The Robert Henryson Society

Annual General Meeting 9 May 1998

Secretary's Report

The Committee of the Society has met on five occasions since the last AGM, on 25 July 1997, 29 August 1997, 24 October 1997, 16 January 1998 and most recently on 25 March 1998. The Carnegie Dunfermline Trust has kindly continued to allow us the use of their Board room for committee meetings. We have also the thank the Trust for continuing to support the Society by an annual grant confirmed in place to the year 2000, and by providing help in reproducing leaflets and other material.

Membership has fallen slightly, sitting at 60 fully paid up members plus six associates or honorary members, although we have managed to encourage two lapsed members to return to the fold, and there are a number of new names on the membership list. Perhaps the recent article in Scotlit will encourage more enquiries about the Society.

Four Friday evening meetings were held during the winter, the first in the Music Institute on 3 October 1997 at which Dr Jean Barclay presented her thoughts on a translation of 'The Thre Deid Pollis'. The annual wine and cheese party in Abbot House on 7 November was addressed by Dr Morna Fleming as an introduction to the conference's concentration on The Testament of Cresseid. On 6 March back in the Music Institute, Willie Hershaw spoke of the influence of the medieval Scots poets, notably Henryson, on his own poetic production, and his desire to communicate this enthusiasm to the younger generation through his teaching. Our last evening meeting of the year, at the Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling on 6 March 1998, coincided with some of the worst weather of the winter. A few brave souls ventured through the blizzards to hear Dr Elspeth King deliver a very wide-ranging talk on the popularisation of medieval and modern Scottish culture through her exhibition work. Those who missed this colourful entertainment may get the chance to see the video of the event.

Unfortunately, this year has not seen the Society advance as we would all have liked. As you have read in the various newsletters issued throughout the year, we have lost a number of valuable members and associates, and we have not been able to forward many of the projects that had been planned for this year. However, it looks as if there is movement now on the effort to get Henryson's work into schools in Fife. We recently welcomed to the committee Barbara Rasmussen and Margaret Tollick, both of whom have strong professional and personal links with schools. At least two of the local rectors have expressed an interest in the work of the Society, and your secretary, as a former principal teacher of English, has numerous contacts in the secondary sector. Lovina Roe has made overtures to Perth and Kinross schools, has passed on materials and has offered speakers from the Society to help teachers begin teaching unfamiliar material. The money gifted to the Society by Alastair Gray for an art competition is still to be competed for, and this could well be the ideal method of introducing pupils to the Fables.

As far as publicising the poet's work furth of the schools, the Henryson Collection in Dunfermline Library is now quite substantial, and it has been suggested that it could be supplemented by the video and audio material from conferences and evening meetings. In addition, Leonard Maguire's play Henryson and the Ploomdam could perhaps be a performing project for the future, which would also be a suitable memorial to a very loyal member of the Society. The Glasgow University Web site, which houses the Henryson Home Page, has been cited as one of the best academic sites to visit, and thus should attract a number of interested visitors. The Society has been publicised by the secretary on the Stella Scottish literature mailbase, and, more prosaically, information leaflets on the Society and the conference were placed in Dunfermline Library, Abbot House and the Music Institute.

Scotsoun continues to produce audio tapes on the works of Henryson amongst others, and you will have seen two new titles for sale today. It is proposed to add a new section to the video on the Presence Chamber in Abbot House. This would examine the creatures from the Fables that are incorporated into the wall paintings by Virginia Colley. The long term project to produce in taped form a modern Scots version of The Testament of Cresseid has run into difficulties for a number of reasons, and will be delayed. A new member we are delighted to recognise here today is Barry McMillan, who is interested in making a film of The Testament. From what we have seen of the proposed screenplay, this looks like a project that could seriously affect knowledge of and interest in Robert Henryson.

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