The Robert Burns Society of North America
2014 Annual Conference and AGM
Don and I were delighted to be able to represent the Annapolis Burns Club at the 2014 RBANA Annual Conference and AGM April 25-27 in Columbia, South Carolina. I have been honored to serve the past several years as one of three U. S. Board members. This was my last conference as a member of the executive board.
The conference began on Friday afternoon with the directors’ meeting. Early Friday evening a reception was held at the Ernest F. Hollings Library at the University of South Carolina. The library contains what has been called “the best Burns collection in North America.” Conference attendees had the opportunity to peruse a special exhibit, “Robert Burns in America.” Rare first editions, corrected manuscripts in the poet’s own hand, and numerous more items were exhibited and informally discussed by Burns’ scholars.
Later that evening the incredibly talented Ronnie O’Byrne led the Ceilidh. Burns poems were recited, songs sung, and a great time was had by all.
On Saturday morning, April 26, the delegates assembled for the AGM. The meeting was called to order by RBANA President Dr. Tony Grogan. After the memorium, a reading from the works of Robert Burns, and the approval of previous meeting minutes, the Secretary/Treasurer’s Report was given by Ron Ballantyne. RBANA’s membership stands at twenty-seven clubs and sixteen individual/family memberships. Two new clubs have joined RBANA: The South Jersey Celtic Society Burns Club and The St. Andrews Society of Tidewater, Virginia. The RBANA website provides reports from conferences, access to the next conference information and registration, interesting news items related to Burns, significant links, The Tattler, etc. Clubs are encouraged to submit news events and articles. Please visit the website: www.rbana.com
Next, Colin Harris, editor of The Tattler, gave his report. Thirteen TattlerNewsletters have been published since the Detroit Conference. The Annapolis Club is encouraged to submit their newsletters to Colin.
Under New Business much discussion was devoted to the proposed consolidation of RBANA possessions. World Federation President Jane Brown, accompanied by the Federation Director Allison Tait, gave the Robert Burns World Federation Report.
The newly elected RBANA Officers/Directors were introduced. Dr. Robert Boyd will serve as the new President. The Directors from the United States are Les Strachan, George McClellan, and Ted Hirtz. The new Canadian Directors are Jean Cunningham, Tony Grace, and Ken Montgomery.
The 2015 Conference/AGM will be held in Calgary, Alberta Canada. The site for 2016 will be Houston, Texas.
After the AGM the conference moved once again to the Hollings Library and the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. It is home to the G. Ross Roy Collection of Scottish Literature, the largest collection of Scottish literature outside of Great Britain. The Roy Collection includes substantial holdings of Robert Burns and “Burnsiana,” in addition to the works by and about other Scottish authors from Gavin Douglas to Kathleen Jamie, literary criticism and history, and material about Scottish history and culture. Special exhibits for the conference included “Robert Burns in America,” an exhibit on Walter Scott, and a special showing of rare Robert Burns manuscripts.
Don and I and a few other delegates were then given a private tour of the vaults. Editions of Burns in formats from miniature complete editions the size of matchbox (comes equipped with magnifying glass), to original editions that were never bound, to richly tooled leather bound editions were in plentiful supply. One of the most interesting objects was a rare copy of Burns’ skull. Phrenology was considered a science in the past, and Burns’ skull was said to be that of a genius. The library also holds an impressive array of items relating to American literature. The F. Scott Fitzgerald holdings are unmatched. Fitzgerald’s ledger/notebook is one of the most valuable items, and we were able to personally examine it, along with Fitzgerald’s personal flask, given to him by his wife. Other items from Whitman, Poe, Heller, and other authors were available for examination.
The afternoon concluded with the Dr. Jim Connor Memorial Burns Quiz, a fascinating seminar by Gerry Carruthers, visiting Burns’ Scholar, and an update on the USC collection of Burns and W. Scott material.
At the Saturday evening formal dinner, attendees were entertained with more Burns related entertainment and Scottish dancing. Trophies for the golf tournament and the Burns quiz were awarded, a silent auction was held, and dance and song continued into the wee hours. The conference ended with an ecumenical service on Sunday.
It is hoped that more Annapolis Burns Club members consider participating in next year’s Conference and AGM. As always, this event provided an outstanding opportunity to meet other Burnsians from around the world. Many memories were made, old and new friends made, and enlightenment and enjoyment surrounded us.