THE early Burns’s Night at Fort Blockhouse, Gosport, turned out to be quite the event.
Graced by the presence of Councillor Lyn Hook, the Mayor of Gosport and her dapper consort Councillor Mark Hicks, officers of all three services had a whale of a time.
In the stately dining room they tucked into haggis, neaps and tatties to the skirl of the bagpipes.
In celebration of the life and poetry of the Ayrshire ploughman, Robbie Burns, toasts and traditional speeches followed.
Fuelled by good food and fine malt whisky, they proceeded to dance the night away in the prestigious mess, which was once the wardroom of HMS Dolphin.
Top brass from the Royal Army Medical Corps, RAF Medical Officers, RN surgeons, submariners and Sea Scout Officers took to the dance floor to trip the light fantastic.
Kilts and sporrans or military mess dress were the order of the day. Women wore glitzy long frocks.
Dancers were marshalled and shown the steps by Helen Floyd, from Fishbourne, an extremely experienced caller who once danced a hornpipe for naval veterans on the gun deck of HMS Victory.
At Fort Blockhouse, jigs and reels, mixer dances, Scottish swings and all manner of frolics were attempted with unbounded enthusiasm.
To the music of those Celtic fringe musicians, Squinty McGinty, the evening took off with unbridled gaiety.
Earlier that day, at very short notice, I’d been roped in to deputise for Squinty McGinty’s regular fiddler who was unwell.
That evening the band surprised me with their idea of what well-dressed Scots should look like.
Singer/songwriter and guitarist Chris Lowe, from Emsworth, was swathed in almost matching tartan waistcoat and trousers.
Accordionist Max Lanchbury sported natty tartan trews.
Bass player and vocalist Chris Boucher, from Fareham, dressed in kilt and Doc Martens.
Swept along by this wave of Scottish fervour, I added a Stuart tartan bow tie to my dinner suit.
While other revellers, worn out by all the excitement, sloped off to their beds, a handful of merrymakers gamely stayed on to the midnight finish.
But by this time the evening’s refreshments were taking their toll on these hardy dancers.
Left hand became confused with right hand and the last dance had everyone laughing at their own mistakes.
Stuart is a musician, from Fareham.