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The Tappit Hen

348sIn 1888 John Paton, Mine Host of the Turf Inn till 1887 made a gift to the club of several articles which had long been used by the club.

These were the “Tappit Hen”, two toddy ladies, three very old bottles and a haggis pin. These had been used since 1826 and are still part of the Club’s property. In previous years the ‘receipt’ for the Annual Subscription was a drink from “The Tappit Hen”. This is why the glass of whisky, dispensed after dues are paid at the supper, is called “The Tappit Hen”.

For a long number of years a punchbowl of hot toddy was made and dispensed atthe club. This was part of the ritual and its contents included: whisky, water, lemon, honey and spice.

At the supper of 1897 there was present a descendant relative of Jean Armour. He was Thomas Armour Arnot, great grand nephew of Jean Armour. He was the guest of John Gordon, Chairman, and after the toast to “The Memory of Jean Armour, he gave some reminiscences of his great grand aunt “Bonnie Jean”.

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The Cairn and Records of Dalry Burns Club

The first man who compiled and wrote the records of the Dalry Burns Club, now called the Cairn, in such a masterly fashion and with such splendid calligraphy, was William Logan of Coldstream, Kilbirnie. Born at Townhead on the 18th February, 1821, the first year his name appears in the Cairn is for the year 1853. He was President in 1864, and he died on 26th February, 1869, a comparatively young man of 48. The last year he wrote in the Cairn was for the year 1866.

Although the Dalry Burns Club is, and always has been, a purely gentleman’s club, the very first photograph in the first Cairn is that of a woman. And what a woman! She was Jean Neil Montgomerie, hostess of Montgomerie’s Inn. In a poem she is called by the author, Andrew Aitken, “The wife o’ Dalry”. She was an exceptionally fine class of woman. She was a good cook and a famous hostess, and was toasted many a time by the members of “Dalry Burns Club”. This is what Andrew Aitken says about Mrs. Montgomerie:

There are wives that can bear and can nurse up braw bairnies
Bake scones, sew, make kebbocks, and spitz,
But there’s few that can mix up a haggis, sae nicely
As the wife of Montgomerie’s Inn.

Her hoose is but wee, but it’s neat and well plenished,
Wi’ a’ things tae please, baith the mind and the eye,
And the rich and the poor and the young and the aged.
Are aye kindly used by the Wife o’Dalry

Mrs. Montgomerie died on 1st of October, 1863.

Andrew Crawford, who was the first Croupier and Secretary in 1826, was president from the year 1828 to 1843, both years inclusive. In 1843 he emigrated to America. He took with him the minute book of all the suppers of the club between 1826 and 1843. In the year 1851, Andrew Crawford sent this book back to John Montgomerie, host of the inn, from Liberty Prairie, Illinois, U.S.A. when he was 79 years of age. Robert Montgomerie, son of John Montgomerie, and host of the inn after his father died in 1854 had become a member of the club in 1841. He, however, allowed his membership to lapse when he sold the inn to Daniel Campbell the in 1863. At the supper in the year 1901, he presented this book to Dalry Burns Club. On that night in 1901, Robert Montgomerie, who was then 81, recalled the first supper in 1826 and all the worthies who attended. The chairman at this meeting, James Graham, cabinet-maker of Dalry, proposed a vote of thanks to Robert Montgomerie, who was thereafter admitted as an honorary member of the club. Robert Montgomerie was the second person to be made an honorary member of the Dalry Burns Club.

This book, however, contains no names of whoever proposed the toast. This seems have been one of those curious customs of the club, that the names of whoever proposed the toasts should not be written, and a custom which was carried out 1861, after which the names of the proposers of the toasts were noted in the cairn. In only one year during this period (1852), Andrew Crawford has written in pen in his record book the names of whoever proposed the toasts for that year. Another of the curious old customs of the club, was that no newspaper reporter was allowed to be at the supper for the purpose of recording the doings of the club for the paper. This custom was carried on till about the year 1949. Although it was one of the unwritten rules of the club – that nothing was ever to be seen in the papers about the club’ affairs – the chairman’s toast was reported in the year 1864, the year that William Logan (the compiler of records) was chairman. The same year, by a curious coincidence, the croupier was also named William Logan. He was the parochial schoolmaster of Dalry. Here are a few extracts taken from the records of Andrew Crawford, and as there are no names in his records, except for the year 1852, the names included here are the names of the members who should have given the toasts. Therefore the first toast in this book for the year 1826 must have been given by Hugh Morris, the president. He starts off with these words: “This is the first time our village has attempted to celebrate the birthday of our Ayrshire Bard, Robert Burns, and certainly it reflects very little honour on our village celebrated for song, that the neighbouring shires have been celebrating his worth for more than twenty years and before this night we have been mute. But better than never” and he finishes up with these words: “For a songwriter Burns has never been surpassed. I think this night will prove it fully to all his friends assembled here, where each will loose his pack, and wale a ballad o’ the best. I hope the time is now come, when his songs will have a place in every winnock sol, to be taken up at an idle hour, and croon over, and then there will be no want for our next meeting, this day, twelve months.” Following this, Andrew Crawford, the first Croupier and Secretary, said to the meeting: “Since custom prevails so much among men, that they cannot meet to be met without drinking, nor drink without proposing a toast, I must make the following remarks. Since we all desire the liberty of believing things as the mind informs us, it will naturally follow, that we have no manner of right to take away the like liberty of others. Wherefore when I propose the health or the memory of a person who is object of my veneration in this Burns Club, I ought naturally to conclude that all company cannot have the same veneration for that person, nor any equal pleasure drinking his health; consequently, my chief aim in proposing his health is to please myself. But by doing so, I in some degree infringe that liberty on others, which I would wish to enjoy myself. I have therefore selected a few toasts for this night, which are as free from party spirit, as I hope you will all join heartily in drinking.”

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Montgomery’s Inn

MONTGOMERIE'S INNThe original members were the men who first sat round the festive board of the Dalry Burns Club, in the garret of John Montgomerie’s inn, in 1826. This garret was 18 feet from front to back, and 15 feet wide. There were two beds in it with a passage between. This passage was about 4 feet 6 inches wide by 4 feet long, leading to a door at the top of the stair. Their table was 9 feet long by 3 feet wide and, although there were 20 of them, they seemed to have sufficient room if perhaps a little crowded. The Chairman had his back to the fireplace, and the Croupier had his back to the passage between the two beds leading to the door. But although they may have been a little bit crowded, it did not dampen their enthusiasm. It did not matter in the least. What did matter was that they were in a comfortable place. A place where they could sing their songs, give their toasts, and tell their anecdotes with all the pleasure that a band of intelligent cronies had. This place is very aptly described by one of the early members, Andrew Aitken, of Overton, Beith, who became a member of Dalry Burns Club in 1833, in the following lines:

It’s just theekit wi strae, an’ but laigh o’ the ceilin’
That we scarce, can stan’up straight within.
But there’s aye something guid, baith for eatin’ an’ drinkin’
To be had at Montgomerie’s Inn.

The suppers were held in this garret from 1826 to 1850. In 1851 they moved downstairs to a larger room and a larger table. Here their table was placed from the front of the house to the back, and this table measured 14 feet long by 3 feet wide. The Chairman had his back to a window at the back of the house, while the Croupier had his back to a window at the Courthill Street side. In this room the table was 4 feet from the fireplace, the fireplace being on the Chairman’s left and the Croupier’s right. Here they held their suppers until the building was made into a two-storey building in 1875.