One night in December 1825, a number of cronies were gathered in Montgomery’s Inn in Courthill Street (now the ‘Turf Inn’). The majority of these were weavers. They were well read men who could, and did, debate on almost any subject. This they did after their long and hard work of these days. On this particular night, however, the talk was of Robert Burns. Some of them recited his poetry and others sang some of his songs. During the night, Hugh Morris, a friend of Tannahill the Paisley poet, made the suggestion that a Bums Club be formed in Dalry. Andrew Crawford supported him in this suggestion and he and Hugh Morris were elected Secretary and President respectively. The innkeeper John Montgomery readily consented to the suggestion that the first supper be held in his inn on the 25th January 1826.
Andrew Crawford was appointed to draw up some rules for the club and this he did in the form of the following poem. He preferred not to call them rules but rather “a few hints for Dalry Burns Club”.
Dalry eighteen hundred and twenty-six,
Assembled a few friends of Burns
To make regulations and yearly to fix,
What’s to be done when his birthday returns.
This year in Montgomerie’s, it first shall take place,
Where drink of the best, will be got
With a haggis and bannocks the table to grace
And a slice from the hip of a stot.
Political questions – all banished shall be
The song it shall circle in turns
Each shall have a glass of the barley bree
To drink to the memory of Burns.
No insulting language our lips shall defile
Let no man’s good humour be crossed,
But let every face be bright with a smile
When round goes the song and the toast.
Another rule added afterwards was “That non-attendance at a single meeting without a written apology forfeits membership”. This rule used to be strictly enforced in the early days of the club. The next item on the agenda was who to invite to the supper. They would have to be men of some intelligence and standing in the village, and not too many, because the room that John Montgomerie said he would provide for the supper was not very large. This was the garret. It was quite a comfortable room and it would hold twenty of them at a push, but no more. So they drew up a list of the names of twenty intelligent men; of those twenty, at least ten were weavers and the majority of others had a connection with the manufacture of cloth. None of these men, however, was wealthy. They were men like Burns himself: intelligent, well read men, lovers of Burns who could sing his songs, recite his poetry and who were not afraid to do so when asked. Many a time when the whole company sang a song, they all knew they would make the rafters ring.