Manitoba Historical Society
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When Bobby Came to Main Street

by Irene Craig

Manitoba Pageant, January 1958, Volume 3, Number 2

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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The first Annual Burns Dinner in Manitoba took place November 30, 1871. Even at that time the prairie St. Andrew's Society was a going concern — the dinner something to be remembered with the pipers' kilt swinging and the bagpipes played by John Hackett going full blast. He was the first baker to arrive in the West and is always mentioned as "the Club's piper in full regalia".

Three weeks earlier at the Davis Hotel this first Scottish Society in the North West had been formed. They called it the "Selkirk St. Andrew's Society of Manitoba" thus honouring Lord Selkirk as well as Robert Burns. By the time the second Annual Meeting rolled around the Society numbered 125 members. Ever bigger and better, that same St. Andrew's Society is still going strong.

At these annual suppers they had Bards — gifted members who sang in original verse, recounting splendid and heroic deeds — Scottish, of course.

In the 1870s one of these Bards was a school teacher at High Bluff. He must have been a rare one! When the County Clerk died in 1875 he applied to the Manitoba Provincial Secretary saying in a formal application ... "Dear Sir, Lamont is dead. I can't help that; you want a man to fill his place, I can do that. Claw me and I'll claw you! Yours truly, William Gerrond."

Besides carrying on his school duties, this engaging Bard, William, was a most enthusiastic member of the St. Andrew's Society. Willingly, whenever a get-together was planned, he would plod the eight weary miles between High Bluff and Portage la Prairie where the shindig was held, to spend a night with his `brither Scots' and pay tribute to his beloved poet Bobby Burns.

On one occasion he'd just reached the outskirts of Portage la Prairie, so the story goes, buffeting a strong wind blowing from the west, when, wind or no wind, smoke he must. To light his pipe he rolled his collar up even higher and turned his back to the gale. Then, without thinking, he tossed away the match and puffing comfortably, trudged straight on absorbed in his own thoughts.

In due time he found himself back home again in High Bluff, instead of at Portage la Prairie with the lads of the village paying tribute to Bobby Burns. The chagrin he experienced may well be imagined.

A good sport though, the Bard could laugh at himself. Later he turned his 16 mile jaunt into a poetic effusion and read it afterwards to the Society.

Page revised: 30 June 2009

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