Leaving a legacy of songs
• Welcome to the 23rd year of Island Neighbours, a gathering of items about Island people, activities, interests and events. To share an item, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 947-2440.
The Bowen Legion Friday night suppers are a popular community event with an ever-changing menu but on January 25, the dinner will definitely have a Scottish flavour because the gathering will be enjoying a Burns Supper.
• Each year, the January 25 birthday of Robert Burns provides an opportunity to salute the memory and achievements of Scotland’s cultural hero. Burns was born on January 25, 1759. His father was a struggling farmer who was also a well-read man. Burns, proud, restless and full of ambition, toiled on the family farm while also educating himself. By 1784, he was writing memorable poetry, delighting in the lassies and satirizing society and the church whose doctrines he scorned. By the time of his death in 1796, he had written more than 600 poems and 200 songs. After his death, appreciation of his philosophy, poetry and songs began to grow and over the centuries Burns has become a cultural phenomenon. There are Burns scholars who study every aspect of his life. There are Burns societies worldwide who hold suppers on or near the date of his birth. Among the many delights Burns bequeathed to the world are the songs. Many older North Americans grew up singing such Burns songs as Comin’ Through the Rye, Flow Gently Sweet Afton, Green Grow the Rashes O, My Love is Like a Red, Red, Rose and, of course, the well-known Auld Lang Syne. That song, some 300 years old, was preserved by Burns and his friend, George Thomson, an Edinburgh lawyer and musician. Burns said he copied the words down from an old man he heard singing it but the tune was mediocre so Thomson gave it the melody we now know. It was first published in 1796, after Burns had died.
• What do the lyrics mean? The first verse poses a question: ‘Should old friendships be forgotten and never recalled? Should we forget friends and memories of times long past? ‘Then comes the chorus, ‘We’ll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne.’ A cup of kindness signifies a pledge of affection and hospitality. There are several verses, seldom sung, which recall boyhood days when two young lads ran about the hills together, wading in streams and picking wildflowers. But time and distance have kept these comrades apart until now, when, tankard in hand, they sing: “And there’s a han’ my trusty fere, And gie’s a han’ o’ thine! And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught For auld lang syne!” It helps to know that ‘fere’ is Scots for companion and a ‘guid-willie waught’ is, literally, a potent draft but in context means a toast to the solidarity and loyalty that binds true friends.
• At the end of a Burns supper or other significant Scottish event, it’s traditional for the group to form a grand circle, criss-crossing arms and joining hands as they sing the ancient refrain; Should auld acquaintance be forgot? ‘Auld Lang Syne’ has another history too, very different. During the dance band era, it was adopted as the opening signature of Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians Orchestra, which played “the sweetest music this side of heaven”. For forty years, Lombardo’s band began a regular broadcast from New York City with the strains of the old Scottish air causing many Americans to believe that Guy Lombardo had composed the tune himself.
• Ten Years Ago in the Undercurrent of January 24, 2003, the front page photo showed a stately heron perched on a post near the USSC. • The major article described the recent municipal workshop aimed at ways to make council meetings more effective. Trainer Eli Mna stressed the need to educate the public about impending municipal decisions, advising, “Educate before you engage. Create a smart, educated democracy.” He advised council members, “The more of you that participate, it lessens the pressure on the mayor.” • Bowen’s fledgling Community Foundation was to be the 38th B.C. community foundation. Initial seed money to start the island foundation was coming from the Vancouver Foundation, • Bowen’s Toastmasters were pictured next to Loraine Ashdown’s article describing a typical meeting. • Cypress Park Little League was registering youngsters seven and up for the coming season. •A major letter from Jeff, Patricia, Tim, Hanno and Kristen Grohne expressed thanks for their years at Town’s End, which has been the home of Bowen Island Physiotherapy Services for eleven years. The Grohnes also expressed appreciation to Stan and Elizabeth Thompson whose vision and hard work created such a place of stillness and beauty.
• The Undercurrent of January 31, 2003, noted the many islanders featured in off-island media. Neil Boyd had a major piece in the Globe and Mail about gun control, Paul Grescoe highlighted the Grescoe’s The Book of Letters on CBC’s North by Northwest radio program. Martin Clarke was a winner in the Globe and Mail’s weekly Challenge while investment adviser Peter Boronkay’s services were noted in a Globe article titled Financial Facelift. Eagle Cliff’s David Podmore, CEO of Concert Properties and part of the Olympic Bid Committee was to be the speaker at the Chamber’s upcoming AGM. •With February’s Heritage Week just around the corner, islanders were urged to share old-time photos of Snug Cove and its buildings with Bowen’s Museum and Archives and/or Bowen Heritage. •The Little Red Church was celebrating a musical heritage on February 2 by singing old gospel songs like Shall We Gather at the River.
• The Last Word: Planning is being finalized for the 2013 Heritage Week set for February 18 to 24 with the theme of Good Neighbours.