The slate of office bearers that has been nominated for the coming year is shown in this Newsletter. Cheryl May is to be congratulated on having put together a team that when elected will serve Heather & Thistle well. You have heard me say that times are tough for societies like ours. One of the consequences is that a small group of people tend to have their work cut out to keep things going. It is particularly gratifying that for the coming year we have new people coming forward to serve as well as former office bearers returning after a well-earned break from service. This bodes well for H&T for 2010-11. Please be sure to come out to the March meeting to elect this slate and see the new office bearers sworn-in.
After all the gloom and doom we experienced in the long preparation, the Society's 57th Annual Robert Burns Supper & Ball held in the Marriott Westchase on January 23 turned out to be a great success. As you all know, ticket sales were extremely slow this year until the last two weeks, when thanks to a last minute push by all concerned the total attendance was brought very close to our committed target of 350.
Our Treasurer will report on this in March, but H&T avoided what looked like being a huge financial hit and was able to make charitable donations after all. Congratulations to planning chairman Ken Sorrels and his committee and all who helped to make this possible. Congratulations also to Ted Hirtz and all the other performers on the night.
It is very likely that, to be financially prudent, our 2011 Supper will be a smaller affair. The planning committee for next year's event is already engaged in researching alternative formats and venues. Any suggestions are most welcome.
Photos and more information: click here
Monday March 22
I'd like to wish everyone a very enjoyable Thanksgiving with their families. Thanks to everyone who responded to the recent push we made for payment of this year's dues. Our current account is looking much healthier now. I urge everyone to purchase tickets as soon as possible for our 2010 Robert Burns Supper & Ball on January 23rd, and to encourage as many friends as possible to attend. I would like to see a large attendance at the annual Party and Gift Exchange we have coming up on November 30, details below.
Most enjoyable evening
I am delighted to report that the first of our new-style social meetings was extremely successful. The Executive Committee met on September 28 for a business meeting and program discussion at the Bull and Bear Tavern & Eatery. The meeting was open to all members and twenty attended, plus special guest "Flat Stanley" courtesy of Past Chieftain Cheryl May's granddaughter. Stanley honored us by wearing the kilt, and several members did the same to do a bit of advertising - good job! Treasurer Walter May provided a review of membership revenue which as noted above did not make for very good reading. On a more positive note Past Chieftain Ted Hirtz and his wife Susan reported on their recent trip to Scotland for the World Burns Federation Conference. We all had a great time and enjoyed reasonably-priced pub food and drinks following the business meeting. Thanks to the Bull & Bear staff for their exemplary service. This was an extremely good start to our new program year.
The barbeque held at our house in July was a resounding success. Over fifty members and guests showed up for what was a memorable gathering. Great food and beverages were served. Thanks to all who put in such a lot of work to make this happen, especially Cheryl and Walter May who took on the responsibility for most of the organization and food purchasing and preparation. On the day we had help from Jim Haggarty and John and Fiona Wiesehan and many other members. It was fun to meet and talk, as well as honor the Downs. It was so good to see Alex and Maryann Munroe at the BBQ. They too will soon be leaving Houston as full-time residents and will be less regular attendees at H&T. The success of the event prompted us to go ahead with plans for more of the same type of social gatherings.
Sunshine Items over the Summer
Past Chieftain Alex Munroe suffered a stroke earlier in the summer. He has recovered very well, but that has resulted in the Munroes electing to spend quite a bit of the year in Port Aransas where their daughter Cameron lives. We wish them all the best. Since the BBQ Past Chieftain Arthur Down has undergone a colostomy and just this week has returned home. We wish him a full recovery. The Downs plans to relocate to California have been canceled and he and Joan are revisiting their options. Past Chieftain Jim Monteith's mother recently passed away. Our sincere condolences to his family.
Membership Dues for 2009-2010
Burns Supper January 23, 2010
September 13, 2009
The June meeting saw a delightful presentation of Texas folklore and storytelling by Dr. Donna Ingham, retired professor of the University of Texas at Austin. Donna made links to Scotland via Big Foot Wallace and the Scots present at the Alamo while giving spellbinding renditions of intriguing stories. Her piece de resistance however was a reprise of her award-winning performance as Austin's biggest liar five years out of the past six with a hilarious story about a huge watermelon's journey to Lubbock. Audience members were enthralled and were keen to purchase Donna Ingham's books after the show. Thanks to Sgt.-at-Arms Mark A. Monroe for organizing and sponsoring Dr. Ingham's presentation. Arthur Down gave a moving farewell speech at what was his last H&T meeting. On a less positive note, the size of the audience was extremely disappointing once again, and over the summer we really have to re-think what we can do to attract more interest, especially among younger people. Ideas are welcome, please come to the BBQ ready to talk about this.
The Past Chieftains' Committee is delighted with the great response to the invitation to the barbeque in July - over fifty people have signed up to attend. Irene and I will host this event in our backyard. We now have an additional reason to have this event with the news that Past Chieftain Arthur Down and his wife Joan will be moving to California at the end of July, so we are delighted dedicate the BBQ in honor of their thirty years' service to the Society.top of page
Jack Hume's recent presentation about the Society's history suggested that in recent years we have lost the family aspect in our regular meetings. To remedy that the Past Chieftains' Committee will sponsor a barbeque in July to which all members and their families are invited. Irene and I will host this event in our backyard. We now have an additional reason to have this event with the news that Past Chieftain Arthur Down and his wife Joan will be moving to California at the end of July, so we are delighted to hold the BBQ in their honor. Your invitation is included with this Newsletter and we hope to have a good attendance.
Louisiana-based Rickey Pittman gave a delightful program of stories and Scots songs to about 25 members and friends. We met Rickey at the Highland Games where he had been story-telling for the children; for us his stories focused on the Civil War and Clan Macleod. He presented H&T with a signed copy of his book The Scottish Alphabet which we will use as a door prize at a forthcoming event.
Thanks to all members and friends who manned our booth at the recent Highland Games. Mark Monroe and Ardeth Brodie in particular worked way beyond the call of duty, not leaving until after 7:00 PM on the Sunday - thanks so much! We had a steady flow of folks through the booth and there was a lot of interest in the Al Campbell Piping Competition sponsored by H&T and held on Saturday this year.
Arthur and Joan Down wear the Kerr, so in their honor and to wish them well in their new life in California, Kerr is the Tartan of the Month for June.
June 1, 2009
Jack Hume's presentation on the history of the Heather and Thistle Society given at last month's meeting was most interesting. Jack is uniquely qualified to present it - he joined the Society in 1955 just two years after it was founded and has personally known all the officers (and most of the members no doubt) who ever served. The Society began essentially as a support group for young, mostly poor immigrant families arriving in Houston directly from Scotland. At the time only native-born Scots were eligible for membership. Children were very much a part of the meetings at that time and family events like picnics and all-welcome informal dances were the main focal points at meetings. Even today as Jack said you'll hear now fifty- something members referring to other older members as "uncle" and "aunt" from those days. We have lost that aspect of the Society and that might be a mistake. Jack put a lot of work and love into this presentation, as indeed he has into the Society all these years. It was great to hear him relating amusing stories of barbequing for 300 at Bear Creek Park when raccoons stole the chickens and the like. The Burns Supper back then was held every year, but was a very small event when compared with these family occasions. Now it is the only remaining H & T event other than our normal meetings, and one that we must work hard to preserve. Thanks to Jack for being a major part of an inspiring history and for presenting it so memorably.
Tartan of the Month - Largs
Largs is a small seaside town on the west coast of Scotland about 25 miles north of Robert Burns's birthplace. It is the hometown of the recipients of the Society's two trophies for distinguished service by non-officers in 2008 that were presented at the Burns Supper in January.
Webmaster Robin Mills won the Dixon Hedges Award for his generous work resurrecting and supporting our site and his sister and First Lassie Irene Boyd was awarded the Jack and Phemia Hume trophy for her work on the Society's hosting of the Burns Cruise last March.
Robin wore the Largs Tartan when presented with his trophy. That would be a good enough reason to have Largs as the site tartan this month, but in addition many of you know that Irene Boyd has been seriously ill since shortly after the Burns Supper. She is now on the road to better health, and having Largs as the Tartan of the Month is also to wish her a full recovery. To mark Robert Boyd's new year as Chieftain but more important to wish Irene Boyd a full recovery from her illness.
March 25, 2009
This year's Burns Supper presented particular difficulties for Jim Monteith and his committee. There were contractual issues with the hotel and because of the economy ticket sales were a problem. Jim's team rose to the challenge and the event was voted one of the best ever. About 450 attended and had a great time. Thanks to Jim Monteith for his efforts and to all who helped. Thanks also to our performers Charles McKay, Charles Wharton and of course RSCDS, Houston Highlanders, St. Thomas Episcopal Pipe Band and dancers and Hugh Morrison and friends. We are already working on next year.
We had a most pleasant surprise at this year's Supper when Lance Davis, an Australian residing in Scotland, presented the Society with a beautiful statuette of Robert Burns in the size and style of an Oscar. After some digging around, we have established that Lance and his friend Dave Stuebener with their wives and guests have been attending our event for the last ten years or so. Andrew Drysdale, a friend of Lance's runs a foundry in Scotland, one of the last, and found a pattern for the statuette dating back to the 1840s, and when he heard of the 250th Anniversary event he cast the piece and gifted it to Lance for us. We have decided that it will be given at each year's Supper to the organizing Chairperson, and Jim Monteith is the well-deserving first recipient. Thanks so much to those who were responsible for this handsome gift.
Modesty forbids me to claim that the Burns Club show at last month's meeting was of a high standard, but we certainly had fun doing it, and judging by the reaction of the audience of over 40 members and guests present they enjoyed it too. There were particular compliments about the acting this year - lots of action! Thanks to Jack Hume and the group for their efforts putting this on once again.
February 19, 2009
There was a pleasant surprise at the Society's November meeting when at the last minute our Secretary Carmelita Orr asked if it would be possible for her to be married during the meeting. A somewhat surprised Sub-Chieftain Reverend Melvyn Douglass agreed to officiate and with the enthusiastic agreement of the members the event duly took place.
Fortunately our meetings take place in an Episcopal School and Church, so Mel was able to find a prayer book containing the appropriate texts, and the couple was armed with a valid marriage license. Chieftain and Mrs. Boyd completed the wedding party and handed the rings over safely.
So Daniel and Carmelita Orr are now husband and wife (again). They first did this 26 years ago and are now happily reunited.
The newlyweds then led off the ceilidh dancing demonstration rehearsal for our Burns Supper.
Thanks to Moon Weiss for organizing that.
November 26, 2008
An out of town business trip meant that I missed what is one of my favourite events - an Ed Miller gig. I am evidently not alone in loving Ed's stuff, since there was a very good attendance of members at the meeting, supplemented as usual by quite a few Miller groupies. Ed did not disappoint with his usual sparkling mix of humour and of course his unique folk song collection. Thanks to Mark Monroe for sponsoring Ed's visit and hosting him while he was in town.
Immortal Memory to be Given by Charles McKay
The traditional address to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns at our 2009 Supper will be given by Charles McKay. He is the son of local legal legend Neil McKay who was a long-time H&T member and a founder of the Houston Highlanders. Charles too has been a member of our Society for many years although he now lives in Dallas. He went to high school here in Houston and there met his charming wife Lynda.
I met the McKays earlier this year when I helped them out at short notice when a speaker at their Burns Supper let them down. Charles also spoke at this Supper and very entertaining it was too. He definitely knows his Burns, and we are honoured that he has agreed to speak in January. Let's be sure to give Charles and Lynda a warm welcome back to their home city.
|Ed Miller performing at the 2005 Houston Highland Games|
November 12, 2008
I am looking forward to welcoming members after the summer break. We took our vacation in early July as usual this year, which the summer in Houston very long and this year it seemed especially hot.
The summer was saddened by the loss of loved ones within the Society. Past Chieftain Dr. Arthur Down and his wife Joan lost their younger son Alex at the tragically young age of 37 as the result of a short unexpected illness. A number of H&T and Burns Club members were among over 350 attendees at a Memorial Service held at Christ Church Cathedral downtown when Alex Down was remembered as an enthusiastic man who loved animals, music, computers and helping those less fortunate. Our sympathies are with his widow Kathleen and the Down family.
Just two days later along with ten Past Chieftains I attended the funeral of Past Chieftain Don Whitefield. Don is remembered in our September newsletter. He and his wife Billie were always enthusiastic supporters of the Society and again our sincere sympathies are with Billie and family.
August did end on a happier note when a large number of members were among over 200 who attended the wedding of Past Chieftain Jack Hume and Guida Jackson. It was great to see the newlyweds and their extended family so happy and we wish them well.
September 22, 2008
Local personality Helen Mann enthralled over thirty members and guests at the June 23 meeting with a talk on her unique family background.
A young Seaforth Highlanders lance-corporal from the poor Gorbals district of Glasgow serving during World War II was sent to Shanghai where he met a young White Russian émigré. They married and Helen, their only child, was born back in the UK just after the war ended.
The story really began when Helen's maternal grandmother arrived in England from Manchuria when Helen was four years old. Her grandmother was then 69 years old and spoke Russian, Chinese, Japanese, French and German, but no English. She effectively raised Helen while the family moved around the world on military service. Helen learned Russian of necessity at this early age, and her childhood memories of strange tales from strange lands eventually came back to interest Helen. Her grandmother remained with the family for the rest of her life and is buried on the Clyde Coast of Scotland.
When Helen retired after 34 years at the British Consulate in Houston and an M.B.E., she decided to devote two years to tracking down her grandmother's family. The Society was honored to hear this first presentation of her research, and what a tale it was. Starting from a privileged life in early-twentieth-century Russia, the family went through the disruption of WWI, flight to the Manchuria region of China to escape from the Bolshevik revolutionaries, the Chinese Revolution, the invasion by Japan and the turmoil of WWII.
Helen illustrated her talk with artifacts and photographs that were the prized possessions of her relatives all through this period. Everyone present was totally absorbed by the presentation and there were lots of questions.
Thanks so much Helen. Good luck with the ongoing project and hopefully with your book based on it.
June 24, 2008
Captain Alistair Macnab's presentation "Scotland's Merchant Venturers" at the June 2 meeting was extremely well-received by over thirty members and guests including a number of present and former seafarers and shipping executives. Alistair was on top form, impressing the audience with his knowledge of his topic and the way he linked it to the success of the Port of Houston with some pointers for the future. One nice aspect of the meeting was the number of questions from the audience who were clearly fascinated by the topic. Capt. Macnab fielded them all deftly. Most interestingly Rosemary McBride, native Houstonian born in 1920 came forward with a moving eye-witness account of the early days of the Port in the period before WWII when business was slow in coming.
The Games went extremely well this year with excellent cool weather. Congratulations to Mel and Jeanette Douglass on a great event. I would like to thank Society members Ardeth Brodie, Mark Monroe, Cheryl & Walter May and Sharon & Jim Monteith for their hard work setting up, manning and taking down the H&T booth. The effort was well worthwhile. We were in a prime location with a lot of traffic and interest as well as quite a few new members and more potential sign-ups.
Please send ideas to our new Program Chair Dr. Gordon Macleod at email@example.com.
The main discussion at the business meeting last time was the location of memorabilia related to the Society and how these should best be collected, maintained and exhibited. The idea of storing this material electronically and perhaps making it available on the website seemed to get a positive response. In particular we are keen to locate as many photo albums from past Heather & Thistle Society Burns Suppers as possible. Any thoughts and materials are welcome. This is a topic for discussion at future meetings.
We are delighted to honor Alistair Macnab for his great presentation at the last meeting by having Macnab as the June Tartan of the Month. Check it out at www.heatherandthistle.org.
June 9, 2008
Simply Scottish presented a selection of Burns and other Scottish songs to about 35 members and guests at the April 28th meeting.
H&T member Dave Hutton from Perth (vocals) and Julian Tribe from Oxford (guitar/vocals) began singing together here in Houston about two years ago. On Dave's own admission the content and style of the presentation was heavily influenced by the fact that his mother began dragging him round the Scottish folk music scene in the 1970s and both became groupies of the Corries, who were just then emerging as the leading group in the field.
Sadly this was one of the last live gigs for Simply Scottish. Dave Hutton and his wife will soon be relocating to Atlanta. We're sorry to lose the Huttons and wish them well. For that reason and to thank Simply Scottish for their performance we are delighted to feature Dave's tartan the Malcolm as Tartan of the Month.
April 29, 2008
At the Society's March meeting, the Houston Highlanders Pipe Band ceremoniously piped in then-current Chieftain Ken Sorrels and the newly-elected Office Bearers for 2008-2009.
Past Chieftain Jack Hume performed the installation ceremony and the Highlanders played a selection to celebrate the new team and wish them well. The highlight was Highland Cathedral - always a favorite among the membership.top of page
The highlight of the February meeting of the Heather and Thistle Society was the guest performance by the Pipe Band and Highland Dancers of St. Thomas' Episcopal High School. As always these youngsters put on a great show to talent and enthusiasm. They are preparing for their own Gala Performance at the Toyota Center in Houston April 18. http://www.stes.org. The performance at the H&T was sponsored by our Program Chair Mark Monroe. This was Mark's last meeting in this role, and we thank him for his contribution. His programs were most entertaining.
The Society elected its new slate of Office Bearers for 2008-2009 at the meeting:
Congratulations and good luck to the new team.top of page
The Society hosted the Annual Conference and AGM of the Robert Burns Association of North America (RBANA) on the cruise ship Carnival Ecstasy March 3-8. A group of 70 attended, about half of whom traveled to Texas from the U.K. and Canada. Chieftain-Elect Robert Boyd welcomed everyone at an opening party.
The first day at sea saw adverse weather with 12-15' waves, but the business part of the conference was held without a hitch. After a day ashore at Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico, RBANA delegates met for a cocktail party addressed by the ship's Captain and toasts followed by a formal dinner. As the group picture shows, this was an impressive sight and caused quite a frisson on the ship. Next day was ashore in Cozumel.
On the last day we steamed back towards Galveston, again in rough seas. However that day was the highlight for many. We heard two distinguished speakers: Les Strachan from Virginia led a seminar on the question of Burns's contemplated immigration to Jamaica, and Bill Dawson from Alloa Scotland, incoming President of the Robert Burns World Federation, spoke on the topic of the women in Burns's life and their influence on his work. Both were first-class sessions.
In addition the Heather & Thistle Society gave a presentation on the making of a Burns video performance. Finally Jim Cunningham from Ontario led the annual Dr. Jim Connor Memorial Robert Burns Quiz, won for the third year in succession by Les Strachan after a run-off with incoming RBANA President Frank Campbell of Florida and H&T Past Chieftain Ted Hirtz, a US Director of RBANA.
A participation ceilidh and trophy presentation rounded off the official event and hearty renditions of Flower of Scotland and Auld Lang Syne could be heard in the dining room after dinner that night!
The Ladies and Gentlemen of RBANA before Dinner in Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico
St. Thomas Episcopal School Pipe Band and Highland Dancers
Monday February 25 at 7:30pm
This promises to be one of the highlights of the year. Thanks to Program Chair Mark Monroe's generous sponsorship, the five-time World Junior Pipe Band Champions will entertain us, and the school's award winning highland dancers will also perform.
Please make every effort to come along and encourage your friends to attend this free show.
Dear Conference Attendee
Preparations for the cruise are going well. This is to give everyone the time and place of the first few events so that we can all find our bearings when we board ship.
Welcome Meeting: 6:30 PM Monday March 3
Registration: 9:00 AM - noon Tuesday March 4
Directors' Meeting: 10:00 AM Tuesday March 4
AGM: 2:00 PM Tuesday March 4
All Dinners: Reserved seating at 8:00 PM in the Windsong Dining Room.
NO SKEAN-DHUS PLEASE - WILL BE CONFISCATED - SECURITY RISK!!
Please pass this information on to anyone in your group who does not have access to Internet or e-mail.
I look forward to seeing you aboard ship! If you need to urgently contact me before the cruise, please email our webmaster: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Society's 55th Annual Burns Supper and Ball on January 19, 2008 went very well.
Chieftain Ken Sorrels welcomed over 500 guests who were entertained by the Houston Highlanders and St. Thomas Episcopal School pipe bands and by dancers from the RSCDA and St. Thomas. Awards were presented to Allison Wilkes for her ten years' service in organizing the table decorations at the Burns Supper, and to Past Chieftain Zoë Alexander and "wee Jimmy" McVey in memoriam for their services to the Burns Club.
Past Chieftain Bob Gilbert and his crew did their usual great job piping in and toasting the Haggis. British Consul General Paul Lynch toasted the US President and the ongoing special relationship between the two countries. Sub-Chieftain Robert Boyd's light-hearted toast to the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns was well received, as was the double-act between Past Chieftains Becci Himes and Aaron Buchanan toasting the Lads and Lasses respectively. Tenor soloist Charles Wharton excelled with his renditions of Star of Robbie Burns and Red, Red, Rose.
The evening ended with participation country dancing and ballroom dancing. A great time was had by one and all.
On Sunday afternoon about 25 members and friends gathered before the Burns Bust in Hermann Park in cold but sunny weather to remember the Bard. Chieftain Ken Sorrels opened the service and there were contributions by Past Chieftains Jack Hume, Ted Hirtz and Bob Gilbert and by Sheila Helme, John Wiesehan and Robert Boyd.
Robert Boyd's Immortal Memory Address: click here.
Josh Mullet's Photos: click here.top of page
35 members and 15 guests attended the October 22 meeting. Many of the guests were self-professed Ed Miller groupies and they were not disappointed when their hero put on a most entertaining show. He took the audience on a folk-song tour of Scotland. Being the smart guy he is Ed had picked up on the fact that among our members there is a strong Aberdonian contingent so he was able to take full aim at them in his commentary. Our chorus singing may not have been the best he has ever heard, but we were all wowed by Ed Miller and did our best to support him. Special thanks to Mark Monroe for arranging the programme and hosting Ed.
October 23, 2007
Barbara Zoë Alexander
Past Chieftain Zoë Alexander was killed in a car crash near Austin on October 4, 2007 at the age of 59. The tragic accident occurred as she was driving home from her job as a legal secretary in Austin. The Society offers sincere condolences to her family. She is survived by her mother and stepfather; two sons and their wives and five (soon to be six) grandchildren; and by two sisters and a brother.
Zoë was an active member of Heather & Thistle during the late 1980s and the 1990s and in 1994 became Chieftain, at the time only the second lady to do so. She was a stalwart member of the Society's Burns Club and its annual performances gave Zoë the chance to exhibit her talents as actress, guitarist and singer. In addition to these talents she made jewelry. But above all she will be remembered for her poetry and other writing. See her delightful website www.renaizance.com for examples of her work. The site also gives Zoë's own description of the new life she had established for herself since moving to the Austin area ten years ago.
A Memorial Service for Zoë will be held at her home on Saturday October 27 at 2:30 PM. Those interested can get driving instructions click here.
October 10, 2007
The first meeting of the year got us off to an excellent start. 33 members and ten guests attended, many of whom wore or brought memorabilia from their own or a family member's service.
Jack Hume introduced a documentary film on a US Air Force WWII daylight bombing raid on the city of Kassel in Germany. The film included both US and German footage of the action and interviews with survivors from both sides, including Heather & Thistle Past Chieftain Don Whitefield. A second film showed an extended interview with Captain Whitefield, who was lead navigator of his B24 bomber, the second lead and one of only three of thirty-five planes in his group to survive. In the interview Don Whitefield explained how he picked up on a navigational error over Kassel by the lead plane but was helpless to prevent a turn by the whole group into unprotected territory, which led to this catastrophe; the largest group loss in 8th Air Force history. Captain Whitefield went on to complete 30 bomber missions and subsequently returned to service as an instructor at Ellington Field near Houston during the Korean War. The highlight of the evening came when the hero himself took the stage to take questions. It truly was an inspiring performance.
Thanks to Program Chair Mark Monroe, Jack Hume and of course the Whitefield family for putting on a memorable evening.
September 29, 2007