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2009  -  Kidderminster Medical Society Newsletter -  2009

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The First Burns Night Supper January 2009   Anon !!
A Man's a Man for a' that February 2009   Allan Bennett
A Toast to the Lassies        February 2009  Graham James
A Reply to the toast to the Lassies February 2009 Hilary Boyle
Ten Rules for Retirement  February 2009  Hilary Boyle


      Burns Night Supper

                  A fantastic evening's fun was had by all when 60 plus  Med Soc members - whose interpretation of “informal dress” varied from full Highland regalia, including bagpipes, to really casual – gathered at Rock Village Hall. The new eco- award winning building was superb – once found in the cold dark wet lanes – and the extra jumpers worn by the cautious were rapidly shed.

              A traditional format was enthusiastically followed. After Sam Williams  gave the “Selkirk Grace”,  a kilted Bob Inglis paraded the haggis to a bagpipe  accompaniment (almost drowned out by  the foot stomping, hand clapping crowd – and that was even before the free bottle of whisky for each table was opened) for Alysson McClung to declaim  the “Toast to the Haggis”  (I think) in incomprehensible Scottish dialect. After a  delicious meal – though “tatties & neeps” had been replaced by more varied vegetables , with steak & mushroom supplementing the very tasty haggis –  Alan Bennett gave the “Immortal Memory” speech. He looked just the part in his kilt for the 250th anniversary celebration, and spoke with sincerity about Rabbie Burns – the man and his verse – in a soft enough accent for us all to learn  much. Graham James “Toast to the Lassies” reverted to the comic mood, followed by a witty “Response” from Hilary Boyle.

                  The superb ceilidh band and caller ensured a full and frantic dance floor (revealing hidden talents from unexpected quarters!) until midnight, and – with all the words thoughtfully provided – a complete works version of “Auld Lang Syne”.

Many thanks to Paul  Williams for the organisation – can we do it again next year please?

                                       Anon !!!      

There now follow the three presentations given on that memorable evening   
Back to Index            

A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
A Man's a Man for a' that

 What makes Robbie Burns so special that his memory should live on for 250 years

 This part of the proceedings is called the Immortal Memory – and is meant to throw some light on the reasons why this particular man is remembered each year.

 Some speakers who give the Immortal Memory Address will tell of Burns the Great Preserver of our Scots Heritage

-         whose songs and poetry transport the wandering Scotsman back to his homelannd
and it’s true : a tear comes to my e’en when I remember some of his patriotic words
and his poetry did apparently spur on a resurgence of the old scots tongue and a degree of patriotism along with it.
but Burns was also an internationalist and even wrote in ‘proper’ English in some of  his later works!

Some talk of Burns the Man – but truth to tell it is the ladies who want to hear about that – he was quite the ladies’ man as some of you will know …and in the end had a fair number of illegitimate children to prove it.  But who can resist ….

I see her in the dewy flowers,
I see her sweet and fair:
I hear her in the tunefu' birds,
I hear her charm the air:
There's not a bonie flower that springs,
By fountain, shaw, or green;
There's not a bonie bird that sings,
But minds me o' my Jean.
Of A' The Airts

That he wrote of Jean Armour his eventual bride.
I didn’t woo my wife quite like that, but she couldn’t resist me anyway!

          or these stanzas….

Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
Never met-or never parted,
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.
Ae Fond Kiss, And Then We Sever

O, my luve's like,
That's newly sprung in June:
My luve's like a melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

So fair thou art, my bonie lass,
So deep in love am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands of life shall run.
a red, red rose


         Some speak of Burns the genius farmhand sprung from an uneducated background

-         he did play on this cannily when he went up to the drawing rooms and parlours of Edinburgh
– he was a rough farmhand and he went back to working a farm in his later years.

But when you come down to it, for me it is his poetry and writing pure and simple, his way with words - and astute observation of the joys and absurdities of life, his distinctive treatment of the daily  hurdles and  pleasures we find, often in simple language and with a wicked sense of  irreverence: it is this unique and independent spirit in his poetry that is worth celebrating.  I think it is very Scottish, that way of thinking – of looking at life from a slightly skewed direction – but it resonates well with anyone be they lord or commoner.

When I was at school I was turned off Burns by having to read it - or worse still sing it - but with no translation ; even for a Scot the old Scots tongue is difficult to read and understand.  However as a medical student in Dundee I began to appreciate this foreign language which was and is still spoken by country folk – often I could literally only understand every 2nd word spoken by some of the patients who came in from the countryside.  But listening to it you can often understand  the gist of it despite the liberal smattering of strange words.

For instance  -take these lines from the poem  To A Mouse, On Turning Up Her Nest With The Plough

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!

You can understand what is happening without knowing all the words.

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!
To A Mouse

You can just about feel the cold biting wind across the winter fields.

He ranges through the senses and the emotions; he writes of politics, religion, of drinking, of love and loss but always we find great wisdom put into simple words.

A potted history:-

born 250 years ago, son of a poor ploughman who managed so scrape together enough money to help pay a teacher to educate him locally when he discovered his son’s thirst  for learning.  Burns read philosophy, poetry, mathematics and spoke French and latin and he started a debating club in a nearby town.  But he did also find time to enjoy life - dancing, drinking, getting into trouble with the church, getting women into trouble…

first poem age 15

O, once I lov'd a bonie lass
An' aye I love her still
An' whilst that virtue warms my breast,
I'll love my handsome Nell
She dresses aye sae clean and neat,
Baith decent and genteel;
And then there's something in her gait
Gars ony dress look weel Handsome Nell:

he shot to fame age 27 when his first volume of works was published - the Kilmarnock edition

but a mere 10 years later died age 37 of a heart condition, possibly subacute bacterial endocarditis secondary to chronic rheumatic heart disease. He died after being advised by a doctor to swim in a cold river estuary, from which he never really recovered.

It was a sad loss to the literary world but he left a prodigous amount of excellent works : here are a few examples you may not know are from his works

the eloquent line from to a mouse.

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley

He takes simple ideas , approaches them from a different angle and they make a big impact

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An foolish notion:
To a Louse

or one of my favourites

Address To The Unco Guid, Or The Rigidly Righteous

Then gently scan your brother man,
Still gentler sister woman;
Tho' they may gang a kennin wrang,
To step aside is human:
One point must still be greatly dark, -
The moving Why they do it;
And just as lamely can ye mark,
How far perhaps they rue it.

Burns was certainly a man of independent mind

In A Man's a Man for a' that

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,

Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

Many a wise word he spoke indeed.


"nae man can tether time or tide."

And so I must end and invite you to drink a toast - to wise men - and women -

 of independent mind  and in particular to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns

Allan Bennett

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A Toast to the lassies

Good evening!

Like me, you may be asking why I have been given the honour of proposing the toast to the lassies this evening.  Well you can hold Allyson responsible  - 6 months ago she took advantage of my male ego with her flattery and with her irresistible charm she sweet-talked me into it.

I did try to convince her that I am not the best person for proposing this toast.  Giving speeches is not my forte, I’m not particularly witty, I’m really not good at telling jokes and am more familiar with the words and works of Rab C Nesbitt that Rabbie Burns.  The only qualifications I have for this evening apart from being male of course, is that half of my blood is Scottish.

Allyson was not put off by this initially and there were no set criteria or boundaries, however 2 weeks ago she asked me to keep it short – yesterday she added keep it inoffensive – no bad language or crude remarks! 

As if I would?!!!

For those of you who are not familiar with the Burns supper which included me until recently - originally the Burns supper was for men only – no lassies – why? - because they were in the kitchen of course preparing the meal.  The toast to the lassies was in their absence and so uncensored.  Oh how life has changed – life was so much simpler then!! 

Anyway, thankfully the internet came to the rescue and doing a Google search produced around 6000 links with a host of information and ideas - many struggling with striking the balance between being funny but inoffensive.

So: 1 minute on Burns and women


 As well as being a renowned romantic poet and I am sure we are familiar with his famous romantic verses:

 O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June
My Luve’s like the meoldie
That’s sweetly played in tune 

Auld Nature swears the lovely dears
Her noblest work she classes
Her ‘prentice han’ she tried on man
And then She made the lasses

Robert Burns was reputed to be very fond of the lasses – not just his wife with whom he had 9 children:

The sweetest hours that e’er I spent
Are spent amang the lasses
Let not Woman o’er complain
Fickel Man is apt to rove
We’ll be constant while we can-
We can be no more, you know

And of his servant girl who bore Burns his first illegitimate daughter Bess he wrote:

But my downcast eye by chance did spy
What made my lips to water
Those limbs so clean where I, between,
Commenc’d a fornicator

Some things never change!

Joke 1

Alan Johnson’s hospital visit.

Alan Johnson is being shown around a hospital. Towards the end of his visit, he is shown into a ward with a number of people with no obvious signs of injury.
He goes to greet the first patient and the chap replies:
"Fair fa' your honest sonsie face
Great chieftain o' the puddin'race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place
Painch, tripe, or thairm
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm."

Alan, being somewhat confused grins and moves on to the next patient and greets him. He replies:
"Some hae meat, and canna eat
And some wad eat that want it
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit.

The third starts rattling off as follows:
"Wee sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an chase thee
Wi murdering pattle!"

Alan turns to the doctor accompanying him and asks what sort of ward this is. A mental ward?
"No," replies the doctor, "It's the Burns unit."

Joke 2

A Scotsman was shipwrecked and finally washed ashore on a small island.  As he regains consciousness on the beach, he sees a beautiful scantily clad woman standing over him.  She asks ‘would you like some food?’

The Scot hoarsely croaks, ‘Yes, please, I haven’t eaten a bite of food for a week and I am very hungry!’

She disappears into the woods and quickly comes back with a basket of food.  When he has choked it down she asks ‘would you like something to drink?’

‘Oh yes, that food has made me very thirsty’

She goes off into the woods and returns with a bottle of 75 year old single malt Scotch whiskey.

The Scotsman is beginning to think that he is in heaven when the woman leans closer and says ‘would you like to play around?’

He can’t believe his luck and says – you beautiful woman, don’t tell me you’ve got a golf course as well!’


A Toast to the Lassies

Gentlemen, please rise...

Together we stand, here in praise
For the women around us and in our days,
Like Robert Burns, he once knew
That we love our lassies, though he had more than a few

When in our arms, they bring us untold pleasure
These are our lassies, for they are a true treasure,
We seek to marry them, it is said
For nothing more than to get them to ... wed.

They feed our spirit, they feed our soul
For many of us, they fill our bowl.
They care for us, they keep us well
Though occasionally, they make it feel like ... heaven.

They teach us manners, they teach us style,
For many of us, that takes quite a while.
They improve with age, while we do not
For that is clear, looking at you lot.

For the parcel of rogues, I see here tonight,
It is truly amazing, our lassies don't take flight,
For they put up with our habits, and we have all sorts,
Such as control of the remote and our preoccupation with sports.

For our lassies we would walk five hundred miles,
It must be because, of their feminine wiles.
Over heathery mountain and scroggy glen
We seek them out now and then.

Tonight we stand, here in praise,
So join me lads, let your voices raise.
Prepare to toast, fill up your glasses,
Join me now, to our bonnie lasses.

To the Lassies.

Graham James    
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A Reply to the Toast to the Lassies

    Thank you Graham for your “kind” words.

       I'm honoured to have been asked to reply.

      Unfortunately - 250th anniversary or no - this means it falls to me to be something of a party pooper  as I have to  reveal  to you all that the true originator of many of the works celebrated  this evening was actually  Rabbie's  second sister,  Robina.

       There can be no doubt about it.

       Those of you who listened to Radio 4 this morning, estimating the commercial value of Burns at £159 million, will not be surprised at the suppression of this discovery.

       However my recent retirement has allowed me time for  research into the Burns' family archives & my privileged access through the  Birmingham University library, to Glasgow's Burns department research facilities leaves no doubt about it.

       Robina – kept secret inside the rarified academic world  - was clearly the far superior poet. Her brother himself tacitly acknowledged  her skill  by  extensively plagiarising and bowdlerising some of her best work - the classic  example being of course her “My love has got a big red nose”

       Robina certainly didn't match Robert's  sexual proclivities nor his tally of 15 children but she did have two husbands. The first, William, died  young. Sexual inadequate, he was a sore disappointment to her. You will doubtless be familiar with her description of his dysfunctional member - “wee sleekit cow'rin tim'rous beastie”.

      She even resorted to  pious entreaty,  with her  famous “O thou that in the heavens do dwell” - otherwise known as   “Floppy Willies Prayer “. That it failed can be surmised from the epitaph she inscribed on his headstone - “stiff at last”.  

      Her second marriage was successful a short while, after which she sadly ceased writing & became seriously overweight. The observation that single women are generally slim and married women are not has an excellent – albeit anachronistic - modern explanation:

  single women come home, look in the fridge & go to bed;

  married women come home, look in the bed & go to the fridge.

      But “a man's a man for all that” & we drink to you all

with the Lassies Prayer.......

     Dear Lord,

     I pray for Wisdom to understand my man;
Love to forgive him
&  Patience for his moods. 
 Because, Lord, if I pray for Strength, I'll beat him to death


 Hilary Boyle

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10 Rules for Retirement

with apologies for stating the obvious!

1)   Plan ahead . Opening a pension fund with your first pay packet is a good start!  A bit nearer retirement , say two years beforehand - although your contract may stipulate longer – start negotiations  with your partners. If you all get on well, agree a convenient time for QOF, accounting year, sabbaticals and so on. If you don't, this is your chance to get even with them.

2)   However fond of your terminal patients  you are, hand over early all who are going to last longer than your job.

3)   Do not feel guilty about leaving a sinking ship – remember our generation worked I in 2 rotas with no locum cover for holidays or illness, so have notched up more hours than 3 “normal “ working lives.

4)   Try & have a spell of part-time work before finally quitting. Use this to develop new & broaden existing interests. Try out as much as possible  and dare to abandon any long held ambitions  which do not meet expectation.

5)   Slob out for the first three months – it is called  “recharging the batteries”

6)   Find the right balance - for you – between intellectual, physical, creative & social pursuits

7)   Find the right balance – for you- between achievement & enjoyment

8)   Find the right balance – for you & partner – between mutual & solo activities (“I married you for better & for worse – not for lunch every day”)

9)    Ensure you repeatedly tell all your still working medic friends what an absolutely wonderful time you are now having.

10)                      Write an article for the Medical Society newsletter

Hilary Boyle

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