Dunedin Multi-Ethnic Council – Celebrating Diversity

We are Ōtepoti Dunedin

Presented by Kotahitaka and Dunedin Multi-Ethnic Council

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The Burns Club

Established 1861 by James Barr, who was born in Paisley, Scotland in 1809 and built ships on the Clyde River before emigrating to Port Chalmers, New Zealand, in 1852. He farmed at Halfway Bush, Dunedin, and at South Craigilee, Kaihiku, near Balclutha, until retiring to Dunedin in 1861.

He was a keen poet, publishing a book Poems and Songs in 1861, and often wrote on the theme of the virtues of honour, loyalty and the rewards of hard labour. The Club was in recess for a period after his death at Dunedin in 1889 but was revived with a new constitution in 1891 by a group led by Arthur Burns, the son of the Reverend Dr Thomas Burns, the spiritual leader of the settlers who came from Scotland to Dunedin in 1848.

Thomas Burns was the son of Gilbert Burns, the brother of the poet Robert Burns.

Who are we (e.g.What’s our Kaupapa and what do we do):

The kaupapa of the Club is to promote an appreciation of Scottish culture, including fostering a love of Scottish songs, poems and stories. Membership is open to people from all cultures and it is not necessary to be a descendent of someone from Scotland.

The Club’s objectives include working cooperatively with other Scottish, heritage, literature and music groups in Dunedin, nationally and internationally. The Club supports the Burns Song section in the Senior Vocal Festival of the Dunedin Performing Arts Competition Society, the UNESCO Dunedin City of Literature Robert Burns Poetry Competition organised by the Dunedin Public Libraries, the holding of a Burns Supper on 25 January organised by Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, an annual Robert Burns Lecture, and musical events with a Scottish flavour.

The Club is a member of the Otago Scottish Heritage Council, the Robert Burns World Federation and the Robert Burns Association of the Pacific Rim. Club members are welcome to attend the monthly meetings of the Otago Scottish Heritage Council at 7 pm on the first Tuesday of the month at the Athenaeum Library, the Octagon, and lectures on Zoom organised by the Robert Burns World Federation. 

The Club also welcomes the hosting of visitors from sister clubs throughout the world, has a library for members of books and LPs related to Burns, and hosts a website at www.dbci.blogtown.co.nz with some information on events, newsletters and links to other groups with an interest in Scottish culture.  The University of Otago established the Robert Burns Fellowship in 1958 to commemorate the bi-centenary of the birth of Robert Burns.  It is considered the premier literary residency in Aotearoa New Zealand.

What Dunedin means to us:

Ōtepoti Dunedin is certainly a place where the rich cultural influences and traditions of mana whenua and all subsequent settlers are able to be honoured and celebrated.

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Roberta Forbes, a life member of the Dunedin Burns Club, congratulating Oshadha Perera, winner of the 2020 Rap like Robbie Dunedin Competition for high school aged young people, and recipient of the Stan Forbes Medal and $500 generously sponsored by the Dunedin-Edinburgh Sister City Society, at the Dunedin Public Library, 25 January 2021ung people, and recipient of the Stan Forbes Medal and $500 generously sponsored by the Dunedin-Edinburgh Sister City Society, at the Dunedin Public Library, 25 January 2021

Group preparing for the Address to the Haggis performed by Merv Gilkinson at the Burns Night Dinner 2021, Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, 25 January 2021