End of the line for Sunderland’s Burns Club

President of the Sunderland Burns Club, Anne Donnan casts an admiring glance at a bust of the Scottish poet at the Museum and Winter Gardens.

President of the Sunderland Burns Club, Anne Donnan casts an admiring glance at a bust of the Scottish poet at the Museum and Winter Gardens.

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MORE than a century of Wearside history has come to an end after a poetry club announced its closure.

For 113 years, the people of Sunderland have been coming together to remember poet Robert Burns.

At one time, more than 200 members of the city’s Burns Club would sit around a restaurant table to toast the Scottish bard before tucking into a traditional supper.

But an ageing membership has meant the group has had to call it a day.

Anne Donnan, president of the club, said: “A lot of the members are quite old now, many in poor health, and it’s getting harder and harder to get everyone together.

“We just didn’t have a choice.”

The club has held a wreath-laying ceremony in honour of the 18th-century poet almost every year since it was founded.

Members gather at the city’s Museum and Winter Gardens to commemorate him.

Mrs Donnan, 95, who settled in Sunderland after growing up in Scotland, said: “It’s a tradition the club has managed to keep going for a long time.

“It has been a struggle some years, but we’ve always got by somehow.”

Every year on his presumed birthday – January 25 – poetry fans across the globe hold celebrations, and Burns suppers have been a Scottish tradition for more than 200 years.

But the Wearside club had to rearrange its celebration in recent years because of bad weather and the poor health of some members.

Instead, they marked the day of his death in July, 1796.

On Sunday, they met in the city for the last time.

“It was a really good turn out,” said Mrs Donnan. “In many ways it was a sad occasion, but we tried not to dwell on that.

“It was just good to see so many faces.

“Whenever we held the wreath-laying ceremony, it was always about celebrating the life of Robert Burns and his work.

“We will still meet up as friends from time to time, but it was the last time we will meet as a club.”

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