Remembering Robert Burns


This evening we of the Wester-Ross Burns Club meet in Tony's house. Maybe a dozen of us or so.  I'm hoping to hear from Dee at Raigmore hospital this morning to the effect that she can come home. I will then drive across for her, but it's very unlikely she will be able to attend the meeting. Real R&R is pretty well mandatory at her current stage of chemotherapy. 
At the meeting all in attendance will do, say or sing something Burnsian. Will be good fun. My own contribution will be based around Robert and Gilbert Burns' Tarbolton Bachelors' Club. More on that later, perhaps. Dee has conceived something. She hasn't told me what, so I'll probably be giving it to one of the ladies at the meeting to deliver on her behalf. 
Fast forward to January 25th 2013, our Wester Ross Burns Club Burns Supper: I have been awarded the honour of delivering 'The Immortal Memory'. Not bad for a Britisher originating hundreds of miles to the south of Alloway! Question: do I attempt the accent? Answer, not on your life! Question: do I wear the tartan and, if so, kilt or trews and or ... Answer, don't know yet.
Anyway I've been thinking of why and how we all remember our Scottish 'ploughman poet' - or indeed how and why we remember those very few from history, down all the generations. This is an extract from the final pages of my novel More Deaths Than One  I think it relates. I may in some way bring it into my Immortal Memory address on January 25th ... in the novel it is 2001, just after the Twin Towers ...

Thomas forced the camel Osira'ah to her knees, re-mounted her. She bore him aloft and he turned her head towards the east, towards Saeed in the encampment and then, after that, to the causeway across to Bahrain. As he rode, swaying easily in the saddle, he thought of what evil may have happened in America and he thought of Mubarak, his saviour twice, that third and the most innocent of his fathers.

He thought also about the hardness and the kindness of his second father who now lay dying but who had dealt in the delivery of death all through his life and he remembered as well his first father, his real father who had been dead all of these years but who had caused and had willed the death of others. So many deaths.

Riding the night sands he remembered his first father's poem, the one he'd received at his school after his first father had been killed, the one he had for ever afterwards carried with him, the one called 'The Fourth-light.' It told of the lights that burn within all human beings: the first-light which is that of God and the Universe and the second-light which is a person's world and their country and their race and the third one which is their family and the love of their family. And as he rode on, he thought about the fourth-light, the one that, his first father claimed, is switched on by the Almighty within each man and each woman when each one is born, the one that will lighten the way for that person and, perhaps, if it is strong enough, to a greater or a lesser extent for others also. Thomas Thornton remembered that his first father had written that this fourth-light cannot be put out whilst its owner lives except by a man's own attempt to change or falsify that which he actually is, and that should he do so, a life without this fourth-light is a life without any meaning. 

But in the normal course, his father's poem had gone on to tell him, the fourth-light will not naturally fade until its person dies and after that the fading can last for a matter of hours or for a thousand or thousands of years; and sometimes, if only very rarely, this light will shine with such truth and such strength that it will not be extinguishable for so long as the foot of Man shall walk upon the face of his mother Earth.

'By their Works shall they be known' ... we remember them for all time for that which they did; they themselves being of very small importance. 'Celebrity' is but a media profiting modernism, hollow and shallow.

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