Robert Burns


Eddie Gaughan - an Obituary

Eddie GaughanEddie Gaughan, Vice President of Alexandria Burns Club was one of the most accomplished and complete Burnsians of his generation. Not only had Eddie a thorough understanding of Burns’s work, he could deliver the poems and songs with great style and panache to any audience at any notice or even none at all.

Like his friend and Burns expert, the late Cuthbert Douse, Eddie was a one-man Burns Supper who could have performed every item on a Burns Supper programme as well as organising the Supper himself. Unsurprisingly he was in great demand at Burns Suppers both locally and across Scotland, even making occasional foray overseas to perform at a Supper. Wherever he went he was proud to represent Alexandria Burns Club and the Club was fortunate to have such a capable ambassador.

Born in Glasgow into a large family in June 1947, Eddie was well grounded in Burns from an early age – his father encouraged Eddie and the rest of the family to learn and recite Burns’s poetry. On leaving school Eddie became an apprentice engineer at Rolls Royce at Hillington, a fact of which he was rightly proud. However, he decided on a career change and became a teacher in Renfrewshire, firstly in the Paisley area and finally and for many years in Greenock.

With his enquiring mind and creativity Eddie made a natural teacher and in return teaching honed his skills in speaking and handling an audience, not one suspects, that they needed much honing. Teaching in Greenock and looking across the river to the Rosneath Peninsula, Eddie and his wife Jean could not resist the attraction of Kilcreggan and moved there to live. Eddie was soon reading and singing at Burns Suppers on Garelochside and that in the early 1990’s that brought him into contact with other Burnsians in this area.

One of them was Peter McLaren, who was President of Alexandria Burns Club at that time. Peter invited Eddie to perform at Alexandria’s Burns Supper in 1995 and finding the ethos of the Club very much to his liking, he joined more or less there and then.

Eddie as TamAt that 1995 Supper  amongst Eddie’s readings he performed Tam O’Shanter, delivering it in his own innovative style. His reading of Tam, which was to become the backbone as well as the highlight of many Burns Suppers, quickly made Eddie’s reputation in Burns circles, but in fact Eddie delivered most of Burns’s longer poems over the years and all of his better-known shorter ones. With some of the shorter poems such as Tae a Mouse, Eddie’s explanations about what was going through Burns’s mind when he wrote the poem were longer than the poems themselves, but the audiences were pleased because they wanted that knowledge and Eddie was one of the few people who gave it to them at that time.

For the same reason of spreading knowledge of Burns Eddie would, from time to time, read a poem which was rarely heard at Suppers and bring it to a wider audience. Eddie regarded that as a duty as well as a pleasure for a serious Burns reader.

He had learned to play the guitar and accompanied himself on an extensive repertoire of Burns’s songs, often singing immediately after delivering one of the longer poems such as Tam or the Twa Dugs. No one else in this area ever did that. At mixed Burns Suppers Eddie was usually joined by his wife Jean in the singing and Jean would also deliver Tam’s Wife’s reply to Eddie Tam O’Shanter.

For the past 20 years Eddie was in great demand for Burns Suppers up and down Clydeside often as part of an Alexandria Burns Club ensemble put together for more than a decade by Club President, Ian Collins. Eddie was as near an ever-present as makes no difference, always delighted to perform and in the process helping to build a very positive profile and reputation for the Club. In addition, he became the Club Secretary when Brian Benson retired in 2002 and served in that role for 5 years. In January 2011 Eddie became the Vice President of Alexandria Burns Club.

His creativity and search for new ideas was relentless and a couple of examples will endure. The drawing of Burns’ cottage which now adorns the Burns Supper programme was done by Eddie a number of years ago. More recently, it was no surprise when a short time ago Eddie embarked on what would have been a major project: videoing himself explaining and then reciting Burn’s poems. This would have been invaluable to all with an interest in the Bard, and especially younger people who wished to learn about Burns and perhaps go on to become readers or singers. The first videos have already appeared on YouTube and on the Club’s web-site. They serve as an all-too-short memento of Eddie and also of what might have been.

His sudden death has robbed Jean and their daughters of their dearest friend, the Club of an outstanding servant and the Burns world of a truly Rolls Royce Burnsian.

Harry Summers


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