McLaughlin celebrates Scotland’s bard with poetry

McLaughlin supperThe 13th Annual McLaughlin College Robbie Burns Night, held on the occasion of the famous 18th-century Scottish poet’s birthday, Jan. 25, was another roaring success. The celebration was attended by 80 hardy folk who defied the heavy snowfall outside.

Right: Piper Michael Moir welcomes guests

The event was also the official launch of a new book containing the best of 12 years of poems from the annual poetry competition. 

Piper Michael Moir, York University archivist and newly installed Fellow of the College, piped in the haggis accompanied by highland dancer Miranda Cobbett, a first-year student at York, and fellow dancer Gayle Aitken.

Thea MurphyTwenty or so of York’s budding poets read their poems. York students Thea Murphy, Tania Franco, Zoë McGrath and Edward Fenner were honoured for their work.  Murphy received a college honorarium for first prize, Franco for second and McGrath for third. Fenner was awarded the annual public interest poetry prize, created to highlight McLaughlin’s focus on public policy and the fact that Burns was also a public servant.

Right: Thea Murphy

Tony Crawford, college Fellow and stalwart technician with the Instructional Technology Centre, recited Burns’ “Address to the Haggis”, while Ian Greene, master of McLaughlin College, expertly carved it, blades a-flailing.

ian greeneSeveral Fellows sported their kilts, including Professor David V.J. Bell, Robert Drummond, dean of the Faculty of Arts, Greene and Crawford. One large and one wee haggis were consumed in their entirety, along with neeps, tatties and the occasional scotch.

Left: Ian Greene, master of McLaughlin College

A highlight of the evening was Dean Drummond’s poem poking fun at Alberta Premier Ralph Klein’s musings about private health care: “Two-Tier Twostep”. Finally, a book of poetry and memories from the best of 12 years of the McLaughlin College Robbie Burns Night and poetry competition was launched. This book came together thanks to the efforts of long-time McLaughlin Fellow John Becker, who was present for the celebration along with former masters George Doxy and David Shugarman. The book is on sale at the college for only $10, in the Scottish tradition of value.

About the Book

The day after the 10th annual poetry competition and Burns supper in 2002, Becker, who regularly attends the event, offered to edit and produce a book of all the winning poems for the past 10 years. He donated his services and designed and typeset the book. But the departure of David Shugarman as the college master delayed its publication allowing two more years of winning entries to be included.

The first McLaughlin Burns Night was a result of a conversation between McLaughlin Fellow Roger Kuin, and the late Ben Wicks, cartoonist, author and literacy advocate. Kuin has organized the poetry contest each year, and is assisted in the poetry judging by Professor Emeritus Maurice Elliott and McLaughlin Fellow Derek Cohen. robert burnsKuin, a professor in the Department of English and a specialist in Renaissance poetry, was also the editor of the 112-page book, which contains 63 poems by about 55 different authors.

Right: Robert Burns

Becker is an original fellow of McLauglin, which opened in 1968, and served as senior tutor under founding master George Tatham. Becker retired as vice-president of business operations at York in 1989 and remains a Fellow of McLaughlin College.