Haggis howlers

2nd February 1996 at 00:00
With Burns Suppers breaking out across the nation last week, it was no surprise that Ayrshire (let's call it that for convenience) was to the fore at the annual haggis bash of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers in Glasgow.

The presence, at a directors' table, of Mike McCabe and John Travers, education chiefs in South and North Ayrshire, underlined the national focus on the bard's county. But inevitably the chair at the celebration was taken by Lanarkshire in the shape of Tino Ferri, the union's leading publicist.

As a senior union official, Ferri received a missive from an equally senior official at Dalian House, Strathclyde's education HQ, addressed to "Ms Tina Ferri". Ferri duly fired off his riposte. "Dear Mr Alexander, I think you are confusing me with the American rock singer, Tino Turner."

Lest you are confused, Ferri (People, page four) is a fiftysomething star with a string of hit speeches behind him and noted for his rendition of Bellshill City Limits.

The occasion was graced by Nigel de Gruchy, NAS general secretary and man with a vested interest in the Harriet Harman affair. De Gruchy's son went to "that" school. Just for the evening, the Channel Islander claimed Scottish descent under the terms of the Auld Alliance. Not that he would have won citizenship with his tongue-in-cheek address to the haggis-bashers.

Burns, his researchers told him, used Scottish to convey his meaning through verse and song, but English when he preached on loftier matters. (Hiss, boo, said the audience.) "In sixth form, we studied Burns but I never got much beyond 'Auld Lang Zyne'." (Hiss, boo.) "It's sign", corrected Kenny Fee, the acerbic Nationalist.

"Personally, I found Chaucer more understandable," de Gruchy confessed.

"Cheerio," cried a voice from the back.

And haste ye back, Nigel.

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