1995 – “Willie Shanks BEM”

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Bard’s Oration 1995

Willie Shanks BEM 

 

Chairman, cronies, yin and a’

At committee meetings o’ ‘Let it Blaw’,

The agenda had thereon a notation

“Wha wa’d dae the Bard’s Oration”,

In the absence o’ oor Willie Shanks,

For whom we have a lot tae thank.

Sae ah thocht for a moment long and hard

And volunteered to be oor Bard. 

 

Aye me, wi’ legs like cheeks o’ branks,

And nae equal tae “The Willie Shanks”,

And should I be speaking on behalf of oor Will,

when we’ve other fine rhymers such as Bill Hill.

Thus, I humbly stand afore ye now,

wi’ shaking haun and fevered brow.

For the task before me is quite daunting,

But I trust that ye don’t find me wanting, 

Sae settle back an tak yir ease,

As ah speak for Willie and try tae please.

 

Nae subject readily cam tae mind,

And for a while ma thochts were running blind,

When suddenly there rang a bell,

Why no’ speak o the man himsel’; 

For “The Bard” is not in his seat this year,

And missing the haggis and dram served here.

But I’m sure his thochts are wi us the nicht,

an’ saying yon Hoody – whit a state, whit a sicht.

For worst of all we’ll miss his crack,

Sae I’m taking this chance tae answer back,

an’ fae the company Willie kent sae well,

We send good wishes tae the man himsel’. 

 

Aye, oor Wull was a man wha hailed fae the west 

And in oor wee parish stuck out fae the rest. 

He kept open door in a kind’s o weather, 

For he liked naething better than a chat or a blether; 

When, if ye should mention oor ‘Let it Blaw’, 

You heard the club history – blow by blow. 

“You must gang tae the supper, it will be unco richt, 

I’m sure ye’ll enjoy it, for it’s a grand nicht.” 

And just happen tae say ye kenned a bit Burns, 

Before you knew it – you were doing a turn; 

Or selling the raffle, and detailed to do more, 

For your name he had noted in the book at the door. 

An ae thing at this supper that seems oot o place, 

That’s the absence o’ Willies wee round smiling face 

 

Noo Wull is ne’er feart tae gie us his views, 

At meetings and suppers and in the CB news; 

He writes o’ the past, the present an ahead, 

And in a his works there runs a strong thread, 

That’s his love o’ the land, o’ children and the Bard, 

Sae Wull through his poetry has become quite a card. 

He writes o the poor the rich and the wealthy, 

O those nae sae weel, or them hale and healthy; 

Withoot trace of envy, malice or spite, 

for he ay sees a future happy and bright. 

He speaks o’ his cronies, his kith and his kin, 

o’ his struggles in life, thro’ the thick and the thin. 

Nae sign o’ self pity in his writings or speech, 

Just some words o’ wisdom tae a’ he can reach. 

 

An’ while some might name and ca me Caesar, 

Just keepit for my honour’s pleasure, 

Willie was mair like a ploughman’s collie, 

a rhyming ranting raving billy.

 

T’was in 66, its nae illusion, 

Willie first gave us the Bard’s effusion, 

At this, his belov’d “Let it Blaw”, 

A club he praised tae yin and a’, 

And mony must have heard his story, 

as he spoke o’ past suppers, in a’ his glory. 

But, from that first time until this, 

Willie’s delivered some magnificent verse, 

On Burns, the Gala, or sic like kind. 

Indeed, onything that cam tae mind. 

And in a’ his verse he carries a message, 

The moral expressed withoot any dressage, 

We’d best remember in this day and age, 

His words sae blythe, sae proud, sae sage, 

And Willie, this man o’ mony turns, 

Resembles somewhat, Rabbie Burns. 

 

Mind if like his critics ye think him a’ bad, 

And feel that he was – a bit o’ a lad, 

Had some tae guid advice but herkit, 

They micht themsels hae led the market; 

But seriously cronies, ah maun tell ye this, 

Few poets can speak o’ a love such as his, 

Love of his family, of Burns and the land, 

But whit’s o’ mair import, o’ his guid fellow man,

And some o’ his words, ah mind them off pat, 

That yin day the world will be brothers for a’ that, 

Though when it will come we just canna tell, 

And when ye think on it, that’s perhaps just as well 

 

Then in 94 a celebration 

Willie was honoured by the Burns Federation 

Well deserved I’d have to say 

And I’m sure that few would disagree 

For Balerno Burns Club must truly thank 

the acknowledged efforts of Willie Shanks. 

Think how it started, as only was proper, 

That in memory of Burns we haud this supper, 

When we gather together on nichts sic like these, 

eating haggis and neeps, eating bannocks and cheese. 

And p’raps noo and again we tak a wee sip, 

Oot o’ oor tippeny, or even oor nip. 

 

And we sit back and listen, tae story and sang, 

o’ this wonderful country tae which Scots belang. 

Then at the nicht’s end we each tak oor way,

Promising we’ll meet on anither sic day, 

But unlike Rabbie’s sagacious twa dugs, 

Perhaps Willie’s message has gone right out our lugs.

 

Well my tale is near ower, this verse is near done, 

Ah hope you’ve enjoyed my rhyming and fun, 

I’ve gien some figures, some facts and quotes, 

Nice tae see an audience sit there and tak note; 

I hope you all agreed with my views, 

And if I’ve offended, then please excuse; 

But may I say for’ taking my leaving, 

Thanks for inviting me here this evening, 

Tae gie “The Oration” is indeed a great honour, 

That could easily have gone tae any other, 

And hoping we’ll meet on some ither day, 

Ah think I’ll finish in a different way. 

My ain lines cam easy, I have to say, 

But the brain stoppit short yin recent day. 

And from that moment until this time 

I’ve found it hard tae finish my rhyme. 

An then I thocht man, that’s a’ richt, 

For Willie’s licht keeps shining bricht 

And though no longer in Balerno resident, 

We must remember oor Honorary President, 

Wha rhymes for better or for worse. 

Sae we’ll honour him with Rabbie’s verse.

 

Thus Chairman, soul o’ tricks and pranks, 

Accept a poor Bardie’s gratefu thanks, 

For I am nae poet in a sense, 

But just a rhymer like by chance 

So   tak fae me at this time

a present tae Willie and the Club, in rhyme. 

 

Jimmy Johnstone

January 1995