THE prospect of gorging on 20 Burns suppers a year could leave even the most die-hard fan feeling a little queasy.
But one veteran speaker from Linlithgow has shown an insatiable appetite for the Bard having performed at a record 1100 feasts.
Willie Kirk’s Burns recitals have lit up scores of functions across the country since he first gave the Address to a Haggis in 1946 as a 17-year-old novice.
Since then, the 84-year-old is thought to have addressed more suppers than anyone else in living memory and has been honoured by the Robert Burns World Federation (RBWF) for a lifetime’s dedication to Scotland’s favourite son.
He received a RBWF certificate to mark his 1100th recital at Harburn Village Hall, West Lothian, where he delivered Address to the Deil.
Mr Kirk’s passion for Burns began as a teenager while leafing through his father’s books.
“My father had Burns books in the house so I just started reading them and took a notion to learn some of the poems,” said the retired farm hand.
Within a few years, he was leading the address and six decades later he shows no sign of letting up.
“You meet a lot of folk and spend time in different company so I get a lot of fun out of it,” he said.
“I’m not a professional, I’m just an amateur and do it for the fun – but I’ve had a lot of haggis and whisky in my time.”
“I was 17 or 18 when I did my first Burns supper and for the last number of years I’ve done about 20 each year.
“I start early in January and the last one I usually go to is at the end of March.”
A spokesman for the Robert Burns World Federation described Mr Kirk as a “legend in his own lifetime”. “It’s one of the more unusual records we have come across at the federation,” he said. “We have had people reciting Tam O’ Shanter at the peak of the Andes and flying over the North Pole.
“Mr Kirk has been studying in Burns for 60 years and very often booked up well in advance.”
He added: “We have no reason to doubt the 1100 figure is accurate. He’s man of great integrity and so is the club that nominated him. We are very happy in the federation to hear of people who are so dedicated and willing and able.
“It’s an unusual and unique record and the board of directors for the RBWF congratulate him very sincerely on what he is doing for Burns.”
From the reams of wonderful Burns poetry, Mr Kirk said that his favourite was Epistle to a Young Friend.
“It’s about the advice he was giving to a young fella before he was setting out in life and there’s a lot of good advice.”