Dumbarton Burns Club reaches an incredible milestone this year when it holds its 160th Burns supper.

The club, which was set up in 1859 to celebrate the centenary of Robert Burns’ birth, started with about 35 members and has gradually grown over the years.

Moir Nelson, who joined in 1980 and has been secretary of the club for the past 20 years and President from 1993-4, is delighted to be celebrating their 160th anniversary supper this year.

He said: “I think Burns is a wonderful writer, he’s really the ordinary man’s poet.

“He knows human nature and I think it’s great that his work helps to preserve Scottish Doric.

“I like his sentiments, he’s very insightful and still as relevant today as he was all those years ago.”

He added: “It is a remarkable achievement to be having our 160th supper and to be one of the oldest Robert Burns Clubs in the area.

“It is a real tribute to the popularity of Burns that we, and many other clubs, are still going.

“In the past father and son members kept the club going but things are changing now that people move around the world.

“Folk come to our events from all around the country now because they used to live here.

“People come from England and all over Scotland.”

The Club was founded by six people – Dr Benjamin Maule Richard (1807 -1874), Henry Adams (1807 -1880), Dr William Graham (1833 -1877), James Denny (1808 -1864), Archibald Denny (1825 -1866) and Joseph Irving (1830 -1891).

Dr Benjamin Maule came to Dumbarton in to help combat the cholera epidemic which was sweeping the town in 1832 and stayed to set up a practice.

Henry Adams came to Dumbarton in 1834 as an assistant in Messrs France and Risk drapery shop in Heggie’s buildings in High Street. According to ‘The History of Dumbarton Burns Club’ he was an excellent salesman who ‘could wile the birds off a tree with his pawky tongue’.

Dr William Graham had the most extensive practice in Dumbarton and district. He was said to be very kind hearted, often giving his services free to the poor. His early death at the age of 44 was widely mourned.

James Denny worked in his father’s ship carpentering business but went to America for two years. On returning to Dumbarton he became a partner at the firm of Denny Brothers and before he died built Levenford House, which is now the headquarters of library services for the area.

Archibald Denny was the youngest son of William Denny of the Woodyard. He became a partner at the Albert Yard and then went into partnership with John McLean at the Churchyard.

Joseph Irving was a journalist and historian who came to Dumbarton in 1852 to edit the Dumbarton Herald. He started a bookselling business in 1856 and published the ‘History of Dunbartonshire’ in 1857. He published many other books including ‘Book of Dunbartonshire’ and ‘The West of Scotland in History’.

Their first meeting, with 26 participants, was held in the Elephant Hotel, which was at the west corner of Quay Street and High Street, until it was demolished in 1935.

In a report about the event in the Chronicle at the time, the Chairman praised Burns for ‘the brilliancy of his genius’ and said he was ‘not above our other national poets only, but above the poets of any other nation whatever.’

Suppers weren’t held for two years due to the outbreak of the Boer War in 1900 and the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 and members of the Club, possibly to keep interest alive, organised a trip to the “Land of Burns.”

They travelled by train from Dumbarton on a September morning in 1901 to Mauchline and visited the “Holy Fair” and other places of interest in the village.

They also had dinner and enjoyed singing in “Poosie Nancie’s” Hostelry. Everyone had such a great time at this outing that they decided to make it an annual event.

Burns Suppers were not held in 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918 after the outbreak of the first world war in August 1914 and they resumed in 1920 when they met in Dumbuck Hotel, Dumbarton.

By then their membership had increased to 60.

At its most popular the club had about 140 members and currently there are about 112 members.

They hold a Burns Supper every year on the Friday before Burns Day (January 25) and a St Andrew’s Night in November as well as outings.

The Club’s 160th anniversary supper will be held at the Masonic Temple, Gilmour Street, Alexandria on Friday, January 25 at 7.15pm.

All the usual traditions will be celebrated on the night including the piping in of the haggis, an Immortal Memory speech, poems, and scotch broth, haggis, neeps and tatties and steak pie.

Tickets are available from members of by contacting the club through their website dumbartonburnsclub.com.