On March 29, 2017 we gathered for the 10th anniversary of A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures, at New York’s Metropolitan Club. The Foundation honored Ken Burns with the Great Scot Award. Mr. Burns, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, was presented with the award by D. Brenton Simons, noted historian and President and CEO of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. The event raised over $350,000 in support of the National Trust for Scotland, that countries largest conservation charity.
Over the past decade, the festive evening has become known for its celebration of Scottish tradition, from whisky and haggis to poetry and dancing. For the 10th anniversary, the décor honored the many conservation and restoration projects supported by the Foundation.
Guests were welcomed by a bagpiper and the evening began with a cocktail hour including tastings by The Macallan and Snow Leopard Vodka. Burns’ Ode To A Haggis was enthusiastically recited by auctioneer for the evening, Alasdair Nichol, Vice Chair of Freeman’s, America’s oldest auction house and frequent appraiser on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow. This year’s gala was co-chaired by Paula Kirby and Peter McWhinnie, Elizabeth Owens, Michael Scott-Morton, and Naoma Tate. Jill Joyce was the evening’s honorary chair.
Mr. Simons shared fond recollections of working with Mr. Burns on his genealogical research and his relations to Abraham Lincoln, the Roosevelts and Robert Burns. He lauded Mr. Burns for one who “challenges us to value our legacies and preserve them” and how poignant that Scotland’s bard and “America’s bard are branches from the trunk of the same great family tree.” Accepting the award, Mr. Burns charmed the audience with stories of his grandmother telling him they were related to Robert Burns, considered family folklore until a recent DNA test proved it to be true, and his visit to Ayrshire with his daughter where he saw a portrait of Burns for the first time, noting the undeniable resemblance. On discovering this relation, he said it was “one of the greatest moments in my entire life.” Following the award presentation auctioneer Alasdair Nichol moved quickly into a rousing live auction presentation that included exclusive Scottish vacation packages, sporting activities, and private, behind-the -scenes tours through Scottish castles and museums.
More than three hundred guests, including Simon Skinner, CEO of the National Trust for Scotland, reveled late into the evening, enjoying traditional Celtic music performed by Scottish vocalist Maureen McMullan & Friends with Scottish country dancing and a full-blown cèilidh. Another star of the evening was the recently restored 18th-century violin from the NTS collection belonging to Robert Burns’ tutor William Gregg. It was used to accompany Burns’ dance lessons at the Bachelors’ Club in Ayrshire around 1779 and guests enjoyed dancing to it last night. In true Scottish fashion the evening concluded with all joining in singing Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne.
GREAT SCOT HONOREES, 2008-2017
Alexander McCall Smith, Alan Cumming, Christopher Forbes, Mrs. Thomas J. Hubbard, The International Alliance for the Advancement of Scottish Roots Music, Ian Gow, The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, Billy Connolly, Phyllis Logan, Ken Burns
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