Y H Stevenson passed away at 91 years of age in Victoria, BC, Canada. Born in Middlesex, she had attended Edinburgh University, started out on her literary career, and was elected National Vice-President of the Canadian Authors' Association in 1943, the following year becoming President of the Vancouver and Mainland branch of the Association. She also served as President of the Victoria branch.

She was directly descended (through the Brown family) from Helen Armour, a sister of Jean, and was thus well suited to be the authoress of a book on 'Bonnie Jean'. The first of what became a trilogy of books, "Burns and His Bonnie Jean" appeared in 1967. The second book, in 1979, "Burns and Highland Mary", possibly prompted her nomination as an Honorary Member of the Irvine Club. After the third, "Burns and Clarinda", in 1985, she was made an Honorary President of the Burns Federation. She also published "The Songs of Robert Burns" in 1979.

Always very correct in etiquette and protocol, she was much in demand as a speaker on literary topics, and was one of the main speakers at the Burns Federation Conference in London, Ontario, in 1979. The rest of her family, a sister and nieces, all lived in British Columbia.

Her letter, written from Apt. 1401, Regent Towers, 415 Michigan Street, Victoria, B.C., Canada, on October 10, 1979:


Dear Mr Foulds,
     Many thanks for your kind letter of September 21st and I would ask you to convey to your Directors my very great pleasure in accepting the esteemed honour of Honorary Membership in the Irvine Burns Club.
     It has always seemed to me that your distinguished Club has been foremost in Federation annals in its dedication to the life and works of Burns.
     And, reading often your fine publication "Irvine and Its Burns Club" (kindly presented to me recently by Mr John Inglis), that Burns's pulse must have beat high when - at the apex of young manhood, with aims and objectives of personal independence in view - he trod the streets and environs of old-time Irvine. Alas! that those rosy dreams went, virtually, up in smoke!
     Again, my warm thanks for the honour and privilege the Directors of the Irvine Burns Club have so kindly conferred.
     With all Good Wishes
     and fraternal Greetings
     Yours sincerely,
     Yvonne Helen Stevenson

The acceptance was addressed to Jim Foulds, President 1979-1980.

J C Stormonth Darling (1918-2000) Honorary member 1981

His life & work:

Sir James Carlisle ('Sir Jamie') Stormonth Darling, CBE, MC, TD, WS, lived at The Harestones, Longniddry, East Lothian. He was appointed as secretary of the National Trust for Scotland in 1949, when the organisation was relatively small, and later Director of the Trust for many years, retiring in 1983. By then, the Trust managed about 100 properties and had a membership of about 120,000.

Glasgow and the West of Scotland display the benefits of Jamie's foresight and the contrasts in the range of the trust's conservation interests, a feature which has attracted international attention. When the opportunity was given to the trust to acquire The Tenement House in Buccleuch Street, Jamie appreciated the cultural significance of the property and supported the case for acquisition against argument that such a modest house was not of sufficient importance. Other West of Scotland properties which came into the trust's care during his directorship include Brodick Castle and Gardens, Iona and Greenbank House and Gardens, at Clarkston, where the trust's West of Scotland office is located. Culzean also became Scotland's first country park, and a model for others that followed elsewhere in the country. Its management, involving local authorities, and its ranger-naturalist service's interpretative and educational programmes, are reflections of Jamie's philosophy. He believed that public enjoyment of the trust's properties would win hearts and minds and arouse a demand for protection of the wider environment. He justified this view by pointing to the trust's title and saying with emphasis: ''It's the National Trust for Scotland.''

He encouraged the formation of Members' Centres, and highlighted opportunities for conservation volunteers, and the adventure of staying on the remote island of St Kilda, 110 miles west of the mainland. Jamie saw the Trust as a catalyst, exerting influence through its properties, and also by the involvement of its council members, notably its president, the Earl of Wemyss and March, and chairman, the Marquess of Bute.

He advised the benefits of partnerships with other bodies long before such arrangements had their present-day popularity. This policy brought the trust into working relationships with the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland, the Countryside Commission for Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and the Forestry Commission, as well as central and local government.

An association with Scottish Heritage USA inspired Jamie to organise the first international conference of national trusts. It brought together in Scotland representatives of voluntary organisations from England, the US, Canada, and Australia in intensive studies of practical conservation techniques ''on the ground''.

Although committed to partnership and co-operation with others, Jamie upheld the strength of the trust's independence as a voluntary organisation. He had a genuine interest in all who lived and worked on trust properties and those employed on its staff. He would talk about the trust as a family. Its achievements were always attributed to ''the team''. He knew all the staff personally and, in many cases, their families, too. When help was needed it was quietly given. His approachability to all was symbolised by his ever-open office door. Jamie's vision of the trust was born of a knowledge and love of Scotland, its people, the fascination of its environment, and the interest of its history. He made them relevant for all, and fun.

Jamie was knighted for his work and, when he retired, made a vice-president emeritus of the trust, a unique distinction for a former member of staff. With characteristic generosity, in his retirement he gave his support to many organisations, Scotland's Gardens Scheme, the Ancient Monuments board, and Scotland's Churches Scheme among them.

(for more information, see: "The Herald" 22.4.2000)

[His son-in-law Capt Luke Borwick (b. 1947) lived at the Blair Estate, Dalry, Ayrshire.]

His letter, written from The National Trust for Scotland, 5 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, on 14 January 1981:


Dear President,
     I have been overwhelmed at the significance of your letter of invitation to become a Honorary Member of the Irvine Burns Club. I accept with a deep sense of humility as I feel that personally I do not deserve such a great honour.
     But: The National Trust for Scotland which I have had the great honour to serve as its Chief Executive for nearly 32 years does perhaps merit recognition of your most distinguished Burns Club. The Trust has .....[check original] for the Bachelors Club at Tarbolton and Souter Johnnie's Cottage at Kirkoswald since before the World War of 1939-45. Those that made it possible for these two precious buildings to come into the care of the National Trust for Scotland are, in the first place, to be honoured and remembered, but I feel, above all that, it is those who have represented the Trust at these two important Properties - so closely associated with our National Poet - who deserve our deepest thanks. I think particularly of Mr Sam Hoy [check name] who devotes his life to the Bachelors Club and to be with him for an hour or more is to feel that one is reliving the life and times of 2 centuries ago.
     If in honouring me in this way, it can truly be translated to all who have dedicated their lives to those two properties, then this most valued invitation does serve its real purpose. Furthermore, I dearly hope that the Trust can play its full part in the present discussions concerning the Glasgow Vennel in Irvine.
     With most grateful thanks
     Yours most respectfully
     Jamie Stormonth Darling

The acceptance is on NTS official notepaper, and is addressed to Club President James W Wilson, Esq..

Harald R Leslie, Lord Birsay (1905-1982)
Honorary member 1981

His life & work:

Following was service during the Second World War in the Royal Scots (and awarded a military MBE), Harald Leslie was appointed Standing Counsel to the Department of Agriculture, becoming an Advocate Depute in 1947. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1949, and in 1951 returned to private practice. In 1956, he was appointed Sheriff of Roxburgh, Berwick and Selkirk, and in 1961 as Sheriff of Caithness, Sutherland, Orkney and Zetland. In 1965, he was appointed Chairman of the Scottish Land Court, taking the judicial title, Lord Birsay. He was appointed a Knight of the Thistle, Scotland's highest order of chivalry, in 1973. He retired in 1978.

In 1958, there was courtroom drama when Peter manuel, accused of eight murders, decided to dismiss his counsel, Harald Leslie, QC. Sixteen days later, it took the jury just two-and-a-half hours to find Manuel guilty of seven of the murders.

The link between Irvine and Lord Birsay was originally through Don Whyte, the journalist an another Honorary Member (1979), who had introduced Lord Birsay to Joe Caldwell, founder (in 1960) of the Eglinton Burns Club. Lord Birsay proposed the Toast to the Lassies at that Club in 1979, and the Toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns in 1981 (when Joe Caldwell was the Dinner Chairman), being nominated as an Honorary Member of Irvine Burns Club in the same January. Being driven back thereafter, with an Immortal Memory to deliver elsewhere, he was asked about his forthcoming speech, and replied that he was thinking it out as they travelled. Joe Caldwell recalls having a good friendship with Harald and his wife.

His letter, written from 27 Queensferry Road, Edinburgh, and from Queensfield, Birsay, Orkney, on 8th December, 1980:


Dear Mr Wilson,
     To have a line of mine placed among Rabbie's treasures is high privilege indeed. I humbly but gladly accept your invitation to be an Honorary Member of the Irvine Burns Club.
    Today there is a tendency to obliterate history, denigrate our Scottish symbols, deracinate our folk and culture, and what do we achieve? - the wrecking whirlwind of lost identity and individuality.
     Shades of Rabbie, nurtured on the Makars and Ferguson.
"A!" (wrote Barbour) "fredome is a noble thing!
Fredome mayss man to haiff liking;
. . . . . A noble hart may haiff nane ess,
Na ellys nocht that may him pless,
Gif fredome fail yhe".
     Rabbie, founded deep in Scottish patriotism, strove to make brotherhood universal, - "to share it aa".
     I join you with gratitude.
     Yours aye,
     Harald R Leslie

James Wilson was President in 1981.

The usual spelling is:
A! Fredome is a noble thing!
Fredome mays man to haiff liking;
A noble hart may haiff nane ese,
Na ellys nocht that may him plese,
Gyff fredome fail;

Jack Nicklaus (1940-) Honorary member 1981

His life & work:

Jack Nicklaus thrice won the Open - at Muirfield (1966) and at St Andrews (1970 and 1978). Although he never won The Open in Ayrshire, one of the legendary games of golf is his ‘Duel in the Sun’ with Tom Watson in the 1977 Open at Turnberry. At its end, Nicklaus, in a memorable act of sportsmanship, threw his arm around the champion's shoulder and walked him toward the scorer's tent. The contest created headlines around the world. In the one-on-one battle, Nicklaus shot 65–66 in the final two rounds, only to be beaten by Watson, who scored 65–65. This event marked the first time 270 was broken in a major championship, and the third-place finisher Hubert Green scored 279. Nicklaus would later say: "There are those in golf who would argue into next month that the final two rounds of the 1977 British Open were the greatest head-to-head golf match ever played. Not having been around for the first five hundred or so years of the game, I'm not qualified to speak on such matters. What's for sure, however, is that it was the most thrilling one-on-one battle of my career."

After winning two U.S. Amateurs in 1959 and 1961, and challenging for the 1960 U.S. Open, Nicklaus turned professional toward the end of 1961. He is widely regarded as the most accomplished professional golfer of all time, winning a total of 18 career major championships while producing 19 second place and 9 third place finishes in major events on the PGA Tour over a span of 25 years.

His letter, written from North Palm Beach, Florida, on Nov 18, 1980:


Dear Mr Wilson,
     Please excuse my delay in answering your kind invitation to become an honorary member to the Irvine Burns Club. As you may know, I have been travelling a great deal and it sometimes takes a while to catch up on my correspondence.
     I am truly honored to be selected for membership in your fine club and to be part of such a distinguished membership. Obviously, I accept your kind offer and hope that I have the opportunity to visit you on one of my trips to Scotland.
    As I have said in the past, the British Open is my favorite tournament in golf. I always look forward to it, and particularly at one of the Scottish venues. Again my thanks to your membership and all my good wishes from this side of the Atlantic.
     Jack Nicklaus

James Wilson, a keen golfer and an ex-Captain of Prestwick Golf Club, was President in 1981.

William Lockhart (c.1917-1990) Honorary member 1982

His life & work:

An adopted son of the Royal Burgh of Irvine, Willie Lockhart assiduously threw himself into every facet of town life. Kirk and Youth were to benefit from the generosity of his efforts, but it is the historical associations of Burgh life which he made his own. The Carters Society, the Incorporation of Trades and Irvine Burns Club all benefited from his unstinting efforts.

In the Trades, his worth was recognised by being appointed Deacon Convener in 1972-73. In the Burns Club, he served as President in 1955-56. A Chartered Accountant, he served the Trades for many years as Clerk, and the Burns Club as Treasurer.

The Council of the Royal Burgh also recognised Willie Lockhart's contribution to the life of the town, by making him an Honorary Burgess and Guild Brother in ancient form. On his coming to the Burgh, the hand of friendship was extended freely and with obvious pleasure by this friendly man.


His letter, written from 'Greystones', 32 Kilwinning Road, Irvine, on 21st January 1982:


Dear Jim,
     I am greatly honoured to receive your letter of 13 January, 1982, inviting me to accept Honorary Membership of Irvine Burns Club.
     I do, of course, accept this honour with pride & humility when I consider the famous names that have preceded me over the years.
     I joined the Directors of the Club in 1953 on my appointment as Vice-President Elect. Over the intervening years as a Director & since 1968 as Honorary Treasurer, I have been privileged to serve a Club which has done much to foster the works and ideals of Robert Burns both at home and abroad.
     It has also been my good fortune to make & enjoy valued friendships.
     To have my modest contribution appreciated by my fellow-members is, in itself, reward enough. To be accepted as an Honorary Member is far beyond my wildest aspirations.
     I fervently hope that I have yet some contributions to make to a Club which has become part of my life.
     Thank you again, Jim, for the honour you have done me.
     With every good wish for your future well-being & that of the Club which you now so ably lead.
     Yours aye,
     Wm Lockhart

The letter is addressed to President James Millar, Esq..

Johnny Beattie (1927-) Honorary member 1983

His life & work:

The career of Johnny Beattie MBE, as a Scottish actor and comedian, has spanned well over five decades - one of Scotland's earliest comedy figures, others being the likes of Rikki Fulton, Jack Milroy and Stanley Baxter. He became known in the 1960s for Johnny Beattie's Saturday Night Show, which ran from 1964 all the way until 1970. He was also a well known stand-up comedian, who was popular during his routines for very often talking about his everyday life. He appeared on other shows including the sketch show Scotch & Wry and the sitcom Rab C. Nesbitt, and more recently moved into playing more dramatic roles, most notable that of Malcolm Hamilton in the soap opera River City.

His letter, written from his home in Glasgow, on 25/1/83:


Dear Robin,
     Thank you for your kind invitation to become an honorary member of "Irvine Burns Club". Needless to say I am delighted and honoured to accept.
     I look forward to meeting all the members in the "Heckling Shed" in the future: Let the Heckling commence!
     Warmest Regards!
     Johnny Beattie

The letter is to 1983 Club President Robin Whyte.

It refers to his being principal guest at the Directors' Dinner in Feb., 2005 - though dated appropriately, his acceptance was a few years late in arriving!

William Golding (1911-1993) Honorary member 1984

His life & work:

William Golding (born in Cornwall), the prominent English novelist, is best remembered as the author of "Lord of the Flies", his first novel, which introduced one of the recurrent themes of his fiction, the conflict between humanity's innate barbarism and the civilising influence of reason. The novel became a successful film in 1963. Golding's work is often allegorical, full of allusions to classical literature, mythology and Christian symbolism.

Of his later work, "The Spire" is perhaps the best recognised, an allegory concerning the hero's obsessive determination to build a great cathedral spire, regardless of the consequences.

Golding studied English Literature and Philosophy at Oxford, and after serving in the Royal Navy became a schoolmaster. As a prolific writer of novels, poetry, essays and verse he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983, one of the triggers for his choice as an Honorary Member by the then President. The author's letter of acceptance perhaps suggests an academic who did not strive for public recognition of his much valued work.

G W Watson, President 1983-84

Postscript: Golding had much failure with 'Lord of the Flies' before it was accepted by Faber - after rejections from five other publishers, Faber and Faber offered him, to his delight, an advance of £60. The book has sold 20 million copies in the UK, and has been translated into 30 languages. A second film adaptation was produced in 1990. Golding's daughter Judy, in an affectionate memoir published in 2011, portrays her father as a complex, difficult man, one with a 'painfully sharp sensibility about children', yet less sensitive where his own were concerned.

His letter, written from Salisbury, Wiltshire, on 13th January 1984:


Dear Sir,
     So long as I have nothing to do but write this letter I am happy to be an honorary member of the Irvine Burns Club.
     William Golding

Some in the Burns Club in 1984 saw the brevity of the reply as an insult, but fortunately this was a minority view and the Secretary duly recorded and filed this acceptance.

R L C Lorimer (1918-1996) Honorary member 1984

His life & work:

"Our faither in heiven, / hallowt be thy name; / Thy Kingdom come; /
thy will be dune / on the yird, as in heiven"

1983 was the first translation of the New Testament into the Scots tongue. Robin Lorimer's father, Professor W L Lorimer (1885-1967), had spent many years labouring on the translation, but it was the work of his son that was recognised as editor of the substantial work. It is ironic that four hundred and twenty three years had passed since the Reformation prior to the publication of the scholarly translation. The first edition ran to 2500 copies at £17.50 each, by Southside Publishers of Edinburgh. The Four Gospels are now available in an audio version, read by Tom Fleming.

The Annual Celebration in 1983 offered an ideal opportunity for readings from the New Testament, including the parable of the Prodigal Son [Luke 15: 11-32], by Mr Frank Bryson, a weel kent local reader of Scots verse, contributing appropriately to 'a richt guid nicht' .


There had been two earlier Scots versions of the New Testament, though both were worked from the English. Onewas published in 1520 by Murdoch Nisbet (and reprinted in 1903). In 1901,"The New Testament in Braid Scots", rendered by Rev. William Wye Smith (of St Catharine's, Ontario, Canada), with a glossary of Scottish Terms, was published at Paisley by Alexander Gardner. For comparison's sake, here is its equivalent of the above: "Faither o' us a', biding Aboon! Thy name be holie! Lat thy reign begin, baith in Yirth and Heeven!" (Matthew VI, 9-10)

Wikipedia comments: "The maist kenspeckle translate o The New Testament wis bi William Laughton Lorimer. His wark wis pitten ower straucht frae the Greek an is for ordinar hailed as ane o the maist important warks o Scots prose in mony centuries."

His letter, written from 6 Sciennes Gardens, Edinburgh, EH9 1NR, on 11 January 1984:


Dear Mr Watson,
     Thank you very much for your letter dated 31 December last year, which Southside (Publishers) Ltd have forwarded to me. Although I am well aware that my father deserves far more credit for having made his Scots translation of the New Testament than I can possibly have earned by editing it, I am, therefore, all the more grateful to you for having presidentially nominated me for Honorary Membership of the Irvine Burns Club, and have great pleasure in accepting it.
     I shall unfortunately not be able to attend this year's Annual Celebration, but thank you very much indeed for having so kindly invited me to attend it.
     With all best wishes to you, and all other Members, for a richt guid New Year,
     Yours sincerely, R L C Lorimer

The letter is written to George Watson, President 1983-1984. His address is embossed, so does not appear on the photocopy.

Manny Shinwell (1884-1986) Honorary member 1985

His life & work:

Manny Shinwell was a British trade union official, Labour politician and one of the leading figures of Red Clydeside. In 1919, he gained national notoriety through his involvement in the Glasgow 40 Hours' Movement. This movement culminated in clashes between police and protesters in Glasgow's George Square. He was afterwards tried for incitement to riot and was sentenced to five months' imprisonment.

As an MP, he represented Linlithgowshire from 1922 to 1924 and from 1928 to 1931, thereafter Seaham from 1935-1950 and its successor consituency of Easingham till 1970. His political offices culminated in the Ministry oif Defence 1950-51.

He was made a life peer in 1970, and continued to be active in the House of Lords until shortly before his death.

His letter, written from the House of Lords, on 7th December, 1984:


Dear Mr Campbell,
     Many thanks for your letter of November 30th. It will be a pleasure to become a member of your Burns Club.
     Yours sincerely,
     Manny Shinwell

The letter is addressed to Club President Robin Campbell, on House of Lords notepaper, and is, apart from the signature, typed.

John Prebble (1915-2001) Honorary member 1985

His life & work:

Born in Middlesex, and brought up in the predominantly Scottish township of Sutherland in rural Saskatchewan, this English/Canadian journalist, novelist, documentarian and historian is best known for his studies of Scottish history. One of his first big successes was 'The High Girders' (1956), a description of the Tay Bridge Disaster. The books for which he is best known include 'Culloden (1962), 'The Highland Clearances' (1963), 'Glencoe' (1966) and 'The Lion in the North' (1973).

His later publications include 'The King's Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, August, 1822' (1973).

His letter, written from Hill View, The Glade, Kingswood, Surrey on 3rd December 1984:


Dear Mr Campbell,
     I thank you for your wish to make me an honorary member of your ancient and distinguished club. I accept this honour with great pleasure and in admiration of the noble man whose memory you maintain.
     "The heart aye's the part aye
     That makes us right or wrang."
Yours sincerely
John Prebble

The quotation comes from the "Epistle to Davie, a Brother Poet". David Sillar (1760-1830, one year younger than Burns) was from Spittalside near Lochlie. A close friend of the Robert Burns, he was a member of the Tarbolton Bachelors' Club, his own book of poetry was published at Kilmarnock in 1789, three years after Burns' Kilmarnock Edition, and he was a founder member of Irvine Burns Club, in 1826.

George Mackay Brown (1921-1986) Honorary member 1986

His life & work:

George Mackay Brown was born in Stromness in 1921 and apart from his education at Edinburgh University and a short spell at Newbattle Abbey College in Edinburgh, he spent his whole working life in Orkney, writing the most beautiful poetry and prose at the kitchen table of his council flat.

Talking of himself, he said, "I was never bright but I could always tell stories" and the telling of stories about his beloved Islands in a prodigious body of poetry, novels and newspaper columns brought him a Booker nomination, an OBE, an Honorary Doctorate from Glasgow University and the respect of people of literature world-wide. The Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney, is one of his most ardent admirers. His canon of work described every aspect of the ordinary lives of the crofter, fisherman and tinker and also painted a vivid picture of the history of the ancient past of St Magnus and the Norsemen.

George Mackay Brown was chosen as an Honorary Member of Irvine Burns' Club because, not only was he one of the greatest of Scotland's modern wordsmiths, but also because he shared with Burns a love of the glories of nature and a faith in the goodness of humankind and brought an appreciation of these things to the page with a spare and brilliant pen. Not least, he was chosen because he was recognised and loved by his people as the most gentle, self-effacing and least pretentious of famous men.

He died in Kirkwall in April 1996, in the season of the year when, "The daffodils are standing in long lines with their green visors still up".

Jack Lovie, President 1985-86

His letter, written from 3 Mayburn Court, Stromness, Orkney on 27 November 1985:


Dear Dr Lovie
     Thank you for doing me the honour, as President of Irvine Burns Club, of proposing me for honorary membership.
     I accept with much pleasure. The great Ayrshire bard's work has meant a great deal to me for most of my life, and brought much delight, laughter, and solace.
     Thank you also for the enclosed booklet 'Robert Burns in Irvine', which I'll be glad to have on my bookshelf.
     There is a faint possibility that I may be in Ayr visiting friends in January: in which case it would be a great pleasure to attend the Annual Celebration on 24 January.
     Thank you for associating me in this delightful way with the great poet.
     Yours sincerely
     George Mackay Brown


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