Montreal Daily Star, 25 January 1890, page 1
Honor the anniversary of Burns
Supper and entertainment at St. Andrew’s Home—Address by Rev John Williamson on the Poet’s life and works.
The haggis and the pipes, songs and addresses and a genial company of Scotchmen at the St. Andrew’s home last night made up a most fitting celebration of the 131st anniversary of Scotland’s favorite poet. Could the Ayrshire ploughman have looked in upon the goodly company last evening and witnessed the affection with which his memory is cherished and the enthusiasm his verses still inspire, he might have thought that after all fame was not such a fleeting, an unsubstantial thing. This Burns celebration was held under the auspices of the Caledonian Society, and was a very successful and enjoyable affair, every portion of the programme, supper, songs and address being capital. By a wise innovation ladies were invited to this year’s anniversary, and quite a number were present. About one hundred sat down to supper, the invited guests being Sir Donald Smith, president of the St. Andrew’s Society; CP Sclater, President of the St. George’s Society; HJ Cloran, president of St Patrick’s Society; Prof J Clark Murray, Rev John Williamson, the speaker of the evening; Mr FB McNamee, LO David, MPP, president of the St Jean Baptiste Society, and Rev John Nichols, chaplain of the Caledonia Society, were unable to attend. Mr William Rutherford, president of the Caledonian Society, presided. As soon as the company were seated, the haggis was brought in, preceded by a piper and welcomed with cheers. While it was being served Prof Murray read Burns’
“Address to the Haggis”
The supper was excellent, and after it had been heartily enjoyed the toasts to the Queen and the Governor General were duly honored. “Our sister societies” was next proposed. Sir Donald Smith responded on behalf of St. Andrew’s, Mr. Sclater for St George’s and Mr Cloran for the St Patrick’s. “To the memory of Robert Burns” was responded to by the Rev John Williamson, who delivered a eulogistic address upon poetry of “Scotland’s favorite son.” At the outset he touched upon the life of his post, excusing and explaining its irregularities. It was a tragic life, a fragment without unity or completeness, and in a measure out of harmony with the age in which he lived. In judging the man, it should be done by the standard of his own times. In his poetry he fell back upon nature, and he loved to dwell on natural scenes where his troubled spirit could find rest. Nature seemed to answer the changing moods of his own troubled mind. This feature—his truthfulness to nature—would alone entitle him to the highest rank among poets. He illumined common things with
True poetic glory
As his verses on the mountain daisy and the mouse nest his ploughshare had upturned, showed. Another of his excellences was intense veracity, the conscientious correspondence of his poetry with fact. He was also the prophet and friend of liberty and democracy in its true sense. He hated hypocrisy and mawkishness, and when he exposed these he showed traces of bitterness. Burns was also a humorist, and possessed the true essence of humor, namely sensibility and tender feeling for all existences of life. His humor glowed through many of his pieces, especially in “Tam O’Shanter,” “Holy Willie’s Prayer,” and “Death and Doctor Hornbook.” The poet saw good under the covering of evil, and was not orthodox enough to speak wholly ill of the devil. Time, on the whole, was an impartial judge. Hundreds of the contemporaries of Burns were long since forgotten, but yearly the Ayrshire poet became better known and more highly appreciated. At the conclusion of the address, Mr E Bain gave a recitation of “Tam O’Shanter;” songs were also sung during the evening by Mr William Miller, Miss Guthrie and Mr SE Bain. A message of greeting from the Philadelphia Caledonian Society was read, and Prof Murray and Mr. Stevenson instructed to return a suitable reply. Before breaking up, Sir Donald Smith proposed the health of the president, the celebration closing with “Auld Lang Syne” and “God Save the Queen.”
A musical “Nicht wi’ Burns” will be spent on Monday evening next, the 27th, when the Young People’s Association of St Gabriel Church will give a Scotch concert in their lecture room.