CORNWALLIS, N.S. – Robert Burns might once have tipped his tam o’ shanter to you as he passed by, strolling over Scottish hills and dales, dreaming up one of his now-famous poems, like The Banks of Doon, circa 1791.
“Aft hae I rov'd by Bonie Doon,
To see the rose and woodbine twine…”
But back in the 1790s, Burns most likely never dreamed his name would still be recognized here in the bonny southwest of New Scotland, at an event that bears his name and boasts traditional Scottish fare, music and stories.
The annual Robbie Burns Dinner and Ceilidh is being held on January 27 at the James Horsfall Memorial Hall, at the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre and the recipient of funds raised this year will be event partner, the Fundy YMCA.
Co-organizer Kevin Ellis, who also happens to be vice president of the Digby and Area Board of Trade, said once again, the event promises to be a great night out.
“During the winter, anytime you can spend time out with friends, eat some great food, listen to some wonderful music, have a drink and raise some money for a local charity, well, that’s what it’s all about,” Ellis said.
Traditional Scottish fare
Featuring a four-course meal, guest speakers, entertainment by local Celtic group Dúlamán, scotch tasting and a ceilidh, the evening promises once again be a lively night out. And Ellis reminded – don’t forget the presentation of the Haggis.
“Some of us show up in kilts and of course, there will be a procession as the haggis is piped in,” Ellis said. “Lots of people turn up their noses when we talk about the haggis, but these days it’s really more like a Lunenburg sausage.”
Event a major fundraiser for Fundy YMCA
Now a partner in organizing the annual event, Y Centre Manager Sharon MacAlpine said this annual event is a really big fundraiser for the Y.
“As a charity, it’s an important piece of our funding,” MacAlpine said. “It helps us improve our facility and support local families through our membership assistance program – we don’t turn anyone away who wants to access our Y.”
“Ye banks and braes o' bonie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?”
More than 200 years ago, while Burns exercised his legs on Scottish paths, he most likely also never dreamed of an organization resembling the YMCA, or knew he’d share a love of walking local trails with so many, including Digby resident, Chuck Mills.
One of this year’s honoured speakers, Mills attributes his new lease on life to the Fundy YMCA.
“I’ve been reinvented by the Y,” Mills said. “I’m 73 years old and I smoked for 48 years – my lungs are a mess.”
But Mills says since joining the Fundy YMCA in 2015, he has gone from managing just three laps of the inside track to now walking up to 60 laps every day in the winter, as well as regularly attending aquafit classes. In the summer Mills walks up to 10 km a day outdoors on local roads and trails surrounding Digby and swims his laps in his own above-ground pool.
Dramatic weight loss attributed to YMCA program
But during the first year of his Y membership, Mills also lost a whopping 70 pounds, helped along by a program called Motive in 8. The eight-week program supports participants with weekly meetings where discussions are held around how to incorporate more physical activity, nutrition and healthy habits into their lives. Mills said his new fitness level also helped him bounce back quickly from two hip replacement surgeries in 2017.
“My recovery was really fast. Within a month of my first surgery, I was back to walking 40 laps a day,” Mills said.
But for Mills, the Y has also become a place for meaningful social connections.
“Those people are just like a family to me,” Mills said. “The friendliness of the place and all of the encouragement from the instructors and all of the staff, it’s so amazing. I’m hooked on the Y,” Mills added.
Main guest speaker; Chronicle Herald columnist
This year’s main guest speaker also promises to be entertaining - Jim Vibert, a longtime journalist, government advisor and now regular columnist with the Chronicle Herald is headlining the event. Vibert has labelled himself a “proud and loud Truro native” who spent more than 10 years as a political reporter and editor and who went on to advise successive provincial governments for more than 15 years.
To join in on the fun and also support a great cause, please call Fundy YMCA at 902-638-9622 or Growth Opportunities at 902-245-6166 or Kevin Ellis at 902-247-2363.
For more information about Fundy YMCA and its programs, please visit: https://fundyymca.com/
For more Robbie Burns poetry, please visit: http://www.robertburns.org/works/308.shtml