Ragged Rhymes

by untangledwebl

What follows is the Bard’s Oration, presented by Club Bard George Y. Robertsonat the annual Supper of ‘Let it Blaw’ held on 23rd January 1891.

The presentation was then printed by Club Member A. G. Moir (at his own expense), and a copy of the printed version inserted into the Club Minute Book by then Secretary John Fairbairn. The layout of the printed version has been adapted for inclusion on this website.

Handwritten along the top of the Printed Copy filed in Club Records is “To Mr James Pearson Jnr. with remembrance of nichts ower the Haggis !!!”

At several points in the Text, handwritten notes have been made to identify the Club Members referred to in the Rhymes. Those names have been added within the Text below and highlighted in blue. The document began with a description of the duties of a Bard !

Balerno Burns Club

23rd January 1891

 The duties of the Bard in former days were :-

[1] To chant the praises of the clan; repeating the deeds of valour whereby they showed their loyalty to the chief and his family;

[2] To recite and hold up for imitation the exploits of their departed kinsmen;

[3] To assure the clan they were ever so much superior, and consequently a pattern to, their neighbours; and

[4] They were able and ready “to lick creation !”

On somewhat parallel lines (if so bold a comparison be permissible), are the following “Ragged Rhymes” put together. Permission to print them is given, as a memorial of what is unanimously considered to have been one of the most agreeable, most happy celebrations of the Anniversary of the Mighty Bard, by the Balerno Burns Club.

 The Rhyme begins with a sketch of certain members of the Club, showing how


We in our several ways our homage pay,

And, on the shrine of genius, off’ring lay.


He ( David B. Fairbairn ) whom we hoped would head our festive board, 

“Full Shoulder High” holds Burns in his regard; 

While Hannahfield ( William Garlick ), in a manner seeming gruff, 

All other songs but Burns’ deems “stupid stuff!” 

And Blythe Cockpen ( William Morrison ), with zeal doth lilt and sing, 

Or joyous outstrip Gaelic in “The Fling.”


The Merchant ( William Waterston ) there, stops serving out molasses, 

And gleeful comes to sing “Green Grow the Rashes.”

Our Chaplain ( James Raeburn ) grave, who said “The Haggis Grace” 

(Were I a Raeburn I might sketch his face), 

Now, after drappie brew’d, and nose a bloomin’, 

Shouts Ca Ira like youth o’er “Rights o’ Woman;” 

And stalwart, bold, dark Rod’rick Dhu ( John Potts ), 

He eager comes to pay homage too,

 Declares with might that nane but Burns could fa’ that 

“The Honest Man is King o’ Men for a’ that.” 

 Our Secretar’ ( John Fairbairn ), the ace of all our hearts ! 

With soul in rapture sings “O a’ the Airts” 

Then, glad and hearty, joins in “Willie Brewed” 

A finer piece on stage you ne’er have viewed.

And Gillon’s ( William Gillon ) tones our ears with music lave, 

Each tone, like floweret sweet by Afton’s wave; 

Our croupier ( Alexander Moir ) boasts, and with him I agree 

(And he that will not ought to hang on tree) !

 That hand of artist painted ne’er on screen, 

Nor Eve in Eden formed a lovelier scene, 

Than poet gives of Mary in a dream 

On flowery bank of that soft murmuring stream.

And there is he I fain would “Roger” call, 

Who strode oe’r Threipmuir lea, a stripling tall ( James Craik ), 

When sun-glint fierce and hot came streaming down, 

And left on cheek a glow of ruddy brown; 

This nicht in fancy stands beside his pleugh, 

The heath-clad Pentlands tow’ring in the view; 

Or snooves again, like ‘Rab’ ahint his team, 

And chirms his sangs till heart is in a flame, 

And toiling “Rosy” starts at twitch of rein 

From arm unconscious nerved by Rab’s electric strain; 

Minds how he thocht, like Rab there’s nae sic ither, 

And held him to his heart a very brither; 

Wi fervour lo’ed his lass, and vow’d like Rab himsel’, 

“While honour warm’d his breast he’d love his handsome Nell.”


But stop! I must not make this sketch too long, 

‘twould check too much the course of speech and song; 

Yet there is one whose voice like rallying call, 

Hath echoed oft around this festive hall, 

Like slogan cry that hill to hill doth toss 

(When hand to hand is passed the fiery cross), 

In volume swells till, on the Braes of Marr,” 

The shouts of clansmen rise like tempest roar, 

So “Rantin’, Rovin’ ” sounds when led by Orr ( Robert Orr ). 


Enough! Your patience I must not abuse; 

The theme must change, fort so demands the muse. 

One moment give to those who’ve gone before, 

Who graced this festive scene they’ll grace no more; 

Who can the sweet affecting tones forget 

Of “Ewie wi’ the Crookit Horn” ( James Wales ) or yet 

The song of “Patie is a lover gay” 

When trill’d wi’ birr from lips of Sunnybrae ( George Henderson )!


Or him – ah! sad, that youth this life depart, 

To leave a blank – a break in mother’s heart; 

Who “Corn Rigs” sang ( Peter Henderson ) wi’ sic provokin’ mirth, 

Tho heart were dead to love ‘twould give it birth.


Tis good to think they hover o’er this throng, 

Shower down their blessing, and mingle in the song.  

One sma’ request your humble bard doth make, 

Your goodness will it into favour take: 

As chiefs with portraits of their sires adorn the hall, 

So may our founders photos soon bedeck the wall.


Balerno! thou may’st claim, and claim with pride, 

The place of honour o’er the country-side; 

Kirknewton, Currie and West Calder too, 

Corstorphine, Bathgate, all give place to you; 

In homage to the Bard you’ve taen the lead, 

And oe’r your neebors you may wag your head !


Time writes no wrinkles on Old Ocean’s brow, 

Altho’ Old Ocean still doth ebb and flow; 

But Burns’ fame, like “flowing tide,” doth roll

 From Eastern land to West; from Pole to Pole.


In darkest mine, and on Ben Nevis top, 

In prairie tent, on Himalaya’s slope,

 The name of Burns is heard; yea, frigid zones 

And torrid climes resound his Doric tones. 


The sons o’ Scotia a’ the world ower, 

In speech and song their admiration pour; 

But yet for homage that you’d call sincere, 

Look where you will, still you’ll find it here. 


At home, abroad; no matter where it is, 

The sum and pith of all their speech is this – 

Each loyal Scot thanks bounteous Heav’n this nicht 

The walie boy in Kyle did see the licht; 

The lealest Scottish heart you e’er shall find,