Honorary Members 2011 to 2019

2011: John McCormick, Jimmie McGregor, Jim Butler
2012: Rt Hon David Cameron, Prof. Tom Devine, Bobby Lennox MBE, Cardinal Keith O'Brien
2013: Alastair McHarg, Sir Drummond Bone
2014: Prof. David Purdie, Anne Gaw, Prof. Nigel Leask, Rev. Lorna Hood
2015: Michael Murray, Prof. John R Hume
2016: Alex F Gilroy, Brian Cox, Brian Taylor
2017: Prof. Gerard Carruthers, Dr Ian Green
2018: Rab Affleck, Margaret Cook, Annie Lennox, Prof. Liam McIlvanney, Prof. Sir Geoff Palmer
2019: Prof. Ian Campbell, Prof. Kirsteen McCue, William A Nolan


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John McCormick (...) Honorary member 2011

His life & work:

<biography to follow> Controller, BBC Scotland, 1992-2004

His letter, written from his home in Glasgow on 13th January 2011:


Dear Bill,
     I was delighted to receive your letter of 17th November inviting me to become an Honorary Member of Irvine Burns Club. As an Ayrshire man who attended school in Irvine I know something of the history of the Club and know, too, that it is a great honour to receive such an invitation. I am, of course, very pleased to accept.
     I am so sorry that work commitments in London on 22nd January mean that I am unable to accept your invitation to the Burns Supper that evening. I know that it will be a very special occasion. It would have been a particular pleasure to have been introduced to the Club in the company of Jimmie Macgregor, for whom I have the greatest admiration.
     You can be sure that at some point that evening I will raise a glass to Rabbie and to Irvine Burns Club, and I look forward to being part of the company next year.
     Thanks again for honouring me with the invitation.
     With all best wishes

The letter is to Bill McGregor, President 2011.

Jimmie Macgregor (1930-....) Honorary member 2011

His life & work:

<biography to follow> folk singer, author, and television presenter

His letter, written from his home in Glasgow on 17th December 2010:


     Thank you for your very kind and flattering invitation from the world's oldest Burns club, and from a place with such intimate associations with the man himself. With all humility, I am delighted to accept.
     I have an immortal memory at Oran Mor in Glasgow on 22nd, and the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on 23rd, but I hope to attend your event on 21st. I shall keep in touch, and thank you and your colleagues most sincerely once again.

The letter is to Bill McGregor, President 2011.

Jim Butler (....) Honorary member 2011

His life & work:

<biography to follow> piper and artist of Irvine Burns Club

His letter, written from his home in Kilwinning, Ayrshire, on 28.11.2010:


Dear Bill,
     I was astonished, but deeply moved, to receive your letter inviting me to Honorary Membership of Irvine Burns Club.
     To have such an honour conferred upon me for doing something which I enjoy simply compounds the pleasure which your letter gave me. Acceptance, however, was not without some reservations. I am mindful, and always shall be, of the fact that, gathered round the Directors' table are individuals whose contribution to the progress and well-being of this club far outweigh mine. It is often the case at Burns Suppers that the piper, once his duties are over, is relegated to a corner, given a dram, and generally ignored. From my earliest attendances at this Annual Celebration, long before I became President, I have always been treated with unfailing courtesy. So, on behalf of the Piping Fraternity I graciously accept your valued invitation and shall be honoured to join the company of distinguished men and women who are Honorary Members of this venerable Club. With profound thanks!
     Yours fraternally,
     Jim Butler, Piper

The letter, to Bill McGregor, President 2011, is in the fine calligraphy with which Jim Butler has inscribed many a membership certificate and other Club documents.

David Cameron (1966-....) Honorary member 2012

His life & work:

<biography to follow> Prime Minister

His letter, written from 10 Downing Street, on 29 November 2011:


Dear Michael,
     Thank you very much for your recent letter, kindly inviting me to become an Honorary Member of the Irvine Burns Club. I am very sorry for the delay in replying to you.
     It would give me great pleasure to join the long and impressive list of former Prime Ministers who have been Honorary Members of the Irvine Burns Club, the oldest continuing Burns Club in the world. From Disraeli, through Churchill, Macmillan and Margaret Thatcher - it is the most distinguished of lists. I am joining some very great company indeed.
     I am most grateful to you for extending this generous invitation to me, and delighted to accept your kind offer to become an Honorary Member. I look forward to you keeping me updated with news from the Club.
     This comes with my very best wishes for your continuing work.

The letter is on 'The Prime Minister' official notepaper, addressed to Michael Diamond, Club President 2011-12. It is typed except for the opening greeting and the signing off.

Tom Devine (1945-...) Honorary member 2012

His life & work:

<biography to follow>

His letter is on the notepaper of the Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies at Edinburgh, established by an external endowment of £1 million pounds by a leading Scottish fund manager and his family. Prof. Devine was appointed its Director in 2008. The endowment is reckoned to be the single largest private donation ever made to a UK university for the development of historical studies.

His letter, written from the Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies, The University of Edinburgh on 14 December, 2011:


Dear Mr Diamond,
     Irvine Burns Club: Hon Member Invitation
     I was delighted to receive your invitation to become an Honorary Member of this most illustrious and historic Burns Club.
     I am very pleased to accept and wish the Club well in all its future endeavours.
     Warm best wishes,
     Tom Devine

Senior Research Professor in History, University of Edinburgh

Professor Devive's letter is handwritten, and on official notepaper, addressed to Club President 2011-12 Michael Diamond.

Bobby Lennox (1943-....) Honorary member 2012

His life & work:

<biography to follow> Scottish footballer, born in Saltcoats

His letter, written from his Saltcoats home, on 10 January 2012:


Dear Michael,
     Irvine Burns Club: Honorary Membership Invitation
     Thank you for your recent invitation to become an honorary member of Irvine Burns Club.
     The list of those, noted in your letter, who are among those who have accepted honorary membership is extremely impressive and I am honoured to be invited to join with them.
     As an Ayrshire man, I am very aware of the worldwide fame of Robert Burns, who spent the majority of his (tragically short) life in our country. I am also keenly aware of the important role played by Irvine Burns Club, over nearly 200 years, in the promotion of the life and works of the Bard. At St Mary's Primary School in Saltcoats, we learned many of Burns' songs. "Scots Wha Hae", "Ye Banks & Braes" and "My love is like a Red Red Rose" are among the many we learned and sang with great enthusiasm.
     Therefore I have great pleasure in accepting your invitation and look forward to visiting Wellwood in the near future to learn more about Irvine Burns Club.
     Yours Sincerely
     Bobby Lennox

The letter is to Club President Michael Diamond.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien (1938-2018) Honorary member 2012

His life & work:

This fallible churchman was appointed a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church in 2003, though already having a reputation for indiscretion and outspokenness. His appointment to this high office prompted his nomination as an Honorary Member.

A graduate, in maths and chemistry, from Edinburgh University, he was ordained as a priest in 1965, and served in various parishes and two Roman Catholic colleges. In 1985, he was appointed Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. Revelations about his private life and associated manipulative character surfaced in 2012, were reported to the Vatican, and led to his resignation in February, 2013, after which he lived quietly in a Northumbrian village, finally forsaking the rights and duties of a cardinal in 2015, and retaining his rank only by name.

His letter, written from the Archbishop's House, Edinburgh on Saint Andrew's Day, 30th November 2011:


Dear Michael,
     I write to you as President of the Irvine Burns Club to thank you for your kind invitation to become an Honorary Member of the Club, founded in 1826. I am more than happy to accept your invitation and look on it as a great honour to have been proposed for membership.
    I know something of the distinguished history of the Club and would assume that I am the first Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church to be an Honorary Member. However, I am sure you are aware of a previous illustrious bishop of the Roman Catholic Church who was a close friend of Robert Burns. I refer to Bishop John Geddes who was Vicar Apostolic of the Lowland District of Scotland from 1780 until 1793. Geddes thought Burns was "a man of uncommon genius" and "an excellent poet started up in Ayrshire where he has been a ploughman"; while Burns wrote to Geddes "Venerable Father . . . you do me the honour to interest yourself much in my welfare". Burns actually wrote several extra poems at the front and the back of a book that Geddes had purchased - the "Geddes Burns" is now in a library in California!
     Burns had a great respect for the individual person, whatever his beliefs, and could write: "A man's a man for a' that!" May that basic respect for one another inspire us all at this time - especially in this beloved land of Scotland.
    With renewed and sincere thanks:
    + Keith Patrick Cardinal O'Brien,
     Archbishop of St Andrew & Edinburgh, Scotland

The letter, addressed to Club President Michael Diamond, is on official notepaper, but written fully in the Cardinal's hand.

The Geddes copy of the Edinburgh edition passed to Geddes' niece Margaret Hyslop, then to her daughter, then to a Henry Goadby who emigrated to USA in 1938. Burns had written twelve extra works, over 27 pages, in its front and back blank pages.

Alastair McHarg (1944-....) Honorary member 2013

His life & work:

<biography to follow> Born in Irvine

His letter, written from his home in Alton, Hampshire on 1/11/2012:


Dear President,
     I have a confession to make.
     As a young man I had no liking for the works of Robert Burns.
     I did not understand his verse and had no empathy for his views or how he expressed his emotions.
     I was educated at Irvine Royal Academy and his imposing statue behind the school was a constant reminder of my dislike.
     However as time passed and maturity blossomed with experience my views softened and I began to appreciate his works.
     I am no great scholar of Burns but many of his verses touch dormant sensitive nerves of human emotion and that is a rare talent.
     Many acceptance letters before this one quote from his works but I refrain from doing so . . . there is no need.
     So as a Burns convert it is with humility I accept your kind invitation to be an Honorary Member of my home town Burns Club.
     Kind personal regards,
     Alastair McHarg


Sir Drummond Bone (1947-....) Honorary member 2013

His life & work:

Ayrshire-born (in Irvine!), (James) Drummond Bone was knighted in 2008 for services to Higher Education and the regeneration of the North-West, following his chairmanship of the Liverpool Culture Company, directing the city's preparations to be European Capital of Culture in 2008. In 2011, he was elected Master of Balliol College, from which his acceptance letter comes.

Sir Drummond attended Ayr Academy and the University of Glasgow, before continuing studies at Balliol College. On leaving Oxford in 1972, he went to the University of Warwick as a lecturer in English and Comparative Literature. He returned to Glasgow in 1980 as a lecturer in English Literature, becoming Senior Lecturer in 1989 and titular Professor in 1995. From 1991 to 1995, he was Dean of the Faculty of Arts, and in 1995 became Vice-Principal. In 2000, he left Glasgow to become Principal of Royal Holloway, University of London and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of London. In 2002, he became Vice Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, retiring in 2008.

A specialist on the works of Lord Byron, He is also a Maserati enthusiast, and was made a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers, a Livery Company promoting the automobile industry. Irvine Burns Club notes that 2013 will see the 750th anniversary celebrations of his College, founded in 1263.

His letter, written from Balliol College, Oxford, on YYY:


Dear Mr Swan,
     I am honoured to be asked, and happy to accept, your invitation to become an honorary member of the Irvine Burns Club (like many Ayrshiremen I was actually born in Irvine!). I look forward to hearing more about the Club - Yours with thanks,
Drummond Bone

The letter is on official notepaper, headed 'From the Master'.

The addressee is Tim Swan, Club President 2012-13.

Prof. David W R Purdie (....-....) Honorary member 2014

His life & work:

After a distinguished medical career, with a special interest in osteoporosis, Professor Purdie, MD, FRCP Ed., FRSSA, FSA (Scot) devotes his time to "writing, broadcasting and his public speaking" also being "Chairman of the Sir Walter Scott Club and the Edinburgh Burns Club - and a Patron of the JP Morgan Library, New York, and of the National Galleries and National Library of Scotland". He concluded his medical academic life, which included serving as Clinical Dean of the Leeds University medical school, in 2007 and is now a Hon. Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh.

The life and works of Burns have been a lifelong interest. Prof. Purdie is Editor-in-Chief of 'The Burns Encyclopaedia' - Fourth Edition - published in 2013. First published in bi-centenary year 1959 by Maurice Lindsay, it progressed to a second edition, then to a third in 1980. Prof. Purdie's co-editors in this venture are Gerard Carruthers, who holds the Chair of Scottish Literature since 1700 at the University of Glasgow, and Kirsteen McCue, Head of Scottish Literature in the School of Critical Studies, Glasgow University. The new edition has been thoroughly revised and updated in the light of contemporary scholarship.

Professor Purdie is a Parliamentary speechwriter and Editor for certain members of the House of Commons – and speech adviser to a number of major figures in the Sports and Entertainment fields. He also contributes to the broadsheet press and BBC radio on medical and scientific matters.

His letter, written from his home in Edinburgh on 9/11/2013:


Dear Roger,
     Thank you for your letter and the invitation to become a Hon. Member of Irvine Burns Club - which I am delighted and honoured to accept.
     I look forward to meeting you & your colleagues at the Directors Dinner next year and to speaking on our, now completed, Encyclopaedia of the Bard,
     Yours sincerely,
     David W R Purdie

The letter is to President Roger Griffith.

Prof. Purdie is due to be the guest of the Directors on 7/3/2014.

Anne Gaw (....-2018) Honorary member 2014

Her life & work:

Anne Gaw's long term devotion to the Burns movement began in 1975, when she was cajoled by Rosalind Keyte, who had arrived in Irvine from London to find that there was no Burns Club she could join, to start the Irvine Lasses Burns Club. Anne was its first President 1975-79, and served in the same office again in 1991-93 and 2007-09.

Anne was also very involved in the Ayrshire Association of Burns Clubs, serving as its Secretary and eventually becoming responsible for setting up a Schools Festival featuring recitation, singing and instrumental music, in 1985. She served as its President in 1986-91.

In the Robert Burns World Federation, Anne Gaw was organising committee secretary when its conference met in Irvine in 1981, contributed to the success of the Kilmarnock Burns conference in 1986, and took on various other responsibilities, serving as the Federation President in 1988-89. Returning to what was dear to her heart, she became Schools Convener, spending ten years in that role.

Her letter, written from her home in Irvine on 12/11/2013:


Dear President Roger,
     Thank you for your lovely letter offering me Honorary Membership of Irvine Burns Club - an offer which I humbly accept.
     I am very aware of Irvine Burns Club's unique list of Honorary Members and I could never have thought that, one day, I might be one of them. This makes your offer an even greater honour.
     I have never thought of anything I've ever done in the Robert Burns movement as "work" because, at every level, I had great pleasure and satisfaction from the outcome. The involvement with schools was the most rewarding of all when you saw the talent which emerged from our young "star" Burnsians of the future.
     It was also an opportunity to make many long lasting friendships.
     With grateful thanks
     Yours sincerely,
     Anne Gaw


Prof. Nigel Leask (1958-....) Honorary member 2014

His life & work:

Nigel Leask, previously Reader in Romantic Literature in the English Faculty at Cambridge University, was appointed to Glasgow's Regius Chair of English Language and Literature in 2004, and is currently Head of the School of Critical Studies.

Prof. Leask won the Saltire Society Scottish Research Book of the Year award in 2010 for his book "Robert Burns and Pastoral: Poetry and Improvement in Late-18th Century Scotland". He interprets Burns's poetry as an innovative and critical engagement with the experience of rural modernity. Detailed study of the literary, social, and historical contexts of Burns's poetry explodes the myth of the 'Heaven-taught ploughman', revealing his poetic artfulness and critical acumen as a social observer, as well as his significance as a Romantic precursor. Leask discusses Burns's radical decision to write 'Scots pastoral' (rather than English georgic) poetry in the tradition of Allan Ramsay and Robert Fergusson, focusing on themes of Scottish and British identity, agricultural improvement, poetic self-fashioning, language, politics, religion, patronage, poverty, antiquarianism, and the animal world. The book offers fresh interpretations of all Burns's major poems and some of the songs, the first to do so since Thomas Crawford's landmark study of 1960.

He is currently editing the "Collected Prose Writings of Robert Burns" for the AHRC-funded Oxford edition of the Collected Works of Robert Burns (general editor, Prof Gerard Carruthers).

His letter, written from his home in Glasgow on 15/11/2013:


Dear Roger,
     I was delighted to receive your letter earlier this week inviting me to accept Honorary Membership of the Irvine Burns Club. This is a great honour indeed, and I feel very privileged to have my name added to the illustrious list that appears on your website, going back to Irvine's own John Galt!
     I have great pleasure in accepting, and will look forward to visiting Wellwood in order to receive the Certificate, at your convenience. I am resident in Glasgow, so it should be easy to arrange a convenient date. I also look forward, as a Burns scholar, to viewing your outstanding collection of books, manuscripts, artifacts, and other items.
     Yours sincerely,
     Nigel Leask

The letter, on the notepaper of University of Glasgow School of Critical Studies, is to President Roger Griffith.

Rt Rev E Lorna Hood (1953-....) Honorary member 2014

Her life & work:

Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2013-14, Lorna Hood was born in Irvine, and educated at Kilmarnock Academy and the University of Glasgow. In 1979, she was inducted to the charge of the North Parish Church in Renfrew and in 2008 was appointed as one of the ten Chaplains to the Queen in Scotland.

Rev Hood's nomination as an Honorary Member marks her links to Ayrshire, her achievements in the ministry, and her interest in the life and works of the Bard. In February 2013 she was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.

Her letter, written from 121 George Street, Edinburgh on 4/12/2013:


Dear Mr Griffith,
     Thank you for your recent letter on behalf of the Irvine Burns Club inviting me to accept Honorary Membership.
     I would be delighted to accept this invitation but regret that due to previous commitments I will not be able to attend the Annual Celebration on 24 January,
     The visit to Kilmaurs was most enjoyable and I look forward to being able to return to the area and to have the opportunity of learning more about Robert Burns.
     Yours sincerely,
     Lorna Hood

The letter, typed on the notepaper of the Church of Scotland, is to President Roger Griffith.

Rev. Hood met our President at St Maur’s Glencairn Church, Kilmaurs, in 2013, the 600th anniversary of its establishment.

Michael Murray (....-....) Honorary member 2015

His life & work:

Michael Murray, Club President 1999-2000, was invited to accept Honorary Membership "in recognition and appreciation of the work that you have undertaken to establish strong links with local schools - your work in organising the Club's annual schools competitions, your work in organising the School Visits Programme to Irvine Burns Club, your enthusiasms for our collections, your work in creating the CD of Children's Verse Speaking for the Robert Burns World Federation Conference, and your work in creating Burns for a new generation.'

Michael's teaching career took him to the headmastership of St Conval's Secondary School, Cumnock, where he practised a very engaged style of leadership. This career both prompted and enhanced his educational work for the Club in the ten years he spent on these activities following his presidential years.

His letter, written from his home in Saltcoats on 10/1/2015:


Dear Mr Griffith,
     Thank you for your letter of 08/12/14 offering me Honorary Membership of Irvine Burns Club. I am thrilled to be considered to join such a group of eminent people from all around the world. Many of them are friends of mine and a few have been friends and mentors since I joined Irvine Burns Club. If only I could write poetry like Seamus Heaney, play golf like Arnold Palmer or play the pipes like Jim Butler!
     The most important contributors to the success of our programme of visits to wellwood are our curators. David Smith showed himself to be a wonderful teacher and his 'script' for the directors room presentation is still used, with few changes. Ian Wight and Graham Hyslop have added to David's legacy in many ways. Many directors of the Club have contributed over the years, to the development of the programme; they, with the curators, have helped to deepen my knowledge of Robert Burns and many aspects of local and national history. I am confident that the children and teachers, who have taken part in our programme, have enjoyed the experience and will benefit in future years from what they have seen and heard at Wellwood.
     Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I accept your invitation to become an Honorary Member of Irvine Burns Club.
     With very best wishes,
     Michael Murray

The hand-written letter is to President Robert Travers.

Professor John R Hume (1939-....) Honorary member 2015

His life & work:

John R Hume is Honorary Professor at the Universities of Glasgow and St. Andrews. He was for 20 years a lecturer in Economic and Industrial History at the University of Strathclyde, and was for 15 years first a Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments, then of Historic Buildings with Historic Scotland, retiring as Chief Inspector of Historic Buildings in 1999.

He has published a wide range of books and articles on the industrial archaeology and historic buildings of Scotland, and is currently Convener of the Committee on Church Art and Architecture of the Church of Scotland and an advisory member of the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland.

In inviting Prof. Hume to accept the nomination, Club President Rev Robert Travers was particularly mindful of his work with Historic Scotland, with the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland, with CARTA, and through his book on Scotland's Churches, and his many articles in 'Life and Work', as well as his wider work with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, and, more locally, through his 'generous appreciation of Irvine's Ecclesiastical Riverbank views and our Parish Church'.

His letter, written from his home in Glasgow on 17/12/2014:


Dear Robert,
     I was greatly touched to receive your letter of 8th December offering me Honorary Membership of the Irvine Burns Club. This is a great honour and I am very happy to accept, as a private individual, and not as an office holder. I hope this will be acceptable to the Club. If it is, I will be very hapy to receive my certificate of Honorary Membership.
     With very best wishes, and thanks,
     Yours sincerely,
     John R Hume

The letter, handwritten on the notepaper of the RCAHMS, is to President Rev Robert Travers.

Alex F Gilroy (....-....) Honorary member 2016

His life & work:

This honorary membership, "in recognition and appreciation of your generosity and kindness to the museum and club in presenting to us artefacts of significant importance to the people of Irvine", in essence includes his father, Francis Clark Gilroy.

Artefacts belonging to William Templeton, in whose shop and home Robert Burns took much pleasure, both in extending his knowledge and appreciation of literature, including the poems of Robert Fergusson, and in conversing with the bookseller, were taken to Australia, as family mementoes, in 1909, by Margaret Gilroy, a grand-niece of Templeton. Her son, Francis, was keen, as we know from letters written in 1939 and 1946, that these artefacts should return to Irvine before some later generation disposed of them as so much sentimental rubbish.

Hence, through the generosity of Francis and his son Alex, Irvine Burns Club can display the silk stockings exchanged by Burns with Templeton, the seal stamp which belonged to Templeton's widow Helen Templeton and which may have been used in the first Irvine post office, and, most importantly of all, the chair in which Robert Burns was remembered by that family as having many a laugh and jest in while visiting the bookseller.

For the full story, go to the Templeton page. Alex's mother visited Irvine in 1949, and his uncle Archie in 1946. He himself visited in August 2015.

His letter, written from his home in New South Wales on 30 October 2015:


Dear Sir,
     In reply to your invitation for membership to the Irvine Burns Club, it is with pleasure that I accept your very kind invitation and of course extremely proud and honored to be considered as a suitable person to be a member of such an old and prestigious club, particularly as I have been raised as a Burnsian and taught to appreciate the wonderful works of Scotland's ploughman philosopher, our Bard, Robert Burns.
     Yours gratefully and faithfully
     Alex F Gilroy
     "Justice of the Peace", N.S.W. Australia

The letter is handwritten on his personal Thistle Glen notepaper, showing his position as a "Justice of the Peace (NSW)".

Brian Cox (1946-....) Honorary member 2016

His life & work:

Brian Cox, CBE, Rector, the University of Dundee, was nominated by President Derek Murdoch in recognition of his acting career on stage, screen and television and for his encouragement to young actors in his role as patron to the Scottish Youth Theatre and other groups. Theatre has for many years been an interest of President Derek, so it was most appropriate that he should nominate a leading figure in that sphere.

This Scottish actor is known for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he gained recognition for his portrayal of King Lear, and has also appeared in many American films, such as Rushmore, Super Troopers, X2: X-Men United as William Stryker, and Troy as Agamemnon. He was the first actor to portray Hannibal Lecter on film in the 1986 movie Manhunter.

His letter, written at his agent's office in London on 11 November 2015:


Dear John,
     Thank you for your kind offer of an honorary membership of the Irvine Burns Club.
     I am most delighted and pleased to accept membership to this illustrious organization.
     Brian Cox

The letter is to President John D Murdoch ('Derek').

Brian Taylor (1955-....) Honorary member 2016

His life & work:

Brian Taylor, political editor of BBC Scotland and based at Dundee, was nominated in appreciation of down to earth presentation style and use of language over many years making reporting of political issues, large and small, more interesting and accessible, and in no small measure leading to our society being better informed on current affairs and political issues.

He has also written two books on Scotland's Parliament.

His letter, written from BBC Scotland, Scottish Parliamentary Unit, Edinburgh, on 7 December 2015:


My Dear President,

Many thanks for doing me the signal honour of inviting me to be an Honorary Member of Irvine Burns Club. I am delighted to accept.

It is a particular pleasure that the invitation comes from an esteemed Ayrshire club. The Bard, of course, is rightly revered across Scotland and indeed the globe. However, perhaps the reverence is most fervent in his native Ayrshire.

Irvine may be said to straddle Scotland's ancient past and contemporary outlook, your proud burgh being known both as a "New Town" and as an historic settlement.

My own profession of journalism can prompt a range of responses. Some feel we are perhaps too quick to judge. Some feel we should consider:
     O ye wha are sae guid yoursel',
          Sae pious and sae holy,
     Ye've nought to do but mark and tell
          Your neibours' fauts and folly!

For myself, I attempt to be rationally critical in the public interest - but never cynical. I would say:
     Then gently scan your brother man,
          Still gentler sister woman;
     Tho' they may gang a kennin wrang,
          To step aside is human.

From a Scottish journalist and a passionate Burnsian,
All best wishes,
Brian Taylor

The letter is typed on the notepaper of BBC Scotland.

Prof. Gerard Carruthers (....-....) Honorary member 2017

His life & work:

Prof. Gerry Carruthers FRSE occupies the Francis Hutcheson Chair of Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow and is best known in Burns circles as Co-Director of the Centre for Burns Studies at that institution. His academic work includes his roles as General Editor of the Oxford University Press edition of the Works of Robert Burns and as Principal Investigator in the ARHC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) project "Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century, a project in which Irvine Burns Club is increasingly involved. Gerry is also Editor of the 'Scottish Literary Review'.

Gerry's interests in Scottish literature encompass much more than Robert Burns; they include the works and life of John Galt, born in Irvine and buried in Greenock, and Thomas Muir of Huntershill - Prof. Carruthers, with Don Martin, co-edited a book (publ. 2016), on this eminent political reformer (1765-1799; transported to Australia in 1794, escaped to America in 1796, and died in France).

His letter, written from the University of Glasgow, on 3rd January, 2017:


Dear Mr Nolan,

I was delighted to receive your letter of 14th December 2016, inviting me to Honorary membership of Irvine Burns Club..

I regard your invitation as a signal honour, as Irvine Burns Club is known world-wide as repository of some of the best Robert Burns manuscripts & artefacts; as well as having a contemporary & historic membership that has done so much to advance the understanding of our national writer.

It gives me great pleasure to accept!

Yours sincerely,
Gerry Carruthers

The letter is addressed to Hon Secy Bill Nolan.

Dr Ian Green (1934-....) Honorary member 2017

His life & work:

Ian Green is the son of a head gardener who played the Highland bagpipe, so musical evenings were common in the Green house, and Ian was introduced to traditional music at an early age. After serving his apprenticeship as a gardener in Edinburgh, he served in the army in Korea, then joined Edinburgh City Police, subsequently spending 30 years in the force, retiring as a Police Inspector late in 1985.

He had become an avid collector of folk recordings, was a founding member of the Edinburgh Police Folk Club and the Edinburgh Folk Club, and was a co-editor of Sandy Bell's Broadsheet magazine, one of the earliest traditional music publications. He also produced concerts. In the late 1970s, he set up Discount Folk Records, but held a burning ambition to be involved in the actual recording of Scotland's many talented musicians and singers. His dream was realized in 1986. Greentrax Recordings was launched, funded solely by Ian's police pension.

Since 1986, Greentrax Recordings Ltd has established itself as Scotland's leading traditional music recording company, with a well-earned worldwide reputation and has released some 500 albums. The Scottish Tradition Series from the archives of the School Of Scottish Studies are amongst the finest of their kind, and the range continues to expand annually.

Ian has won the Hamish Henderson Award for services to Scottish traditional music at the Scots Trad Music Awards and in 2006 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama as a tribute to his work in Scottish traditional music over the past forty years.

His letter, written from Greentrax Recordings Limited, Cockenzie Business Centre, Cockenzie, East Lothian, EH32 0XL, on 16th January 2017:


Dear Bill,

I am greatly honoured to be invited to become an Honorary Member of the Irvine Burns Club and I am delighted to accept.

I am very proud of the achievements of Greentrax Recordings and in particular the albums of the late, great Jean Redpath, MBE, and Rod Paterson, one of Scotland's finest interpreters of Burns' songs, plus others.

I have received a number of awards but Honorary Membership of the Irvine Burns Club ranks high on the list.

My best wishes and thanks to the Directors.

Yours sincerely,
Ian D Green

The letter is addressed to Hon Secy Bill Nolan.

Jean Redpath (1937-2014), the Scottish folk singer.

Rod Paterson has been described as "one of Scotland’s finest singers, with limitless depth and versatility".

Rab Affleck (1953-....) Honorary member 2018

His life & work:

Rab Affleck began his film career in a rather unusual way. In his younger days, he earned his living as a tradesman (time-served), but also fought as a semi-professional boxer. So good was he, he even fought for the British Heavyweight title. However, it was his experience of bare knuckle fighting that brought him to the attention of the producers of The Big Man - Crossing the Line (1990) starring Liam Neeson. He was initially asked to advise on the 'sport' but after several meetings it was decided to cast him in a prominent role, as Cutty Dawson. This film was based on 'The Big Man', by Willie McIlvanney [honorary member, 1990].

At Irvine Royal Academy Rab had been taught English by McIlvanney, who became his friend and inspiration, and who drew on Rab's stories of his father, a boxer, bare-knuckle fighter, and unlicensed boxer, in his portrayal of Danny Scoular in the book. Rab has said: "I’m so pleased he used that character because my dad was a miner and my grandfather was a miner. There were great stories to be told and there was nobody better than Willie to tell them."

Since then, he has generally typecast as the archetypal Scottish hard man, but has also done comedy in BBC's Screen One production, Screen One: Down Among the Big Boys (1993), where he played a character with the name of Bungalow!

His letter, written from his home in Irvine on 12 November 2017:


Dear Allen,
     I refer to your letter dated 19th Oct. 2017 and invitation to become an Honorary Member of Irvine Burns Club.
     I am overwhelmed and proud to accept your invitation to become an honorary member of such an established Club, known the world over.
    Born and living in Irvine with a special connection to the Bard is truly an exceptional experience. Thank you once again.
     Rab Affleck

The letter is to President Allen Paterson.

The 'special connection' refers to the Bard's thoughts of publishing his work being first encouraged in Irvine.

Margaret Cook (....-....) Honorary member 2018

Her life & work:

Margaret Cook has given, and continues to give, years of dedicated service in promoting the works of Robert Burns, as a teacher, reader, tutor and performer and as an active member of both Irvine Lasses Burns Club and the Irvine Burns Club, including regular service as a judge in the annual Verse Speaking Competition.

Her letter, written from her home in Irvine on 1 October 2017:


Dear Allen,
     I am deeply moved and greatly honoured by your offer of Honorary Membership of Irvine Burns Club, but in awe of the fact that I should be included in such a prestigious company of existing Honorary Members.
     All of my life, I have been aware of our Poet Burns and am told I could recite some of his verses before starting school. I did my first Immortal Memory at the Irvine Royal Academy Literary and Debating Society in 1955 and just over twenty years later, needed no persuasion to join the newly formed Irvine Lasses Burns Club. Two years ago I was delighted to be able to join Irvine Burns Club.
     In my career in Primary Education, I promoted the life and works of Burns whenever possible and still go into schools to teach the recitation of Burns poetry.
     Involvement in the Burns Fraternity has open many doors to me, introduced me to friends from all over the globe and given me countless pleasurable and memorable experiences.
     This honour you are giving to me tops the list and so "Wi gratefu' heart, I thank you brawlie" and accept.
     Yours sincerely
     Margaret S Cook

The letter is to President Allen Paterson.

Annie Lennox (1954-....) Honorary member 2018

Her life & work:

Annie Lennox was offered honorary membership for two reasons - her contributions to music and to global philanthropy.

Annie and fellow musician David A Stewart achieved major international success in the 1980s as the Eurythmics. With a total of eight Brit Awards, which includes being named Best British Female Artist a record six times, Lennox has been named the "Brits Champion of Champions". She embarked in a solo career in 1992, and other awards include four Grammys and, in 2004, both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Into the West", written for the soundtrack to the feature film 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'.

Annie Lennox is also a political and social activist, notable for raising money and awareness for HIV/ AIDS as it affects women and children in Africa. In 2011, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen for her "tireless charity campaigns and championing of humanitarian causes".

At the 2015 Ivor Novello Awards, Lennox was made a fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, the first female to receive the honour. In 2017, Lennox was appointed Glasgow Caledonian University's first female Chancellor, taking over the role from Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus.

Her acceptance, a typescript basis for a promised written letter:


To all the members of Irvine Burns Club,
     I am absolutely delighted, honoured and proud to become an Honorary Member of your distinguished Historical Society.
     Growing up in Aberdeen in the 1950s and 60's, I was very aware that Robert Burns held a special place in the consciousness of the local community and the Scots nation as a whole - not only at home, but across all four corners of the globe.
     For Aberdonians, Robert Burns has been a constant presence, especially since the inauguration in 1892 of a dark bronze statue cast in his likeness, which still stands enigmatically upon a tall granite pedestal in the city centre above Union Terrace Gardens.
     I used to pass this historic landmark every day on my journey to school, and habitually checked to see whether the daisy held in Burns's left hand had been dislodged by some inebriated youths during the previous night. Despite the fact that the statue was cast in bronze, the poor daisy was still a fragile thing.
     Over the years it became a regular target for delinquent night revellers, which always tended to offend me, as it felt disrespectful towards such a legendary figure as the noble Bard.
     Looking back now, I suspect Burns might have found it somewhat hilarious that the local town council has had to keep replacing the wee, modest, crimson tipped flow'r, its slender stem crushed amang the stoure . . not by the plow, but by glaikit foo loons.
     Thank you so much for such a special recognition. I'm deeply touched to receive it.
     Yours truly
     Annie Lennox

the Aberdeen statue referred to in the letter

Prof. Liam McIlvanney (c.1969-....) Honorary member 2018

His life & work:

Liam McIlvanney, at the time of this nomination, holds the Stuart Chair of Scottish Studies at the University of Otago in Dunedin, NZ. His expertise is in "Scottish literature and culture since 1707, including Robert Burns, Scottish vernacular poetry, the Glasgow Novel, Ulster-Scots poetry, contemporary Scottish writing, Irish-Scottish literary connections, literature of the Scottish Diaspora, and Scottish crime fiction". Born in Kilmarnock, he is the son of novelist William McIlvanney [honorary member, 1990].

In 2002, Liam McIlvanney published 'Burns the Radical: Poetry and Politics in Late Eighteenth-century Scotland', a "major reinterpretation of the man who is coming to be recognized as the poet laureate of the radical Enlightenment", winning a Saltire Award. He co-edited (with Gerard Carruthers) 'The Cambridge Companion to Scottish Literature' (CUP, 2012).

Prof. McIlvanney's nomination as an Honorary Member recognises both his furthering of the knowledge of the works of Robert Burns and his work in the wider field of Scottish literature. He was presented with his Honorary Membership certificate at Irvine Burns Club in August 2018. The following month, we were delighted to hear that with his novel 'The Quaker' he won the 2018 McIlvanney Prize for Scottish crime book of the year, an award renamed in 2016 in memory of his father.

His letter, written from the Department of English, Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies, University of Otago, NZ, on St Andrew's Day 2017:


Dear President Paterson,
     Thank you for your letter. I am honoured and delighted to accept your kind invitation to become an Honorary Member of Irvine Burns Club. As an Ayrshireman and a lover of Burns, I am sensible of the great honour and privilege represented by this invitation, and I am deeply grateful to the Club. With fraternal greetings from the Dunedin Burns Club (founded 1861).
     Yours aye,
     Liam McIlvanney

The letter is to President Allen Paterson.

Prof Sir Geoff Palmer (1940-....) Honorary member 2018

His life & work:

Sir Godfrey Henry Oliver Palmer is a Professor Emeritus in the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and a human rights activist. He discovered the barley abrasion process while a researcher at the Brewing Research Foundation from 1968 to 1977. In 1998, he became the fourth person, and the first European, to be honoured with the American Society of Brewing Chemists Award of Distinction, considered the "Nobel prize of brewing". In 1989, he became the first black professor in Scotland. He retired in 2005. He was knighted in the 2014 New Year Honours for his services to human rights.

His nomination recognises three strands in his life and work - his contribution to Food and Beverage Science, his contribution to Robert Burns studies, and his work in fostering awareness of Scotland's role in the 17th/18th century slave trade.

Born in Jamaica, and brought up by aunts, he joined his mother in London in 1955 shortly before his 15th birthday. He graduated in botany and gained a PhD in grain science and technology.

With a great interest in human rights, Sir Geoff Palmer has also authored a book on the history of slavery, 'The Enlightenment Abolished: Citizens of Britishness' (2007), and has spoken out extensively against the slave trade. He visited Irvine in 2016 as a guest of Irvine Burns Club, speaking on the topic of the Scottish influences in Jamaica.

The following quote from Prof. Palmer's writings will resonate with the content of his acceptance letter:
"What people need is a cup of kindness. Burns was speaking metaphorically in Auld Lang Syne. Whisky in Scottish culture is just like Russian vodka, or American bourbon, or French wine. When somebody asks you to take a drink with them that is an act of kindness... this drink of kindness does not have to be alcoholic. But how many migrants have been asked to join in such a drink? If somebody is not prepared to eat or drink with you, then you’re not part of the system. I think you get that relationship of kindness in a society if somebody sees you as equal."

His letter, written from his home at Penicuik on 28 September 2017:


Dear Mr Paterson,
     I thank you for your letter of the 12th September 2017. My life and work have benefited from two words, made even greater, by the Bard. They are "Goodness" and "Kindness". Therefore, it is an unbelievable honour to be told in your letter that the Irvine Burns Club, with "Goodness" and "Kindness", has decided to invite me to become an Honorary Member. I accept this honour with humility and I am proud to stand at the end of the long line of years and special people who have served as Honorary Members of the Irvine Burns Club.
     Yours sincerely,
     Geoff Palmer
     Professor Sir Geoff Palmer

The letter is to President Allen Paterson.

Prof. Ian Campbell (....-....) Honorary member 2019

His life & work:

The research interests of Ian Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Scottish and Victorian Literature at the University of Edinburgh (he retired in 2009), are mainly in the field of Scottish literature since the time of Robert Burns and include the life and works of John Galt and Thomas Carlyle. In 2015, Prof Campbell published an omnibus edition: "Four Galt Novels: Annals of the Parish, The Ayrshire Legatees, The Provost, The Entail" (Zeticula Ltd, Edinburgh). He is a senior editor of the Duke-Edinburgh edition of the Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle (Duke UP, N. Carolina).

His interests also include the life and works of Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson and Robert Burns.

His letters, written from the Department of English Literature, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, 50 George Square, University of Edinburgh, on 19/09/2018:


To the President and Members,
Irvine Burns Club,
     It is with great pleasure that I accept the Honorary Membership you have offered.
     I wish the Club every success.
     Ian Campbell

(a typed supplementary:)
Dear Annie Small,
     Allow me to thank you rather more fully for the great pleasure and honour of your letter. As you know it was my first visit to Irvine, and I learned a lot as well as appreciated the dedication and open friendship I met there. I hope to keep up my links with the Club, and I will gladly do anything I can to help further its interests.
     With every good wish,
     Ian Campbell

The letters are to President Annie Small.

The visit to Irvine mentioned here was that of 23rd March 2018 when Prof. Campbell was guest speaker at the Directors' Dinner, addressing the company on the subject of John Galt, one of the first two Honorary Members, in 1828, of Irvine Burns Club.

Prof. Kirsteen McCue (....-....) Honorary member 2019

Her life & work:

Professor of Scottish Literature & Song Culture at the University of Glasgow, and Co-Director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, Kirsteen McCue is a co-editor of The Oxford Edition of the Works of Robert Burns, part of the "Editing Burns in the 21st Century" project - her "Volume IV:Songs for George Thomson" (involving reviewing and revising George Thomson's 'Scottish Musical Museum') is due to be published in late 2019).

One of the fruits of Kirsteen's research was the performance, in October 2016 in Glasgow University Chapel, and in November 2018 in London, of the first edition of 'The Jolly Beggars', to the music by Sir Henry Bishop (1818), by soloists supported by the Glasgow University Chapel Choir (enjoy it at https://youtu.be/uxW9x_K-uJM).

Prof. McCue has also co-edited "Women's Travel Writings in Scotland" (2017; travelogues of the early 19th c.; one writer, Anne Grant, was a friend of George Thomson).

Kirsteen is well-known to Burns enthusuiasts in Irvine, most notably having delivered a riveting Immortal Memory at the Eglinton Burns Club's annual Supper.

Her letter, written from the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, University of Glasgow, on 1 October 2018:


Dear Annie (if I may),
     Firstly, sincere apologies for the delay in responding to your letter of 14 September. It caught us just as term started here and it's all been a bit hectic.
     I am honoured to be proposed for an Honorary Membership of Irvine Burns Club. I have many friends there and the Club is so important to our ongoing work here at CRBS in addition to being its own important national collection. Without you, our job here at the Centre working on Burns's life and works and producing a new 21st century edition would be much more difficult.
     I send warm thanks to you as President and to your Club for thinking of me in this regard and I look forward to speaking to you further about it, and to visiting Irvine Burns Club many more times.
     With kind regards,

The letter is to President Annie Small. It was typed and a handwritten letter followed.

William A Nolan (....-....) Honorary member 2019

His life & work:

W A Nolan, 'Bill' to all, has served Irvine Burns Club as President (1989), Director, and more recently as Honorary Secretary. Throughout, he has given unstintingly of his time and talents, especially in his efforts to raise the profile of the Club.

Of the many projects under Bill's leadership, a few examples must suffice. He devised and led the "Dear Mister Burns" exhibition launched at the Homecoming Finale celebrations in 2009, an exhibition comprising a set of 24 display panels to celebrate our tradition, since 1828, of offering Honorary Membership. Bill led the application and implementation of the Irvine Harbourside Project, working with the local authority and other community groups, in 2013-17. He has also led the Club's support of other projects undertaken by North Ayrshire Council, such as "Forever 19" marking the anniversary of the Great War, the hosting of The Great Tapestry of Scotland display in the refurbished Townhouse, and lectures by Sir Tom Devine and Sir Geoff Palmer in that building. This community co-operation was a major factor leading to the presentation of the Provost's Award jointly to Irvine Burns Club and Irvine Lasses Burns Club, in 2015.

Bill's efforts have also led to major improvements and repair to the exterior fabric of 'Wellwood', and to the successful return of the Templeton chair, a seat enjoyed by Burns, from Australia, going on display in January 2016. He has also been an active member of the team of Directors in charge of the programme of school visits. In the wider Burns world, Bill's efforts have resulted in meaningful links, involving several other Directors, with the Glasgow University Centre for Burns Studies, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Bill Nolan's nomination for Honorary Membership also marks his Presidency (2018-19) of the Robert Burns World Federation - he is the third Past President of Irvine Burns Club to progress to that distinction. He is well respected as a speaker, particularly as a proposer of the Toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns.

Bill's career was primarily in public relations, most notably with Tennant's Lager during the time of the Lager Lovelies, and latterly with Irvine Development Corporation. His many other interests include rugby - in which he served on the Executive Committee of the International Rugby Board.

His letter, written from his home in Irvine on 7 September 2018:


Dear President Annie,
     Despite having been educated in Irvine, I knew little when leaving school of Robert Burns and his links with the town and was only vaguely aware of Irvine Burns Club or of Wellwood, both of which have played major roles in my later life. Like others, I knew a few Burns' poems and songs but little of the man who had either written or collected them.
     That changed when I went to Edinburgh University and was introduced to Scotland's rich store of Literature and Music. It was like scales falling from my eyes when I bought a book of Burns' poems for the princely sum of 7/6 - and that, now battered and well-used, has travelled the world with me as a guide, prompter and often as a saviour.
     On returning to Irvine in the late 60s, I joined Irvine Burns Club where I learned from men like Sam Gaw, John Inglis and Alex Macmillan. With Burns, you are always learning, and I still am, about someone whose works and philosophy are as valid today as they were 230 years ago when he wrote:
     "Gie me ae Spark o' Nature's fire,
     That's a' the learning I desire."
Robert Burns has given me that spark and that learning for which I will be eternally grateful to him. I will always be grateful too to you for inviting me to become an Honorary Member of Irvine Burns Club which I happily accept.
     Thank you for listing me in that Pantheon of "Gods, Giants and Heroes" and hope not to be much out of place among them.
     Yours sincerely,
     Bill Nolan


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