A Woman’s A Woman For A’ That

  • Posted on: 24/01/2020

Muriel takes to the air waves in this week’s blog set 60 years ago.

Burns’ Supper Advice from Muriel

And Here is the News

“This is the BBC Home Service Scottish programme

And now following that fascinating programme about Scottish Fiddle Music here is the news.

It’s Windy Everywhere

Africa (where there is a wind of change blowing just like outside Queen Margaret Drive here in Glasgow where there is also something of a hoolie whipping its way up from Byres Road, but then it is January) continues to dominate the headlines. A decision by the Colonial Secretary Mr Iain Macleod, should allow the Kenya Conference in London, held up for a week by a dispute over the admission of an African special advisor Mr Peter Mbiu Koinage, to go ahead.

Gelignite Does Not Spoil P.M.’s Lunch

The Prime Minister Mr MacMillan attended a civic luncheon at the Savoy Hotel, Ndola in Northern Rhodesia just hours after 4 sticks of gelignite were found in the hotel’s boiler room. The Prime Minister also had to negotiate a crowd of over a thousand Africans chanting “Freedom Now.” So very rude. Lady Dorothy also suffered an injury to her shin while climbing into an aircraft. She was able to have a jolly nice lunch, after four stiches in her leg.

Miners’ Hell

In the Orange Free State, hope is fading for 400 miners trapped in a colliery at Coalbrook. Methane levels are high and the water levels are rising. A rescue worker says, “It is sheer Hell down there.” Mine officials have found it difficult to control hundreds of African miners, who believe mine ghosts have caused the rockfall. The mine is owned by Clydesdale Collieries, (Transvaal) a subsidiary of the South African and General Investment and Trust Company Ltd who have offices in London.

Health Service Pioneer Sick

Mr Aneurin Bevan’s condition is reported to be very weak. His wife Jennie Lee is at his bedside.

School Fire

A fire has damaged much of Johnstone High School in Renfrewshire

 Missing Author

No News

In rural Dumfriesshire Police continue to search for missing author Bunty Haystack.

Walking Doctor

Dr Barbara Moore who is walking from John O’ Groats to Land’s End has had breakfast in Abington. (Haven’t we all?)

Cleaning Up the Highlands

Finally, the Highlands are to be spring cleaned. This was announced by Commander H. C. Courtney Clark, Chair of the National Litter Conference, in Edinburgh. It seems there are insufficient scavenging arrangements in the Highlands and an era of mass tourism is envisaged. Lt. Colonel W. Forbes, Chair of the Scottish Landowners Federation, commented on the increasing problem of litter and said “We have got to be prepared to report offenders even if they are our greatest friends. We must be active militant and relentless sneaks.” It will be interesting to see how that affects the social arrangements of Inverness.


The weather continues to be grey what more can I say. It’s winter

And that is the end of the news.”

Continuity Announcer

“Just a wee reminder that at 11am there will be more Scottish Country Dance Music from Jimmy Shand and at 11.30 Lavinia Lovage will read from her autobiography “A Draw Full O’ Porridge.” Now it’s over to Shona Legg who is presenting a special edition of Womens’ Hour.”

Welcome to Ladies Hour, Burns Special

“Good morning and welcome to a special feature marking the birthday of our National poet Robert Burns and his significance in terms of Scotland’s Women, or should I say ladies as we are in the presence of the simply marvellous Mrs Muriel Wylie”

“Indeed, you should Miss Legg.”

We are joined this morning also by Professor Hugh McSporran, Director of Couthie Culture at the Institute of Caledonian Affairs. They are here to answer your questions and, might I say, my postbag is bulging. Just a quick word before we begin to those of you who were expecting a feature on what we are sensitively calling That time of life, if you know what I mean and ost crochet disability, Dr Brenda Bone is indisposed, due to a logging incident with her chain saw, but hopes to be with us next week.

Robert Burns in London Window

Now this week marks not only Burns’ Night but sees the unveiling of a stained window panel in Crown Court Church Covent Garden featuring a full length portrait of Robert Burns “At the Plough”. Set against an Ayrshire backdrop the poet is shown with a field mouse in his hand. Dr Moffat, the minister of this Church of Scotland in London, said it shows the spirit of “sturdy independence”, his “patriotic fervour” and his “wide sympathy for all God’s creatures”, and a “vision of a world freed from the oppression of cruel men”. Professor would you see that as an accurate summary of the importance of Robert Burns?


Did Mr Burn’ Care for Servants as well as Mice?

“If I could expand on that by asking a question from our postbag and I have here a letter from a Mrs Esme Travers, a twilight Sociology Course Student from Maryhill. She asks, “Professor do think that Roberts Burns speaks for the vast majority of oppressed domestic servants as well as field mice in his poetry?”

“ Aye, weel, he certainly knew a good few fair servant lassies. There wis Lizzy Paton, Jenny Clow and May Cameron, tae name but three..”

“And did he have intimate knowledge of their circumstances?”

“Aye ye could say that.

Muriel Sets the Tone in Shades of Heather

“Mrs Wylie, lovely to see you again and as ever looking wonderful capturing the spirit of the programme without stepping into parody. Who could go wrong with heather tweed and amethyst jewellery as a metaphor for Scottish identity?”

“You would be surprised Miss Legg, my neighbour Mrs Macaulay, the wife of a millionaire bungalow builder who made his pile in concrete, is fond of purple but as I have said to her on many occasions, Lottie you look like a boil waiting to burst – you see it’s all a matter of complexion. I cannot speak too highly of hot water and lemon in the morning and a light touch of Helena Rubinstein. Of course, she doesn’t have her troubles to seek, Mr Macaulay has a roving eye and WHT.”


“Yes, wandering hand trouble. It’s well seen you were not at a good Glasgow school. It was one of the two main lessons I learnt.”

“What was the other?”

“How to carry eggshells to the waste bin on a plate with panache.”

“Was it a lesson well learnt?”

“Yes, but clearly not in Inverness; one should always take one’s picnic rubbish home.”

Letter from a Titled Lady


“Mrs Wylie, Muriel if I may.”

“You may not.”

“I beg your pardon, no offense intended.”

“None taken, it’s just that the decision to use my Christian name is mine not yours. After all if one takes that step to familiarity there is no going back.”

Mrs Wylie, I have here a letter from a titled lady a Lady Pentland-Firth who asks, “If I were an 18th century lady in Edinburgh and invited Mr Burns to my drawing room, would he have met my expectations?”

“I am sure Lady Pentland-Firth would have provided Mr Burns with all the necessary encouragement and support to make sure he reached her full potential.”

“Don’t you mean his?”

“I chose my words with care.”

“Would you agree Professor?”

“Aye, a mean naw, actually I dinae ken the lassie.”

“You must be one of the few who doesn’t.”

Herstory is Important Too

“Thank you, Mrs Wylie now could I ask you on behalf of an anonymous listener from Paisley, what is the single most important element in the Burns’ story. I suppose what I am asking is what made him special?”

“There is no need to be patronising Miss Legg, even if you are dealing with a question from Paisley. They cannot help it and I am well aware of the meaning of words like element. It is quite simple – the answer is Mrs Burns”

“You mean Jean?”

“Yes, but did she give you permission to use her first name?”

“No sorry, I mean Jean Armour Burns.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t you think she was just a poor downtrodden wee woman at the mercy of a philandering husband?”

“No I do not. I think she was a smart street wise lady who knew she was onto a good thing and quite frankly is responsible for the Burns Industry.”


“Well it takes a smart woman to realise you can make money out of selling off bits of your husband’s bedstead. I see her more as an entrepreneur.”

The Role of Burns’ Women

“Interesting Mrs Wylie. Now I have a letter here from a lady let us call her Miss Lulubelle Du Bois, an American from the deep south it seems. She says, “Hunney lamb, what role do y’all see for the modern woman in the traditional male dominated Burns Suppa?”

“The cooking and washing up I imagine as always. Not to mention the dealing with their handkerchiefs after the snuff taking.”

A More Contemporary Burns’ Night for the 1960s

“Mrs Wylie I am getting the feeling that you are not entirely happy with the idea of a Burns’ Supper. If you had to prepare one how, for the sake of argument, would you organise it?”

“Personally – and with a gun at my head – I would have an evening of country dancing, good for posture, with a small selection of Burn’s poetry, (anything short) and a brief talk by my husband.”


“Mr Wylie.”

“Sorry. And the food?”

“Buffet style fork suppa – smoked salmon and cream cheese vol au vents, followed by haggis pre – cooked and served like a Shepherd’s pie with a layer of mashed neeps between the meat and the potato. Followed by raspberry whisky trifle in individual glasses and coffee with Helensburgh tablet.”

“Wouldn’t that mean everything was fast paced and everyone was out by 11.30pm?”

“Exactly, management is the key.”

Advice to a Burns Suppa Novice

“And finally Mrs Wylie, I have a letter from a lady who says she is from south of the border and has just moved to Bridge of Weir and do you have any advice for a first Burns Supper?”

“Yes, run while you can.”

“Thank you Muriel I mean, Mrs Wylie, that’s all for today folks. Join me tomorrow for cures for chapped hands. Professor will you get your hand off my knee.”

Fade and Music

Muriel Wylie

January 1960