The Immortal Memory: Robert Burns

A Burns night

Address to The Liverpool Athenaeum  2nd February 2018

I was delighted to be asked by club President Sir David Maddison to deliver The Immortal Memory at The Athenaeum Burns evening which I attended with my wife Fiona. This is a huge honour for any Scot and I hope I did it justice.  Burns provides such a rich tapestry I found it a real challenge to be succint and speak in a way that would connect with the audience – I chose to set Burns against the universal themes we recognise today and in the challenges we face in uncertain times.  I hope you enjoy it.   JD


The Immortal Memory – Robert Burns 1759-1796

The Athenaeum 2nd Feb 2018

President, ladies and gentlemen, fellow proprietors and distinguished guests.  I am honoured to propose the Immortal Memory this evening.

To one Robert Burns who lived between 1759 and 1796.

The humble farmer son of William and Agnes born into turbulent times; the Union of the Parliaments had taken place in 1707, the ‘45’ rebellion still a fresh and bitter memory in Scotland and the stirrings of revolution taking place in America first, then France.

Born also into hardship, working the soil across a succession of farms that would provide diminishing returns and was never going to be his life’s work.

Burns plied this trade just as another great revolution unfolded with the invention on the ‘Spinning Jenney’, a mere 5 years after he was born, paving the way for automation and the Industrial Revolution.

Whether heaven sent or simply having the benefit of a guid’ Scots education Burns developed another craft that of…

Poet, balladeer, provocateur, protest singer, romanticist, lyricist, satirist..


His ‘Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect’ in 1786 became a runaway success and set Burns on a path with the glitterati of Edinburgh and fame and some fortune.

I think of Burns as the first Rock star, a working class hero if you like, gifted beyond measure, attracted by and attractive to, the opposite sex and finding further distraction in misuse of substance, in his case ‘the drink’..

A star illuminating, burning brightly, briefly and ending the way these things often do, in ill health, the fortune more or less spent and resorting to earning a living doing something he presumably had no passion for – as an exciseman (something he would surely have satirised).

He died 1 year prior to the formation of this very institution, in July 1796 and was buried in Dumfries where 10,000 people attended his funeral.

He had by modern day standards a fleeting opportunity to leave his legacy.

And yet here we are 259 years on, celebrating his life and works.

How brightly he shone; the educated farmer, the rock star poet.  The myth, the legend and our most famous of Scots.


Burns was the original romantic poet, his love of nature and things pastoral is thought to have influenced the romantic Age in English literature through: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley.

JD Salinger’s  ‘Catcher in the Rye’ centres on the song, ‘Comin through the Rye’ and its misquotation by the central character Holden Caulfield. ‘If a body catch a body. Comin thru’ the rye’

Steinbeck chose the title Of Mice and Men for his tale of George and Lennie, as their dreams and plans go tragically awry in the Great Depression.

That other rock star poet and now Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan offered “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose” as the song or lyric that had the greatest influence on him. You can hear it in one of his greatest ballads recently sung by Adele.

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of this Earth for you
To make you feel my love

Burn’s main influence can be found in the assertion of Scottish nationhood post the Union.  He recognised the threat that English culture and political influence could bring to bear and Burns reasserted the Scottish identity, extolling the virtues and character to counter prevailing notions at the time, of Scotland as a ‘primitive’ land.

It is for this reason chiefly that gatherings such as this one held as far afield as Moscow, Montreal and Beijing.  Burns is a totem for Scottish cultural identity and provides the vehicle, the words and the music to re-assert that.

And on the stroke of the New Year, millions the world over offer a hand to a trusty fiere’ and at least attempt to sing the words to Auld Lang Syne.  Many of them I suppose have little idea these were written by a Scottish ploughman in 1788.

Growing up in Scotland his influence was pervasive. Though we weren’t properly schooled in Burns.  I suspect there may have been an ideology within education at the time that renounced the broad Scots’ in favour of the more refined tongue of Keats, of Wordsworth..

I can’t recall all of Tam O’Shanter by rote (I can recall the first few verses) but it left an indelible impression on me at a very young age through an enthusiastic primary teacher…  we sat terrified and transfixed by Tam and Meg’s flight from the underworld and their close shave with the warlocks and witches of Alloway Kirk (even if the influence of alcohol in the story was understated for a Primary 3 audience).

And speaking of alcohol, no Scottish party when I was growing up was complete without guests being compelled to ‘do a turn’; perform a song, a poem, perhaps an off colour joke. On these occasions it would be quite normal to hear “Ae Fond Kiss” or “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose” certainly two of the most beautiful ballads ever written compete for air time with more contemporary offerings; the Bluebell Polka by Jimmy Shand, or something from the pop charts with a hint of tartan; Rod Stewart or The Bay City Rollers.

Images of Burns appeared in our home and of the homes of wider family members.  My Uncle was a gifted though troubled man who channelled a creative genius into producing collectables on Scottish themes; and he had a fascination for William Wallace and Burns in particular.

I remember a small ornament, a reproduction of the traditional portrait depicting the handsome features we now recognise as Burns, with the inscription:

O wad some power the gift to gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us

My young mind boggled at that notion. “Why would anyone want that?”.

And yet it left an impression and guided my own principles and morals, sometimes a cross to bear in my formative years, that we should consider how others might see us. That we hold ourselves to a higher account than we hold others.


So what does immortality mean? And what makes (a) man immortal?

To answer this question we need to answer the question:

‘What makes us human?”

For it is there we find the rich tapestry that drew Burns to the role of poet, philosopher, songwriter, humanitarian.

Burns was concerned with the many universal themes – those things that make us human:

Freedom, Liberty

Love and regret




Identity, Nationhood, Patriotism … Internationalism


Peace between mankind




All of these. All of these are themes that are just as meaningful for us today as they were in Burns’ time.

It is said we live in uncertain times, that is true comparative to the norms and the relative peace and prosperity we have enjoyed in our lifetime.

We meet in 2018 at a time of great political turmoil, economic uncertainty and in an age that provides the greatest advances in technology, certainly on a parallel with the changes taking place during Burns’ short life.

We have, just as he had, little idea of how things will turn out…


To a Mouse

The best laid schemes o mice and men, Gang aft a gley

Still thou are blest compared wi me

The present only toucheth thee

But och I backward cast my ee, on prospects drear

An forward though I canna see

I guess and fear


Burns envies this mouse his plough has just made homeless. The mouse was (up until that point) living mindfully, in the moment.  The poet/ploughman however is encumbered by his very real past and imagined future.

This is at the heart of the human condition – common to us all I think,  worrying about things we’ve done, yet cannot change and fearful of things not yet realised.

We may pause to wonder what best laid plans led men and women to sleeping on our streets… and how short a journey this might be for all of us.  I know I both guess and fear …

Burns compels us to think of others and it is the sense of justice and social equality that permeates (I think) Burns best works:



Wi plenty o sic trees I trow

The warld would live in peace man

The sword would help to mak a plough

The din of war wid cease man

Like brethren in a common cause

We on each other smile man

And equal rights and equal laws

Wid glade every isle man


Equal rights and Equal Laws…

This from a Presidential biography:

When practising law before his election to congress, a copy of Burns was his inseparable companion on the circuit: and this he pursued so constantly that it is said he now has by heart every line of his favourite poet.

Clearly NOT the 45th President but the 16th President of the United States, one Abraham Lincoln



Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.


It is not inconceivable that the works of Burns influenced Lincoln, or at the very least, provided the moral fortitude required to bring emancipation to the Union, to sustain him through the darkest hours of the civil war.

I recall a recent excellent display in the library depicting conditions on board a slave ship bound for America, various drawings, articles, letters and artifacts portraying the story in such a vivid way, I felt I had come across this for the first time.

I felt shame and sorrow looking into the glass cabinet and yet knowing that none of this had anything to do with me… and of this Burns wrote:


Man Was Made to Mourn

Many and sharp the numerous ills

Inwoven with our frame

More pointed still we make ourselves

Regret remorse and shame

And man whose heaven erected face

The smiles of love adorn—–

Mans inhumanity to man

Makes countless thousands mourn


It is another human theme that artists pursue to this day.

I think of the Chinese artist and provocateur Ai Wei Wei and his arresting works featuring the plight of refugees, “The Human Flow” he calls it, as being a cultural descendant of Burns.


Burns knew the consequences of war too, being born a mere 13 years after Culloden, the Jacobite rebellion and the failed attempt to install Charles Stuart on the British throne.

Culloden… a battle that is thought to have lasted a mere 26 minutes.


Ye Jacobites

What makes heroic strife, famed afar, famed afar? 
What makes heroic strife famed afar? 
What makes heroic strife? 
To whet th’ assassin’s knife, 
Or hunt a Parent’s life, wi’ bluidy war


Burns articulates loss and grief like few other and is adept at stepping into the shoes of others; empathy I think we could call it.


A Mother’s Lament for the Death of Her Son

Fate gave the word, the arrow sped, 
And pierc’d my darling’s heart; 
And with him all the joys are fled 
Life can to me impart. 

By cruel hands the sapling drops, 
In dust dishonour’d laid; 
So fell the pride of all my hopes, 
My age’s future shade. 


We all know the parent, the wife, the husband, the son and daughter who have felt this kind of loss.  And again we are grateful for Burns finding words, the right words to express the human experience beyond the mawkish or sentimental.


And what of love? Or at least the pursuit of earthly pleasures.

Burns is a dichotomy.

I find it hard to reconcile “The Lass That Made The Bed” with something like “My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose”

In the former the poet relentlessly pursues a young chamber maid in such a way as to make uncomfortable reading for a modern audience.


The Lass That Made The Bed

“Haud aff your hands, young man!” she said,

“And dinna sae uncivil be;

Gif ye hae ony luve for 

O wrang na my virginitie.”


Needless to say, he ignores this advice and has his way anyway.  It is one of many examples of Burns more bawdy’ works and give us an insight (as discomforting as it may be) of social norms of the time.

In the latter Burns presents the perfect arc of a love affair, of undying love yet sorrow in parting.  He is especially good at this.


My Love is Like A Red Red Rose

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ ’twere ten thousand mile!


Shakespeare wrote that ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow’ and it is Burns more than any other who understands this.


 Ae Fond Kiss

Had we never lov’d sae kindly, 
Had we never lov’d sae blindly, 
Never met-or never parted, 
We had ne’er been broken-hearted. 

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever! 
Ae fareweel alas, for ever! 
Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge thee, 
Warring sighs and groans I’ll wage thee.


So much for Love …

But what of Burns the humanitarian and internationalist?


A Man’s a Man

Then let us pray, that come it may

(as come it will for a that)

That sense and worth o’er a the earth

Shall bear the gree and a’that

For a that and a that

Its comin yet for a that

That man to man the world oer

Shall brithers be for a that


Many poets have expressed similar thoughts on brotherhood and egalitarianism.  Our own John Lennon was one and yet for all its merits, “Imagine” is but a wistful lament, an exploration of ideals and some might say, flimsy 20th century new age consciousness.  You may say I’m a dreamer…

Yet we can’t say that about Burns whose resolve and pragmatism are forged out of the unforgiving Scottish soil and the politics of the time.  No dreamer he.  He demands it.


It’s coming yet for a that…


I kind find no better words to exemplify the spirit of this than the words of the late MP Jo Cox who said on her maiden speech.

We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

It’s coming yet for a’ that.


Scholars have often tried to interpret Burns political affiliations, without much success.  His words can variously portray leanings as a democrat, a socialist, a Scottish nationalist, a loyal Briton, a revolutionary, a Republican..

And who cares anyway?  For surely it is in those human qualities we’ve mentioned that we find immortality.

We still live in a world where wars, conflicts, disasters, poverty, oppression and religion extract a heavy toll on our world and where mans’ inhumanity to man continues.

The universal themes of love and loss are as relevant now as they were to our 18th century poet.

We still fight injustice, inequality and intolerance

Burns compels us to do better; through his works, the poetry and songs of our most famous Scot.


So ladies, gentlemen, esteemed guests and proprietors I can think of no finer venue to celebrate the life of Burns (certainly not in England) than in this institution, a seat of learning, civil discourse, fraternity.

I am sure he would have been very much at home here.


Please raise your glasses as I propose a toast to the  Immortal Memory of Robert Burns.


A Burns 2


Posted by John Drysdale
4th February 2018
John's Blog


The ILM Qualified Coach

Your guide to choosing a qualification

In the last 12 months we’ve seen an upsurge in the number of people looking to gain one of our ILM Coaching & Mentoring Qualifications, which is fantastic.

One of the early discussions I have with candidates is to answer questions around: ‘what will it give me?’ or ‘what level of qualification should I go for?’ and ‘should I do a Certificate or Diploma?’.

I’m always very happy to have those conversations but I thought I might attempt to bring a bit of clarity to people considering an ILM Qualification in Coaching & Mentoring to progress their career.


An ILM Coaching Qualification; how will it help me?

I recommend that anyone in a coaching role considers getting a recognised qualification. It makes sense as Coaching is coming under increasing scrutiny as a profession with much debate about the quality of provision. Clients want to know their coach has received adequate training and people commissioning coaching will consider competence before contracting a coach.  I have been involved in tenders for contracts where commissioners specified the qualification level of coaches required within the framework.

For the individual, we have seen how our ILM programmes have opened up new opportunities, both for people working within an organisation and consultants or freelancers who now have an additional and credible tool or service that can add value to their client base.

In summary it makes you credible and attractive to anyone commissioning you and gives you the confidence to believe you are now ‘the coach’.


What Level of Coaching Qualification should I go for?

Levels of qualifications are set according to the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) in England.  A decent explanation of academic levels can be found here :

For coaching and mentoring I usually ask about the context you will be coaching and how you want to apply these new skills:


Coaching Executives, CEOs and Directors

This would suggest a Level 7 Certificate or Diploma may be right for you. Academically it suggests something at masters degree or post grad and requires a greater understanding of coaching in a strategic arena. We take particular care that people registering for this level are able to practice their coaching at a strategic level and can in some cases support them in finding ‘clients’ for the practical elements.  Freelance Executive Coaches need this one.


Coaching Managers and Leaders

The Level 5 Certificate or Diploma would be ideal for this target audience. This is also a substantial undertaking requiring in depth knowledge and demonstrating practice.  It is broadly equivalent to a foundation degree or some other types of degrees. I always recommend this to people working in large organisations going through change or growth and where there is an opportunity to introduce coaching as a development tool in the organisation. It is really useful to consider this within HR or Training functions and clients have asked us to deliver programmes to entire teams.

Level 5 may also be useful for those starting out as a business coach at the smaller end of the SME market and we know from experience that many people want to get involved with start ups or helping people transition from employee to self-employed business owner.


Coaching Front Line Staff or Team Leaders

Level 3 provides a foundation and is useful for people in a training role or coaching front line staff or team leaders. It provides a route into a training or development type role for those in an operational role and can open up some great career opportunities. The ILM Level 3 is highly work contextualised and suits larger work places e.g. large contact or service centres are ideal.


Your prior academic experience, continuous professional development and experience at the various levels is fairly important in choosing your path and we always discuss this prior to registering you with ILM.

For the coaching suite it comes back to:

Why do you want to do this qualification?

What context will you be coaching in?

Who will you be working with?


Certificate or Diploma?

Both our Level 5 and Level 7 qualifications have the option of achieving a Certificate or Diploma.  The difference between the Certificate and the Diploma is around the practical element and the ‘extended’ period of coaching for the Diploma. This carries additional credits (a measure of your learning).

This table shows how many hours coaching you need to provide evidence for each level at Certificate and Diploma.

Level Certificate Diploma
Level 5 12 hours 100 hours
Level 7 20 hours 100 hours


There are some other requirements around how you access supervision under the extended period but this is the main difference. The Diploma should be undertaken if coaching is a significant focus of your role.  We often get asked how many people (clients) you need.  Just as a rough guide we would normally expect you to work with a particular client somewhere between 6 and 12 hours in total for coaching (though mentoring relationships may be longer).


How long will it take me?

We believe the Certificate at both L5 and L7 can be achieved in a 9-12-month time frame but it varies according to the individual. The Diploma is harder to quantify, and we generally meet with those candidates to identify a realistic timeline.

Making good progress early in the programme generally means candidates complete in excellent time.


How can you help?

This article is simply to help guide your thinking. I will always have a call or a meeting with a prospective ILM candidate to identify what is the right qualification for you at this time and how we can help you progress.  I want all my candidates to succeed.  After all many of them are self-funded and it’s important to me that they not only enjoy the classroom sessions and engagement with the wonderful people we have on our cohorts but that they come away with a recognised Qualification to further their goals and aspirations.

One thing we do know is there is a direct correlation between attending our (now monthly) tutorial sessions and achieving the qualification. These are provided as part of our programme and follow the 6 classroom dates.  I really enjoy these sessions because I can see people remove the fear of assignments and become inspired to go out and develop their coaching practice and ultimately their ILM Qualification.

If you are thinking about a Qualification in coaching & mentoring I would be happy to have that call or cup of coffee and a chat.

Our next programme starts on February 23rd 2018 in Liverpool click here for more details

You can contact me on:

0844 873 1226

Or email:


ILM Approved Centre



Liverpool based training company, No Guru is ‘leading in learning’ as the ILM city region hub

North West employers now have access to professional development qualifications for management, team leaders and supervisory staff as Cotton Exchange based training company, No Guru becomes the Liverpool City Region hub for ILM accreditation.


University Contract extended for 2 Years

Leeds Beckett University relationship extended

We are delighted to announce our current contract to provide Staff Training and Team Building to Leeds Beckett University has been extended a further 2 years.

During the next academic year we will be running new programmes around:

  • Strategic Thinking
  • Leading Change
  • Leading & Empowering People
  • Working to Strengths
  • Designing and Delivering Presentations

Additionally we will continue to work with Teams to deliver on the University Strategic Framework as well as completing our first ILM Level 5 Coaching & Mentoring programme for internal ‘Coaching Champions’.

We would like to thank People Development and everyone at Leeds Beckett for making it a great place to work.



John's Blog

The Immortal Memory: Robert Burns

Address to The Liverpool Athenaeum  2nd February 2018

I was delighted to be asked by club President Sir David Maddison to deliver The Immortal Memory at The Athenaeum Burns evening which I attended with my wife Fiona. This is a huge honour for any Scot and I hope I did it justice.  Burns provides such a rich tapestry I found it a real challenge to be succint and speak in a way that would connect with the audience – I chose to set Burns against the universal themes we recognise today and in the challenges we face in uncertain times.  I hope you enjoy it.   JD


The Immortal Memory – Robert Burns 1759-1796

The Athenaeum 2nd Feb 2018

President, ladies and gentlemen, fellow proprietors and distinguished guests.  I am honoured to propose the Immortal Memory this evening.

To one Robert Burns who lived between 1759 and 1796.


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If you’ve ever read Jon Ronson’s book ‘Shamed’, you will know the devastating effect social media can have on people who have posted something stupid on the internet.

Ronson highlights the case of Justine Sacco (a director of corporate communications) who, before boarding an 11-hour flight from Heathrow to Cape Town, Tweeted to her 170 followers what she thought was a series of lighthearted, acerbic comments about her journey. (more…)

Across the great divide

Let’s be kinder to each other in 2017

There is a striking memorial in a park in Indianapolis.  It marks the spot where in April 1968, Robert Kennedy told a waiting crowd that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed, before speaking from the heart and his own personal experience, that violence is never an answer to our grievances.  His calming words quelled the rioting that other cities endured in the days after Dr King’s death and, arguably, saved some lives that night.


The memorial itself is an arresting work of art.  (more…)