I have a book entitled ‘Chronicle of the Hundredth Birthday of Robert Burns’, written, you will not be surprised to learn, about events in 1859.
The volume gives details of some of the events held to celebrate the centenary in Scotland, England, Ireland, the United States, Copenhagen and what were then known as ‘Colonies’.
Arbroath, Brechin, Forfar and Montrose, and no doubt the smaller Angus communities too, honoured the poet. Formal dinners were a regular feature of Victorian times and most towns held at least one. In Arbroath, dinners were organised by the Panmure Lodge of Free Masons and there was also a gathering at the Star Inn.
In Montrose, the brethren of the Mystic Tie were instrumental in the organisation of a procession, inviting lodges and trades to join in and participants met on the Links between 2pm and 3pm. It must have been a wonderful spectacle, led by two horses drawing a plough, held by a man dressed in appropriate ‘garb’.
‘Burns’ was followed by a number of men on horseback, the Masonic Lodges, the Lodges of Gardeners and Oddfellows, ‘all bearing the insignia of their orders’, and then the trades carrying numerous models, which the then writer presumed showed that ‘the spare hours of many of the craftsmen had been zealously devoted to the construction of the beautiful specimens of workmanship exhibited’.
The procession arrived at the Town Building where the marchers heard a short speech by Adam Burnes, no doubt a relative of the man himself.
Montrose also hosted a number of dinners, the main one of 150 diners taking place in the Guild Hall. There, numerous toasts were drunk.
I always wondered how our ancestors managed to put away so much strong drink but regular viewers of Bargain Hunt and Antiques Roadshow will be familiar with the toasting glasses used which look normal but in fact contained little alcohol. Even then, I imagine there would have been a lot of sore heads the following morning.