Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for January 27th, 2010

Elspeth Attwooll’s Merton Burns Night

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 27th January, 2010

Merton Liberal Democrats’ Burns Night suppers have become something of an institution; odd, really, when one considers that the Willott family that has for so long been heavily involved in the organisation of the event has far stronger roots in Wales. But year after year, local party volunteers put on a splendid three course haggis supper, with copious wine (and of course whisky), a piper and this year, as an innovation, an excellent musical rendition of some Burns songs, arranged for piano and tenor. The star of the evening last night was former LibDem MEP for Scotland, Elspeth Attwooll, who proposed the toast to the immortal memory of Robert Burns with erudition and wit; she could not only pronounce the dialect of some of the quotes but clearly understood it all as well! She even had a saucy anecdote about a canvasser campaigning for the late George Mackie and his encounter with a pipe-smoking old woman way up north — a useful reminder that puritanism does not have a monopoly among Scottish Highland souls. I suppose the reason so many Brits — by no means only the Scots — love Burns is because he was a raffish rebel, a bit of a cad in some ways, but essentially a romantic and a free thinker (though his Whig friends in Edinburgh liked to think he was one of them). Of course, dying so young only embellished his reputation. In the 19th century, that was what poets were meant to do.


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