George Orr

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 Secretary

1968,  1969,  1970,  1971,  1972

Proposer of the Toast  “Let it Blaw – the Balerno Burns Club”   1966,  1972 

Proposer of the Toast  “Our Hosts” or “The Landlord – Landlady”   1970

George became a member of ‘Let it Blaw’ in the 1960s. He was the son of Club Member James (Dargie) Orr

Letter from George Orr to Nelson Baillie re 1968 Annual Supper

Letter from George Orr to Nelson Baillie re 1969 Annual Supper

The Missing Records1959 to 1972

At a Committee Meeting on 10th January 1958, a full list of speakers for the Supper a couple of weeks later was recorded. After that, our record of Club Business suddenly stops; it is thought likely that this was due to a new record book being started.

While we know little about the administration of the Club in the twelve years that followed. we do know that annual suppers were still held. Supper programmes for 1961,  1962,  1963,  1965,  1966 and 1970 have survived and can be read on the Club Website. We know that Alastair Robertson was Secretary in 1965 and 1966 as it is recorded on the Supper Programmes, and we know that George Orr succeeded Alastair as Secretary in 1968.

George was the son of long-time Club member James (Dargie) Orr and nephew of equally long-time member Willie Shanks. He held down a good job in local Government with administrative skills to the fore, so probably looked like the perfect person to hold the office of Club Secretary.

George Orr was a likeable man when sober and apparently the perfect individual to be trusted with keeping Club records. Unfortunately, he had something of a drink problem and when drunk, became an obstreperous individual disliked by many. His secretarial duties fell behind, often overlooked or, worse still, totally ignored. As a result, membership numbers plummeted to the point when, on 9th December 1972, with membership down to nine, an Extraordinary Meeting was called regarding the future of ‘Let it Blaw’. Half an hour after the planned start, the Secretary arrived; to quote the minutes of that Meeting recorded by Willie Shanks, ”After half hour wait on Secretary, George Orr appeared intoxicated. Chairman asked him to leave Club owing to objectionable behaviour.” The meeting continued with Willie Shanks elected Secretary/Treasurer, and ‘Sweep’ Brown as President.

Willie was not the most obvious choice as Club Secretary but what he lacked in literary skill he made up with dedication and hard work. It is believed that being related to George Orr, Willie had felt morally obliged to take on the post of Secretary/Treasurer. It seems ironic that one of the most notorious things ever said over the years at ‘Let it Blaw’ came at this time from George Orr when, relative to the election of Willie Shanks as Secretary, he said ”what does he know about being a Secretary, he’s just a ploughman.” What would Burns have thought of that ?

Some former members were asked to return for the Supper, and on the evening of 23rd January 1973, sixteen cronies gathered in the upstairs room of the Malleny Arms. Everyone contributed to the harmony of the evening but, to again quote Willie Shanks’ report “We would have had a perfect night, but the ex-secretary staggered in. He started to shout and swear. He was promptly carried out.” Later in the evening, Willie went to pay the bill with cash gathered from the sixteen in attendance only to be told by the landlord that George Orr had contracted for twenty-eight meals to be supplied. To make up the shortfall, Sweep Brown and Willie Shanks each contributed £5 to help pay the bill (not an insignificant amount in the early 1970s).

At the ‘Pickin’ o’ the Banes’ on 13th February 1973, a proposal to terminate George Orr’s membership of ‘Let it Blaw’ was unanimously approved.

Orr departed and took the Club books from 1959 to December 1972 with him. When later asked about the books, he denied  knowledge.