THE ORIGINS OF BURNS CLUBS
There are traditions that the anniversary of the birth of Burns was annually celebrated at a very early date
by a few choice spirits
who met together in a haphazrd way without thought of handing down to posterity any
memento of their proceedings.
It was not until 21st. July, 1801, however, that the first Burns club was formally constituted
and a written record begun.
This was the Greenock Burns Club, which is justly proud to call itself "The Mother Club".
The Club celebrated the poet's birthday for the first time in 1802.
Paisley Burns Club was the next to be founded, on 29th January, 1805 as their first minute, written by Robert Tannahill, bears witness.
The year 1808 saw the institution of Kilmarnock Burns Club and Dunfermline United Burns Club was the fourth club to be founded, in 1812.
The year 1820 saw the institution of the Dumfries Burns Club and the Bristol Caledonian Society;
Sheffield Caledonian Society followed in 1822, Dalry Burns Club in 1825 and the Burns Clubs of Leith, Peterhead and Irvine all in 1826:
1801 Greenock Burns Club
1805 Paisley Burns Club
1808 Kilmarnock Burns Club
1812 Dunfermline United Burns Club
1820 Dumfries Burns Club
1820 Bristol Caledonian Society
1822 Sheffield Caledonian Socity
1825 Dalry Burns Club
1826 Leith Burns Club
1826 Peterhead Burns Club
1826 Irvine Burns Club
THE ORIGINS OF DALRY BURNS CLUB
One night in December 1825, a number of cronies were gathered in Montgomery's
Inn in Courthill Street (now the 'Turf Inn').
The majority of these were
weavers. They were well read men who could, and did, debate on almost any
This they did after their long and hard work of these days. On this
particular night, however,
the talk was of Robert Burns. Some of them recited
his poetry and others sang some of his songs.
During the night, Hugh Morris, a
friend of Tannahill the Paisley poet,
made the suggestion that a Bums Club be
formed in Dalry.
Andrew Crawford supported him in this suggestion and he and
Hugh Morris were elected
Secretary and President respectively. The innkeeper
John Montgomery readily consented to
the suggestion that the first supper be
held in his inn on the 25th January 1826.
Andrew Crawford was appointed to draw up some rules for the club and this he did in the form of the following poem.
He preferred not to call them rules but
rather "a few hints for Dalry Burns Club".
Another rule added afterwards was "That non-attendance at a single meeting without a
Dalry eighteen hundred and twenty-six,
Assembled a few friends of Burns
To make regulations and yearly to fix,
What's to be done when his birthday returns.
This year in Montgomerie's, it first shall take place,
Where drink of the best, will be got
With a haggis and bannocks the table to grace
And a slice from the hip of a stot.
all banished shall be
The song it shall circle in turns
Each shall have a glass of the barley bree
To drink to the memory of Burns.
No insulting language our lips shall defile
Let no man's good humour be crossed,
But let every face be bright with a smile
When round goes the song and the toast.
written apology forfeits membership". This rule used to be strictly enforced in the
early days of the club. The next item on the agenda was who to invite to the supper.
They would have to be men of some intelligence and standing in the village, and not
too many, because the room that John Montgomerie said he would provide for the supper
was not very large. This was the garret. It was quite a comfortable room and it would
hold twenty of them at a push, but no more. So they drew up a list of the names of twenty
intelligent men; of those twenty, at least ten were weavers and the majority of others
had a connection with the manufacture of cloth. None of these men, however, was wealthy.
They were men like Burns himself: intelligent, well read men, lovers of Burns who could
sing his songs, recite his poetry and who were not afraid to do so when asked. Many a
time when the whole company sang a song, they all knew they would make the rafters ring.